#lewavingcert 'leavingcertmamma

Leaving Cert Mamma – The last exam is here

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

Photo Credit: Irish Central

And finally we have arrived. Not only is it midsummer’s day but  . . . .

The last Leaving Certificate exam for our family (Religious Education) in 2019 is up this afternoon.

It seems like we have been living in a parallel universe for the last three weeks. In a strange world of extreme focus, where all things said and done matter and have an effect. Whilst it has been an intense and stressful experience, its also been a unifying and bonding experience. Our whole family has had to change some of the ways we function to accommodate the Leaving Cert. We adapted to a rhythm of being. Getting up early to get our student up early on exam days; him usually not getting up (!) – us trying to get him up again several times over the next hour, me holding in frustration until I realised that often he was actually revising in bed!

#lewavingcert 'leavingcertmamma

The Leaving Cert Lunch

Each exam day required a Leaving Cert Lunch. This usually meant one of the other kids going down to the shops to buy the morning required supplies; fizzy San Pellegrino for the exam (label ripped off), box of strawberries, three Innocent smoothie bottles, Bag of carrots, Fulfil bars, croissants for breakfast, raspberries and a box of grapes. Maybe Pink Lady Apples and sesame sticks too!

Then if its a morning exam, herbal tea or coffee were dispensed depending on the mood, there would be a quick check that all that is required for that exam (calculator, pencils, watch, pens), are in the clear plastic bag and then head into the car at 820am equipped with rescue remedy and homeopathic remedies if required. Traffic has been delightfully minimal these last three weeks so I have particularly enjoyed sailing up the coast road to Booterstown and watching the sea, the tide and the rising sun. Arrive at school. Last check on everything. Watch? Water? Remedies? Feel OK? Yes? Goodbye!

If its an afternoon exam then there is the luxury of not having the tension of getting to the exam hall so early and during that first haze of waking. Instead, there is time for a bigger better breakfast, for a long luxurious shower or bath and for those last minute revisions. There is also the possibility of a light lunch. Then, we are off, back up the coast road.

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

The Dropping off and collection rituals

Then there is the collection ritual. I have always tried to get there 20 minutes before the exam finishes just in case there is a minor disaster and he is coming out early in a state! Getting there early also means that you can park near the school entrance and they see you and all the familiarity that you bring the minute that they come out. Sometimes there is talk about how the exam went and sometimes there is no talk at all. Sometimes all you will be told is that, “I answered all the questions”.  If you answered all the questions you are in with a shout right?

#leavingcertmamma 'leavingcert

Relaxing as a family together – evening rituals

Then there is the evening rituals. In the late evening when I would rather be in bed, I have waited up for my son to finish his revision for the night and we have watched a short Netflix offering; usually “Big Bang Theory”, “Friends” or “How I met Your Mother”. Again, all familiar, many times viewed episodes, spinning a web of comfort and support. There are requests for special foods; fish and chips from Mespil Rd, sometimes fried noodles, sometimes pizza but always bagels with nut butters!

Leaving Cert Rituals apart I have also learned a lot about my son. I have learned how different he is from me; and that is part of the mothering process of letting go. The Leaving Cert is interesting in the sense that it is a rite of passage in the journey of growing up and becoming your own person, but also it is a time when as a parent you see your student requires a lot of support. That support to the outside person may seem inconsequential or minimal, but actually its huge. Being there, just being there and holding the space, no matter how uncomfortable it can be at times is what gives your student a sense of normality, of feeling OK, of not being alone in this, of being loved and of knowing their  family accepts them and is there for them no matter what.

#leavingcertmamma #leavingcert

Being a doula helps

I feel I am lucky in this regard as my 16 years of working as a doula and supporting women in birth has helped me jut BE THERE. As a doula I am there no matter what, I am supporting a birthing person no matter what, I am the rock for them no matter what, and when all else might seem to be falling apart I am standing solid and strong for them.

Speaking of births, I attended FOUR births as a doula during this exam period! One homebirth, one birth in the Coombe, one birth in the Rotunda and one birth in Holles St. The universe was kind to all the mammas and to me; none of the babies arrived on the day of an exam, two of the babies arrived on a weekend and one just after the Bank Holiday, and that brings me to trust.

#leavingcertmamma #leavingcert

Trusting the Universe

Supporting my son has brought me face to face with my own trust in the universe; to trust that all will be well, to trust that my son is anchored to the wisdom of the universe, to trust that no matter what happens in this episode of his life all will evolve perfectly just as it needs to. It can be hard sometimes not to get drawn into the very mundane issues of points and grades and what the school’s expectations and opinions of students are, but ultimately whilst these are important for the school and for CAO entry, they are no judge of what is real and important in a person.

They need to be parked where they belong, at the doorstep of whom they matter most to, and that is the teachers and the school, for whom the value of the very hard work of preparing students for the Leaving Cert over two years can only be measured in exam success and exam points. In the long game of a life well lived however they are ephemeral considerations.

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

The Leaving Cert affects the whole family

Before my son started doing the Leaving Cert people said to me “Whooooaaaa, its not just the student that goes through the Leaving Cert its the whole family” including the other children. I thought that was plain ridiculous, but its true! It does affect the other family members; the time you have available for the other members of your family is more limited, the things you can do are more limited in that your primary focus as a mother is being there for your LC student. Also even the family routines are changed; dinners and lunches can happen at different times, younger children have to be quieter in the evenings and during study and revision times and may not get their choices in terms of family movies and other activities. I don’t worry too much about that as each of my children have peak parenting times when they need more more attention than other children, and I have told them and reminded them about those times. I also see it as an education for the younger children to see what lies ahead of them!

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

Other parents; other journeys

What is hard to manage sometimes are those parents around you who have very high achieving children. I might be unique in this regard, but possibly not. All my close friends whose children are doing the leaving Cert this year have high achievers, many of them have children who are aiming for Medicine and who have worked incredibly hard and who are incredibly driven. I hope that they get the points and courses they want and have worked for.

Then there are  the other children who are incredibly bright and also incredibly pragmatic about the Leaving Cert and who have decided that they want maximum points for their capacity. Sure why not! However, its meant I have felt a little removed from my normal supportive peer group as my son fits none of those boxes; he is not trying for Medicine, he is not going to achieve his intellectual potential, he is not driven, he is not trying to maximise the points he is able to achieve; he is just ambling along doing what feels best for him.

So in some respects I have found it a bit of an isolating experience; same as when I was the only person in my peer group to plan a home birth, or the only one to be home schooling or the only one to breastfeed beyond 3 months! I am assuming that this is going to pop up again when all my friends’ kids receive their certificates with millions of points! I ll be making no proclamations on social media about leaving cert results and points I can assure you!

#leavingcertmamma #leavingcert

Who is well adjusted?

The implication we are all sold is that good Leaving Cert points equals good well adjusted youngsters who work and play hard, who are everything that society venerates, everything that society wants expects and respects. Parents of these children are encouraged to feel proud and there is an implication that their parenting has produced such successful model citizens; the counter implication is that if the opposite happens something went wrong; and maybe YOU, the parent is RESPONSIBLE! I have certainly struggled with that demon in my low moments, but mostly I have defeated it, knowing that my parenting was the best that I could have given. To support me, I have had to find an alternative tribe; and I am so grateful to those people who were there for me in allowing my son to just be who he is and not to fret or worry about lack of application, lack of study and lack of ambition in the Leaving Cert.

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

Exams: the way I would do them!

Part of the difficultly in parenting through the Leaving Cert is that you have your personal reference point of how you managed final school exams and you look to that as a source of information and guidance. I personally didn’t sit the Leaving Cert (THANK GOD), I sat three A Levels, two A/O levels and one S level. After a pretty short time I realised that my reference point was not a good ground zero for my son! I was very pragmatic, very analytical, very organised and very very well prepared. Typical academic girl in fact. I also worked very very hard. I remember my English teacher saying to me once I had achieved my A grade in English A level that she was so surprised that I had managed it; that from now on she would simply say to her students that hard work could see you to an A. Talk about damming with faint praise! Nonetheless, she was right, I worked very hard.

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

A more laid back approach to the Leaving Cert

Now my son on the other hand had a very different approach. There was lots of relaxing, lots of cramming, lots of putting things off to the last minute, lots of Netflix . . . . Needless to say I found all of that quite challenging! I found it very hard to not comment. I also found it very hard that I couldn’t offer any revision advice or support, or any structural advice or support. I used to set university exams and mark them and I know what is required, I know how to support young people in taking their exams and in achieving their best within them. It was hard not to be able to offer this support to my son. It was also hard as someone who lectured around the world in Geography and Environmental Science not to be able to support him in one iota of his Geography LC. Similar could be said for my husband who is fluent in Spanish and had not one conversation in Spanish with our son before his Spanish Leaving Cert!

#leavingcertmamma #leavingcert

A creative child and the Leaving Cert

So I had to sit with that and allow my son to be his own man and to grow in this ritualistic Leaving Cert experience. I learnt a lot about him, and about who and what he is. It was really hardcore parenting though! He is a very creative person, and The Irish Leaving Cert doesn’t suit creative people. It suits a different mentality. What do I mean by creative people and their suitability? Well for example in the Art Exam they were heavily prepared for a question on Leonardo Da Vinci. The said question came up, but my son said he really couldn’t bring himself to answer that dry passionless essay that they had repeatedly learnt. Instead he decided to answer on Cubism! No LC aficionado would ever give up a prepared question! I can assure you that was not the only example of that kind of on the spot decision making! Furthermore, I have also learnt that creative critiquers don’t sit in the middle of the circle. How can you see the other side over the boundary if you are in the middle of the circle? How can you push the proverbial envelope or the circle boundary if you are enclosed in the middle? Creative critiquers don’t really give too much of a toss about what everyone else is thinking and what society thinks of them. They are their own people, and they do their own thing, and if on occasion they travel in tandem with societal mores, then so be it, but otherwise parents you have to grin and bear those conformist conversations from others around you, or you just dye your hair red put on your docs and join in!

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

Saying goodbye to the Leaving Cert

So we are getting ready now to head to the last exam. I am getting ready to say goodbye and good riddance to the Leaving Cert, you’ve darkened my door but you’ve taught me a lot! More than anything you have taught me so much about my son and my parenting, you’ve enabled me to have this last opportunity to selflessly be there and give to my child and you’ve enabled me to remember times like this before; those early days of parenting when everything seems new and untenable, hard and amazing. Ultimately you’ve shown me a whole new aspect to parenting that resembled a journey, a rite of passage, taken me to a new level of acceptance of my child and you’ve prepared me to accept him more for who he is and to let him go with more confidence.

Isn’t that what so much of the later stages of parenting is about? The conflict of when to intervene, when to stand back, when to help and when to let go? The conflict of wanting to save your child from pain and suffering and discomfort and yet knowing that life lessons are only fully learnt when these emotions come into play?

Exams Sat: 10. Exams Left to Sit:1

Subjects Completed: 7. Subjects left: 1

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma #leavingcert2019

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

Leaving Cert Mamma – Keeping your LC student healthy

Its hard to describe the amount of emotional physical and mental stress the Leaving Cert can place on students. It seems ridiculous to think that students could be so affected by a series of examinations, but they are. There are different pressure points throughout the final year at school usually starting during Christmas Exams if the school offers that. Students will spend time at home revising for these and nights become long and mental burn out is easy with the intensity of study that is required . Some schools do these exams before Christmas and some do them after Christmas. If you are unlucky enough to do them after Christmas then you ‘ll lose out on the relaxation that is normally associated with Christmas, and even if you do them before Christmas you are SUPPOSED to be spending your Christmas revising anyway!

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

Then there are the trial examinations (mocks). In some schools these come before the mid term break and in other schools after the mid term break. In our case it was after the mid term break so that entire break is spent revising too. Roll on the oral exams and the performance exams and any third level interviews you might have.

Then Easter arrives. The heat is really on now. The entire break is devoted to revision and study. This year the calendar did not help as Easter cam very very late, so the final term which is supposed to provide some buffer between the Easter break and the start of the exams was only five weeks long. In my son;s case his Higher Maths course was actually incomplete by the time term ended and he had to go into school with the rest of his class in the two weeks before the Leaving Cert started to get the final lessons to complete it.

#leavingcertmamma #leavingcert

So basically there is no real rest period. The last rest is the October mid term. In my sons case he was hospitalised with a life threatening condition called quinsy during that break, so he had to balance resting for six weeks afterwards with the stress of exam performance. Some kids are as healthy as trouts and impervious to any such mental physical and emotional stress. Stress busting activities such as sport and music can be very helpful in this regard.

As a parent you have to do your best to keep your student healthy in the six months running up to the Leaving Cert and during the Leaving Cert . The leaving Cert is ruthless, it makes no exceptions during the exam period for sickness, and limited provision doing Oral Examinations and Performance Examinations.

What can you do as a parent?

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

1. Ensuring a healthy diet

Try to ensure that your student starts to eat well in the year running up to the Leaving Cert.This means introducing food that are high in antioxidants and also vitamin and mineral rich. Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, limited fast food and caffeinated drinks, limited amounts of sugar and processed foods will go a long way to ensure a healthy diet. Also trying to ensure that foods are as close to their natural state as possible can help. Organic food is always better than inorganic food, but not everyone can afford or acces organic food all the time. If your student eats fish then fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel are good options as they are high in essential omegas and fats good for concentration and brain support! Again not every student likes fish so essential omegas can be supplemented.

Obviously, many students turn 18 during their Leaving Cert Year and so they become adult and responsible for their own food and beverage choices. This includes alcohol. Ideally, you have given them good support and they will realise that binge drinking with their mates is not a good idea during this time.

#leavingcertmamma #leavingcert

2. Preventative Care including good sleep patterns

Well preventative care only goes as far as your student being willing to comply with it! Many students are at an age where they know it all at this stage! None the less good sleep patterns are essential. That means trying to get to bed not too late and waking up early not at the last minute can help. Also useful is trying to ensure consistency. That is to say not staying up until 2am on the weekend and then trying to get to sleep at 10pm the next day. Its also worth remembering that when your student is sleeping during the Leaving Cert, even though the weather may not be great (as this year) the daylight will persist well past 1030pm; and it will look and feel like 5pm. It may be no harm to invest in full blackout blinds if your student is bothered by the light.

It may be a good idea to supplement diet with appropriate vitamins, minerals and other supplements. There are a large variety of them out there and any discussion with your local Health Food Store will suggest which ones might be best for your student. Digestive Enzymes and probiotics. can also be helpful and we certainly used those after my son’s hospitalisation.

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

3. Ensuring Good Mental Health

Of paramount importance is ensuring good mental health. Feeling balanced and emotionally well is a challenge that we all face all the time in our lives, knowing how to deal with stress is not something that can be learnt instantly, so putting measures in place that can help is important. For example getting good communication in place with your student is helpful. Organising low key times when they can chat to you eg whilst watching a football match or a televised sport, or watching a film together or maybe during car journeys (especially useful if you have a non talker!). For some children it may be no harm to organising a formal or informal mentor or counselor. Some kids will see the benefit in that and enjoy their sessions, but others may not want to take that on board and obviously the choice must be theirs. A good resource if you feel your child is having real difficulty is Jigsaw; a charity specialising in supporting young people in their mental health and well being. Sometimes a mentor might not be an obvious mentor, it might be the physiotherapist, the tennis coach, the osteopath, or the career guidance officer in school. Do pay attention to how your child is coping mentally and emotionally throughout the six months running up the the leaving cert, and if you are genuinely worried then intervene. Your GP is the first port of call if you are worried about your child’s mental health.

Mental health can be boosted by continuing outside interests such as sport, drama and music, but even these tend to fall by the wayside in the last month. Some lads are keen to go to a gym, even if they are not playing sport because the season is over. Some small gyms have a come as you want pass that might be affordable and also there might be a swimming pool nearby that your student might enjoy if they like swimming. Peer support is also important. Its good to know that there are others feeling the same as you and that you are not the only one going through this. Peer support can also be counterproductive. Too much social media contact, bullying, unhealthy social dynamics can be unhelpful.

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

4. Dealing with Mobile Phones

This brings us onto THE PHONE. For most of us as parents, the concept of THE PHONE as a permanent fixture in a teenager’s life is troubling to some degree. At 18, you cant demand your child’s phone, or confiscate it. Well you could, but it would be a desperate act and wouldn’t bode well for open communication between you and your child. Also you have to remember that for teenagers the phone is the way that many of them revise and also their main point of contact with their peers and the outside world. By 18 your child should be self limiting with the phone and if not, it may be possible to observe some simple family ground rules about phone use during the leaving cert. I personally found that my son used his phone as an alarm and a revision tool so I just had to surrender to his own inner judgement and wisdom as to its use in the bedroom.

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

5. Encouraging exercise, sports walking swimming and music

Everything you read everywhere discusses the importance of exercise during the Leaving Cert. With a super packed timetable though it can be really hard to get out and exercise unless you have a well established exercise program, but going for a walk or a run can easily be done, and I d encourage you to encourage your student to do this if at all possible. A change of scene for a short while can completely clear the head and make you feel invigorated and better able for the next stage. Some students find that walking to school on the day of the exam can help clear their heads, but others want to be driven in and collected straight away afterwards. See what best suits your student. My boy wanted the full chauffeur service!

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

6. Remedies teas and scents that help with stress

Stress busters can also include RESCUE REMEDY (available in any chemist or health food store), and also some homeopathic remedies such as Aconite, Arg Nit and Lycopodium can also help with stress. Herbal teas such as chamomile and lemon balm or fennel also have a soothing effect. Some smells also help ease stress so popping a bit of lavender essential oil, frankincense essential oil or mandarin essential oil in an oil burner or diffuser can also help some students. We are big fans of rescue remedy and indigo essences here (eg the one that says NO FEAR and CONFIDENCE) and also we have found aconite the homeopathic remedy very helpful to steady the nerves.

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

7. Healthy easy to eat snacks between exams

Some exams are double headers. so having something healthy and wholesome to eat in between the exams can be important to keep up the energy levels. Often appetite also gets suppressed when stress levels are high so your student may not be in a humour to eat much before they leave in the morning. Good easy to eat energy boosters are strawberries, blueberries, mandarins, raspberries, nuts (but not in a nut free school), carrot sticks, mini pitta breads with favourite fillings, cheese and crackers, humus and vegetable dips, grapes, fresh smoothies.

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

8. Staying hydrated

Hydration is also important Make sure they drink well and take a bottle of water (label taken off) in with them. In spite of all the advertising try to limit caffeinated drinks and super sugared isotonic drinks. You can make your own isotonic drink with coconut water fresh fruit juice and a touch of salt and lemon juice if you want! Ideally limit tea and coffee consumption too, but sometimes a cup of Joe is just what you need to get yourself going!

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

9. Light at the end of the tunnel

Having something to look forward to is helpful for young adults, whatever that may be. Maybe its a holiday with their friends or a camping trip or a family trip or maybe its something they want to buy or a concert they want to go to. Mindfulness and being in the moment are important but teenagers need to realise that this stress ball of the Leaving Cert wont last forever!

Image result for sore throat

10. Treat any symptoms of illness immediately

Finally, if they get unwell jump on it like a hawk. As I said earlier, my son was hospitalised in November with quinsy. Its precursor is often acute tonsillitis or strep throat. So he is quite susceptible to any viral or bacterial infections that involve the throat or tonsils. So last weekend when he said to me that he could feel himself getting a “throat thing” I went into overdrive. I dosed him with a rake of homeopathic and herbal remedies and got him colloidal silver from the Health Food Store as well as super strength vitamin C and Echinacea drops, and lozenges from the chemist with a mild antibiotic action I also bought soluble aspirin for him to gargle with, although he actually didn’t need that in the end as the combination of the other things worked.

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

One Leaving Cert Student’s story

I am gong to end this blog with a story I heard on the radio the other day. A girl doing her leaving cert self diagnosed herself with appendicitis about ten days before the Leaving Cert started. Her doctor said no she didn’t have that and treated her for gastric upset. Her symptoms developed and the day before the Leaving Cert she was admitted to Wexford General with (yes you guessed it) acute appendicitis. Her surgery was planned for the morning of the first Leaving Cert, English Paper 1. Her parents phoned the Exams Commission and was informed that if she missed that exam no further provision would be made for her to sit it. Her parents asked whether she could resit it in July along with other students who would be allowed site their papers on a different date on account of bereavement. They were told no. Her choices were, do the Leaving Cert next year or do the Leaving Cert without English, meaning that she would not be able to gain university entry due to not enough subjects, not enough points and not holding English Language at Leaving Cert.

So this girl underwent what turned out to be life saving surgery at 4am in the morning of the first day of the Leaving Cert and CTMA sat her Leaving Cert English paper five hours post surgery for a burst appendix. She had three drips going into her and was on several pain killing meds. She wrote the paper on the trolley by your bed normally reserved for eating your breakfast. Her attending doctor was very unhappy with this situation because he thought she was endangering her health and her parents also. As she was 18 she was able to sign her own Contrary To Medical Advice form. What kind of society are we living in that young people feel they have to put this exam before their own health because there is no leeway and because there are no resits? Obviously acute appendicitis could not have been prevented, but whatever you can prevent do, because if not this is the end game.

Number of Exams sat: 9 Exams left to sit: 2

Subjects Sat: 6. Subjects left to sit: 2

https://www.jigsaw.ie/

https://www.education.ie/en/Press-Events/Press-Releases/2019-press-releases/PR19-05-31.html

#LeavingCert #LeavingCertificate #LeavingCertMamma #LeavingCert2019

Leaving Cert Mamma – The Language Exams

 

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

Language exams, well language exams aside from Irish and English. They have been up for the last week starting with French, then German and then yesterday it was Spanish. Of course bilingual families also have language exams coming up too.

This year there appears to have been a problem with the aural French exam and also possibly the German exam as well. My son sat Spanish yesterday and there were issues with that exam too.

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

What happened?

Well it all spilled out on Joe Duffy (where else?) on Friday afternoon (more here). A cabal of students had phoned up to raise issues they had with the French aural exam. That’s the listening part of the exam. You know a pile of stuff is said in that language you probably spent six years learning and you listen three times and answer the question or translate the sentence. Sounds simple enough. Apparently in the aural French exam disaster struck. The conversation was muffled, covered with static and seemingly impossible to hear in places. This wasn’t the case in just one exam centre, but in many exam centres around the land. Obviously wound up stressed young students when faced with this situation are stunned. Time is ticking away and the French aural is slipping away. . . . . what do you do?

Did any of their leaving certificate education prepare students for what to do in these situations? I would assume so, but its hard to act as an 18 year old when you are in a state of panic.

#leavingcertmamma #leavingcert

So not surprisingly when interviewed so many students said that they did nothing. They couldn’t hear, they realised this might impact their mark in French but they didn’t raise their hand to complain because no one said they could in some cases. In other cases they assumed the problem rested with them. Neither did many students write on their exam papers “AURAL INAUDIBLE – CANT HEAR QUESTION – CD BUSTED” or any such thing.

Quite what will happen now is unclear. Will everyone be given an average mark for their aural based on the rest of their performance in French? Will there be a separate French Aural Exam? Will you only get dispensation if you wrote something on your paper or if you actually called the invigilator over and made a formal complaint right there in the exam hall?

Listening to student after student tell the story of what happened and their inability to take action made me wonder about what the Leaving Certificate process is actually equipping our students for. Its important to advocate for yourself. Its important to point out when something is not right. Its important even in stressful situations to take that risk of raising your hand and saying “NO”m irrespective of whether you think you are “allowed” to or not. That so many students did not do this or felt intimidated to do this says a lot about the mark a Leaving Cert Education leaves.

Interestingly more girls who called the show said that they had complained or written something in their paper to alert the examiner to the fact that they couldn’t hear. Even if your invigilator has not said anything about raising or not raising your hand its important to stand up for yourself.

Many of the French students then went on to sit the History exam that afternoon, a hard ask if you feel you have done so badly in the morning. Again this comes down to the merit of a be all and end all exam of two hours to assess capacity in six years of learning a language.

Finally, a CD? The aural part of the exam is distributed to schools from the Examination Commission by CD? Do schools reserve a CD player from the 1990 s specifically for this annual occasion? Would it not be more appropriate to send out memory sticks with MP3 s or similar on them. Would there not then be an option of calling the Exams Commission and getting an immediate digital download if there was a problem? Thinking a move to the 21st century might be required here!

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

So how did the Spanish aural and written exam go? Well if Joe Duffy is to be believed the exact same issues arose with the Spanish exam as arose with the French exam. That is to say there were severe problems in the audibility of the aural part of the test. In my son’s case they were informed by the invigilator that there were errors in the written instructions on the Higher Spanish Leaving Certificate paper. These related to section headings in which students were supposed to identify synonyms. My son said using the oral instructions given he wasn’t able to identify any synonyms in the texts. I asked him if he checked with the invigilator whether he had copied the oral instructions down correctly, but he said (just like all the French students), no. He assumed the fault lay with him and spent a ridiculous amount of time searching. Needless to say that impacted the time available for other sections of the exam.

Spanish is one of the subjects on my son’s CAO form so its a subject he feels he might be open to studying for another four years. He started learning Spanish with our first trips to Spain when he was tiny. He was 9 months when he first went to Galicia and then at 18 months we went to Vigo. Those trips to interior Galicia and to the coast and to cities such as Santiago have continued every year. During Transition Year my son did a Spanish exchange to Jerez, studied and sat the DELE exams at the Instituto de Cervantes and we took a family trip to Sevilla. So much experience, so much preparation. In the end it all came down to a two and a half hour written exam with confusing instructions.

 

#leavingcertmamma #leavingcert

As this was my son’s one “strong” subject and one he was hoping to do well in, there is now an air of gloom in the house. Its like a mini grieving process! My husband is fluent in Spanish having lived in Spain for five years and I speak some, so we definitely had an interest in what happened in the exam yesterday. There was a lot of football that went down last night so hopefully in true Latin tradition the balm of the beautiful game has eased the disappointment a little. If it hasn’t other means will have to be found as still two more exams and two more subjects to go!

Earlier this academic year my son dropped Leaving Cert Chemistry and took up Leaving Cert Music. I am so glad for so many reasons.  I was particularly glad yesterday as it meant my son didn’t have to sit two exams in one day especially considering he felt disappointed following his Spanish exam. Onwards and upwards to Music Tomorrow!

#LeavingCertMamma #LeavingCertificate #LeavingCert2019

Exams Sat: 9. Exams left to sit: 2

Subjects Completed: 6. Subjects left: 2

https://www.thejournal.ie/muffled-sound-during-leaving-cert-french-exam-4682947-Jun2019/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/leaving-cert-spanish-student-complain-about-sound-issues-in-exam-1.3929555

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

Leaving Cert Mamma – Waiting for Week Three of Exams

So we are now into the second half of the Leaving Cert.

What do I mean by that? I mean that this is the half in which your student actually CHOSE the subjects they are studying and being examined in.

So whilst their ideal choice might have been no subjects and lying in bed and allowing their brains to grow, these are technically “self selected” subjects. It makes a big difference in terms of ownership and motivation. Theoretically (!) Theoretically it makes a big difference to interest and motivation!

For my son these subjects are Art, Spanish, Music and RE. In the first three, a substantial portion of the subject has already been examined and even in RE we heard a lot about the “Transcendent of the Feminine” when my son was doing his project in April,  counting for 20% of the total mark in that subject.

Saying goodbye to Art

None the less, it seems bizarre to me that a life time of drawing painting doodling sketching and colouring could be synthesised into this compressed afternoon.
#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma
As a mother I don’t frequently reflect on the way my children have evolved, but this Leaving Cert Art exam caused me to becomes quite nostalgic and remember all the many art projects we have been entertained with along the last 18 years. It has the end of an era feel about it My son hasn’t made an application to Art College.  I sincerely hope he continues to enjoy art his whole life through. I remember so many drawings, pencils crayons, paintings, doodles, so many of them adorned our walls over the years. My other children enjoy art, but none are so prolific as this one!
 #leavingcertart #leavingcertmamma

The Lull or Leaving Cert Rest

The second half of the Leaving Cert also introduces a “rest” for some students. This can be both welcome and dangerous. It has a lull feel about it, something like hitting the doldrums in a sailing voyage. A time when you know the tension and the stress is seriously going to crank up again, but for that short period of time; just one day there is relief and rest. Enough to take a real rest and not worry about tomorrow; the natural state of a child’s mind.
Image result for break rest relax free photo pixabay

What’s the danger in that?

Well part of the Leaving Cert experience is a physical endurance test. In most physical endurance tests its not wise to ease up; to stop still in the middle of the test or race.

The Leaving Cert as a physical endurance test

A physical endurance test requires the physical mental and emotional capacity to keep going under extreme pressure. It has almost a machine like energy about it. It’s like the task well trained athletes face in a competition, except Leaving Cert students will be doing this for the first time. So of course if the pressure lifts a little the temptation is to fully ease back, stay up all night gaming chatting and watching movies. Some easing of tension is essential, but keeping some pressure on and being mindful of the week ahead is also important. A hard act to balance if you are doing it for the first time.
Image result for endurance test person

 This is where an agreed revision Timetable helps. Number of kids that do this? Probably 1. That’s the one you’ll be reading about in the Irish Times when the results come out! Well actually 1  plus all the students planning on doing Medicine, because you (or your family, or both), need to be very driven and committed for that!

That’s not us! So we have tumbled into a weekend of on line shopping, movie watching and sleeping and I can feel the tension of the week that is to come building already! It’s making me nervous as to whether the stamina is still there, plus my son has gotten sick. More about that in the next blog. If there is ever one thing you should never ever do is get sick during the Leaving Cert!

#LeavingCert #LeavingCertMamma #LeavingCert2019 #LeavingCertificate

Exams Completed: 8 Exams Left to go: 3

Subjects Completed: 5 Subjects Left to go: 3

Leaving Cert Mamma – Twenty – Two months of it


Yesterday afternoon after the Maths and Irish Leaving Cert double header I finally started to see a bit more of my son, as he really is without the extreme stress and pressure that the Leaving Cert had put on him.

Leaving Cert Stress easing once the mandatory subjects are over

Young people go through so much in the run up to the Leaving Cert it’s often easy to underestimate what is happening for them psychologically and emotionally. Their sense of self worth, of self esteem and of emerging adulthood are all wrapped up in this big test. Its hard despite what any gentle parent will offer in terms of support for them not to see this big test as being a big test of themselves, of their very being. Which of course it is not.

Related image

Don’t think for one minute that the Leaving Cert and all the stress it enacts and all the self questioning it brings and sometimes self realisation begins on the Wednesday after the June Bank Holiday. No not at all. The Leaving Cert itself with all its associated testing begins the minute you sign up for it 22 months before.

The start of the Leaving Cert – choosing your subjects

It starts with subject choices. In order to choose the “right” subjects you have to kind of have an idea of what you want to study at third level (if that is what you want to do), or of what you need to progress into the workplace once your school days are over. That is a hard cal for a 16 year old. Might you want to study science or anything related to science in your life? Yes? Well then you’d better pick one of those leaving cert subjects that are labelled as acceptable for inclusion into a science program. In addition to the ones we all know about; Physics, Biology and Chemistry, Geography is also accepted as a Science in Trinity College and Agricultural Science is accepted as a science in NUI and Home Economics is also acceptable as a Science in some Colleges too. Bear in mind that Biology pairs with Irish in the exam timetable, Chemistry pairs with Spanish, and Physics pairs with Accountancy,Agricultural Science pairs with Hebrew and Ancient Greek, Home Economics pairs with English Paper 1 on the first day and Geography pairs with the first Maths paper.

Image result for leaving cert subjects

Then there is the choice between what you want to do, what you love doing and what is going to enable you to maximise your points in order to get you to the next stage. Favourite point maximisers are Music and RE and if you have been lucky enough to have a second language spoken at home, that language! If your student is in any way mathematical then the accounting economics and business stream may be applicable, or even Applied Mathematics if they are already doing Physics. Some subjects your student may have a passion for but its very difficult to achieve maximum points in them, Art is one example. The judging of Art is highly subjective. Often students who are planning to enter into Art, Design and Technology need a rocking portfolio rather than Leaving Cert Art. Most schools will offer a portfolio class in addition to Art for those students looking for entry into NCAD or into various Institutes of Design and Technology.

Changing your Leaving Cert Subject Choices

Once the subject choices are made there are opportunities to change during the first term, or maybe to drop subjects altogether if your child has picked up more than six. Its very hard however to come to that realisation for many children, so you need to keep your ear to the ground. The last thing you want is for one subject to act as the albatross taking up 75% of their time and effort and taking away from other subjects. Well aside from Maths and Irish that is, which hangs as the proverbial albatross over so many kids, mine included.

Honours or Pass Leaving Cert?

We ended up dropping Chemistry and picking up Music, we also considered dropping to Pass Irish, but my son’s Irish teacher insisted that since he was so good at oral Irish he should continue with the Honours Leaving Cert Irish. Sitting outside the school right now having watched him go in for his Honours Leaving Cert Irish Paper 2  I am not sure if that was a wise decision in retrospect, because a H5 in Honours is the same number of points as an O1 for a hell of a lot more work. So unless you have a reasonable assurance from your kid’s Irish Teacher and your student themselves that they plan to aim for a H4 they probably are better heading down to Pass Irish.

#leavingcertmamma 'leavingcert

Once the choices are made and consolidated, there is really only a year of study involved. Once Christmas comes in 6th year, the focus turns towards submission of coursework and revision. The pressure comes on and any slip up in that rolling steam train choo chooing its way at top speed to the June bank holiday weekend can significantly alter the approach and attitude your student carries forward. It’s important to ensure that they absolutely do not get sick between January and June as having a week off recovering from a physical sickness is hard to recoup in study time.

The CAO application process

Then of course the exams start, so there will be Christmas exams followed quite swiftly by Trial Examinations (mocks to you and me). In addition, during this examination period you child will need to fill out a CAO form and attend College open days. Maybe your child knows EXACTLY what they want to do, or maybe they are considering it for the first time. This year the CAO for Third Level Entry opened in November and closed on the 1st February. So all CAO business had to be completed between the start of the Christmas exams and revising for Trial Examinations.

Do not underestimate the CAO application. If your child had assessments that qualifies them for The DARE Scheme all of those also need to be in order so that your child will ensure lower compensatory offers from Colleges.

Image result for hpat

CAO Auditions Tests and Interviews – Restricted course choices

The CAO also has associated tests interviews and auditions. The most well known being the HPAT for entry to Medicine. This theoretically ensures that only candidates with the appropriate humanity and passion for cure are admitted.  Rest assured, there are grinds for that to ensure that your child will pass it if it’s Medicine they are after irrespective of what kind of bedside manner they may have! However, there are others too, for example auditions for Music, for Drama and the Performing Arts and portfolio interviews for Design, Fine Art and Architecture. These all happen any time between the Trial Examinations and the end of the school 6th form year in May, at the same time, yes at the same time, as the Final Leaving  Cert Oral Examinations, the Final Leaving Cert Performance Examinations in Music, the Final Leaving Cert Art Examinations and LC  Continuous Assessment Examinations for subjects such as Geography, Art and RE.

Image result for cao

The non written Leaving Cert examinations

The non written examinations for the Leaving Cert start as early as March and that time from the Trial Examinations to the last weeks of the year are peppered with deadlines and exams.

In our case for example we had Spanish Oral, then Irish Oral, Music Performance and Art Portfolio in the same week. Then we had Geography Field work and RE Project in the same week and finally Life Drawing just before school finally finished.

All in all the process of examining starts in early December and doesn’t really finish until The Leaving Cert written exams are over towards the end of June. It’s a long haul that takes its toll on your student and your entire family. I am so glad that with Maths and Irish over now; two subjects my son finds extremely difficult, but was forced study for his Leaving Cert we can release some of the stress.

Welcome home Naoise!

#LeavingCert #LeavingCertMamma #LeavingCert2019 #LeavingCertificate

Exams Completed: 7 Exams Left to go: 4

Subjects Completed: Subjects Left to go: 4

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

Leaving Cert Mamma – Question spotting, Maths and Irish

Question Spotting

To question spot or not to question spot? It’s hard to take yourself back as a parent and remember the notion of question spotting! The whole purpose of question spotting is to avoid studying all the required detail for the exam for every topic. If you know that some topics will not come up at all, it does in fairness seem insane to devote a lot of time to revising them. Instead it makes far more sense to tailor your learning and study to the assessment which is a limited number of questions on a vast array of two years of learning. Imagine in Chemistry for example there are eight questions to cover two entire years of work!

#leavingcertmamma #'leavingcert

It is however nerve wracking as a parent to watch this process in action. You wonder if there is a plan B. You take the macro view and you think of the long two years spent studying this entire topic, in some cases such as mathematics the foundations have been laid from the time your child was small. That’s what ahem, 14 years or so condensed into two two and a half hour exams. Wow. Just wow.

What your kids don’t ask you!

Anyway, my son did some question spotting in Geography and it made me pretty nervous. Maybe it’s because I lectured in Geography and I could only think of the many variants in the way a question on geoecology could be asked, but also I think it’s because I would have found it hard to leave so much to chance myself. However, as my husband said to me “it’s not your leaving cert, so you don’t have to think about how you would approach it”. He was right. In that letting go however is the angst a parent feels as you think “riskkkkkkkkky”! I was chatting to another leaving cert mum last night and she described the letting go as almost a spiritual experience!

Image result for gis

A hilarious moment however arrived when my son asked me “what’s that layer thing in geography mum?” “GIS?”, sez I. “Yes”, sez he. Little did he know that I spent 15 years researching, lecturing consulting and developing GIS for the World Bank for National Geographic Information Systems around the world and that I had supervised some 8 PhD students and over 25 MSc students in GIS based project, that I had initiated the GIS lab in Trinity College and pulled in hundreds of thousands of euros in grant funding. He did ask me to remind him of what the “S” stood for, but that was pretty much my entire contribution to his Leaving Cert Geography! Apparently I am not alone as my former Trinity Colleges confirm the same behaviour in their kids!

Leaving Cert Mathematics

So the last exam before weekend number one of the Leaving Cert was Mathematics (no Financial Maths screamed the masses), and it will again be the first exam tomorrow morning. If you are strong in Maths then I am sure you are looking forward with some glee to tomorrow, in having a repartee of intellectual and conceptual problem solving and a numeric tango with the Leaving Cert paper.. For the 90% of the population that are not mathematical geniuses however, the day holds the prospect of sheer terror.

Image result for mathematical theorem

Ever thought of the massive advantage the Leaving Cert requirement to sit Mathematics gives to children who are naturally gifted in Mathematics? Let’s face it you don’t just “learn” to be good at maths, you either have that kind of a brain or you don’t. You can learn questions and question spot and work hard but it’s not quite the same thing. That requires a huge amount of effort, often to the detriment of other subjects. So the kids that are good at Maths (I was one of those), just have to capture the concept and lock it into the mother ship and off you go. Tick. Next topic.

I remember in my primary school if you were bold you used to have to do extra Maths problems. I loved Maths problems so much I contemplated being bold on purpose in order to do them (in a room on my own in silence!). Most of the population are not like that though. It takes many hours of repeated practising to understand what is required and how to present the answer. Meanwhile, the kids that are good at Maths just get to move on and revise something else. The amount of hours kids for whom Maths is not a strong point spend during the year grappling wrestling and struggling with Maths doesn’t just take away from other subjects in a practical sense, but also in an emotional and mental sense, as they genuinely worry about Maths. Those doing the Higher Level Maths are encouraged to do so to get the extra 25 marks. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it for all the work that has to go into it. Meanwhile the gift mathematicians are just going to hoover up those points thank you very much.

Should Leaving Cert Mathematics be compulsory?

So I am going to pose an outrageous question here. Should Leaving Cert Maths be compulsory? Everyone agrees it’s a taxing subject, designed to cater to the minority not the majority. Does the population in general actually need it? Is it not sufficient to have Junior Cert Maths? I went into a shop the other day and paid for something costing a fiver with a tenner. The (young) person at the till had to ring it through to give me my change because they couldn’t calculate the change in their head. Is this what we need Leaving Cert Maths for? Nobody even does mental arithmetic anymore; we just get out our phones. Wouldn’t make more sense to offer Leaving Cert Pure and Applied Mathematics as an option for those who truly want to do it? You know in the same way that they do in other countries? I say end the misery. Those who need and want to do Leaving Cert Maths know who they are.

#leavingcertmamma #leavingcert #krysialynch

Should Leaving Cert Irish be Compulsory?

Since it’s not just Maths tomorrow but Irish too, let’s go there. If there is one thing better than being outrageous it’s being doubly outrageous. Why is Irish compulsory at Leaving Cert? A good few answers are obtainable here The majority of students resent its presence bitterly. Is it not enough that they have had to study it at Junior Cert? Is that not enough for those who struggle with the language? Or whose parents cannot afford the €1,000 to send their kids to the Gaeltacht so that they can get good at it? Don’t get me wrong I love the idea of keeping the language alive and of promoting Irish Culture; when I came to Ireland I made it my business to learn Irish, but that was done out of a passion for learning, not because it was imposed on me. The forced learning of Irish has also not contributed to an increase in the number of people speaking Irish on a daily basis, even in the Gaeltacht.

“According to the 2016 census, only 20,586 people in the Gaeltacht now speak Irish on a daily basis. That is fewer than one quarter of the 96,090 people who live in the Gaeltacht—the officially designated Irish-speaking area—and less than one-half of one percent of the population of Ireland as a whole. Moreover, that 20,586 represents a decline of 11.2% compared to the 2011 census. Irish speakers are literally dying off and not being replaced.

Outside the Gaeltacht, 53,217 people said that they spoke some Irish daily outside the education system, a slight decline compared to 2011 as well.” Eamon O’Kelly. More here

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

Source: Vivid Maps

Like Maths, I think the forced learning and examining of Irish at Leaving Cert should stop. Leave it there for those who are good at it or who like it. Let everyone else do something else they are good at. Or alternatively, The Department of Education could consider a compulsory Irish Option at Leaving Cert. For example Option 1: Irish Language and Literature (in Irish), Option 2: Irish Literature (in English) Option 3: Irish Culture History and Society. Another alternative might be for it to simply be one of the languages that you can pick for Leaving Cert. Obviously, the National Universities of Ireland would have to change their matriculation requirements and be happy with Junior Cert Irish for the majority of courses. That might even lend a sense of gravitas to the Junior Cert which is mostly regarded as a joke by most students at this stage and not really worth a lot of effort (unless you plan to study outside of Ireland of course in which case you’d better pull your finger out because those Junior Cert results will be scrutinised!)

If that were to happen you wouldn’t get the children who are either in fluent in Irish, or who find it very easy, having an utter advantage over those children who are not. The children who are not naturally good at Irish have to usually take an extra Leaving Cert subject in order to make up the points that they know that they will never acquire in the subject they are forced to study. For most that only further fuels their resentment of the language, which kind of defeats the purpose of learning it in the first place, a fact echoed by President Michael Higgins last year when he siad  “I am in favour of encouraging people, bringing people to the language rather than forcing it.”. Finally, how many people who did Irish at Leaving Cert can speak a word five years later? Answer: Very few. End the enforced enrollment of the Irish Leaving Cert now!

#LeavingCert #LeavingCertMamma #LeavingCert2019 #LeavingCertificate

Exams Completed: 4 Exams Left to go: 7

Subjects Completed: 2 Subjects Left to go: 6

Leaving Cert Mamma – The Double Header

Day 2 of the Leaving Cert for the Entire Country – The English Literature Paper.

Lots of discourse on this on line and the same two grind teachers quoted in all the rags.

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/education/leaving-cert-english-paper-2-relief-all-round-as-sylvia-plath-appears-1.3917244?mode=amp

#leavingcertmamma # krysialynch #leavingcert#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

Do teenagers actually read literature any more? Outside school that is? They ‘d have had a pretty hard time of the Higher paper if they didn’t. Some of the language would make your toes curl! I studied English Literature for A level and I am pretty sure we weren’t asked to discuss how the personal integrity of characters enabled us to shape our impressions of the general vision of a text. I am not sure even that I know what that means! My son answered that question, hopefully he knew what it meant!

Photography by David Hou.

Hopefully the three visits to the bard’s Macbeth on stage paid off and there was no drama for the drama paper!

Everything was much calmer for everyone today as a good nigh’s sleep was had by all, (and the general consensus was that everyone liked the Yogi Bedtime Tea best). I supplemented the tea with the herbal sleep potion and a constitutional homeopathic remedy last night and we were all good this morning.

#leavingcertmamma #leavingcert #krysialynch

Lunch of the day;  fruit platter, as no stomach for loads of food before the exams.

Tip  here  would be to keep lots of fruit in the fridge; berries strawberries raspberries blueberries as they have  sa forpep  chool you up feel  houand an are full of vitamin c and antioxidants. Also on a nervous stomach  the they before can just exam easy tiny amounts.

Also a wise move for steadying of the nerves and also last minute revision was to go into school an hour before the exam and relax into the new surroundings.

Writing for six hours?

If my son had been doing Engineering he would have had two exams today. If he had been doing Home Economics he would have been doing two exams yesterday, if he had been doing Engineering and Home Economics he would have had four exams done by now. That is a total of six hours continuous writing per day for the last two days. A pretty tall order and much more writing than any adult ever does now, in any context.

#leavingcertmamma

The writing game ain’t over yet.

Even the students who have an exam on an afternoon and then have TWO exams the following day (of THREE HOURS a piece), will spend 9 out of 27 hours  hours writing. With a pen! Not with predictive text! Hard at the best of times, but particularly hard for this Borg generation.

Today our fella has his toughest day of the entire Leaving Cert. He has to perform in Geography (a very trickly timed exam) and Mathematics. Some wag has obviously thought Maths in the afternoon would be a laugh. Hopefully no one falls asleep during it from a combination of sheer terror and exhaustion!

I am pretty convinced that I don’t know anyone whose kid does Engineering, Home Economics and Geography, but its terrifying and possible.

Two exams a day? Many days of two exams a day?

I do however know someone whose kid has 5 days of double exams . . . . in a row. That is just pure insanity. Judging two years worth of study and work in a three hour exam is bad enough, but stacking those exams in that way is just plain ridiculous, especially when you consider that some children may only have the one double header and others are facing FIVE. It’s hardly fair. But we all already know that there is a lot in the Leaving Cert that is not fair. Its not fair that some children are good at irish and will sail through a mandatory subject whilst other kids will have to carry it and take up another subject to make up points, its unfair that kids who are good at maths will be doing the same, its unfair that some subjects are continually assessed and others are not, its unfair that some families can support their children academically and financially, it’s unfair that some kids will be unwell and have to continue none the less . . . . the list is endless.

However, whilst some of these issues cannot easily be dealt with, some of them can be easily dealt with. Why can we not spread out the leaving cert into that third week so that subjects that most students sit should not have to be done two in one day?

Subjects that have to be sat together in one day

#leavingcertmamma #krysialynch #leavingcert

Examples from this year

  1. Maths and Irish
  2. Geography and Maths
  3. Biology and Irish
  4. Home Economics and English
  5. History and French
  6. Spanish and Chemistry

The one double header that everyone has is on Monday when Irish and Maths comes together as a gruesome twosome for everyone, but every other twosome should be avoided. Can we not pair all the commonly sat subjects with the less commonly sat subjects? In particular we should try to ensure that Maths English and Irish are sat equally; not having some students sitting Geography before Maths or Biology after Irish or Home Economics after English and other students just sitting the mandatory subjects of Maths English and Irish on their own and having the luxury of more revision time before and after these subjects.

For the first time this year the Leaving Cert will extend into a THIRD week. Just for two days of the third week with the last exam not being religious education as was customary, but is now politics and society three weeks after English Paper 1.

Now that we have broken the mould, can we not extend this to the end of the week and really give our students the best possible chance to show off their skills in what is already a very narrow form of assessment?

The same two exams on one day appears every year!

Now all you people reading this whose kids are not currently doing the Leaving Cert, listen up. The Leaving Cert Timetable IS THE SAME EVERY YEAR. Here is the proof from 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Leaving Cert written 2017leaving-cert-2015-timetable1#leavingcertmamma #leacingcert

So if you have kids coming out of transition year and starting 5th year bear in mind that if they are doing the subject  choices listed above THEY WILL HAVE A DOUBLE HEADER. So if you want to have an easier LC timetable choose your subjects carefully and wisely!

Wouldn’t it be great if no kid that didn’t want to do Irish and Maths would simplly be allowed not to? More on that on the next blog. Meanwhile get the compasses, maps and protractors out!

 

#LeavingCert #LeavingCertMamma #LeavingCert2019 #LeavingCertificate

Exams Completed: 2 Exams Left to go: 9

Subjects Completed: 1 Subjects Left to go: 7

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

Leaving Cert Mamma – The First Day

Leaving Cert – Rite of Passage Feel

The first day of the Leaving Cert dawns and it has a real rite of passage feel about it.Clothes laid out, pencils erasers and pens in the suggested clear zip lock plastic bag, watch on wrist, favourite breakfast on the go. Alarm clock zinging off. You d think wouldnt ya?

Not in our house.

Sleepless in Sandymount

Here we had a sleepless night despite copious cups of chamomile tea and a herbal sleep potion. My student woke at four feeling concerned about not being able to sleep despite calming music and early to bed and long bath.

Sit the Leaving Cert in School  Uniform?

We had the option of wearing or not wearing uniform. Big decision. Yes No Yes No. Of course the uniform had already been dibbed by his younger brother, as I had not counted on its requirement for the Leaving Cert. I was busy wrestling it out of the kid brother’s chest of drawers and planning on lying that he had absolutely not worn it last week  . . . . when indecision struck. “No” to the uniform. Definitely “No”,  and the the deadly sentence “I’ll decide tomorrow morning”. Oh Noooooooo.

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

In the morning we heard “where are my pants?”, “the ones with the stripe”. Frantic throwing of laundry everywhere searching for pants with the stripe. THE pants with the stripe not found, but alternative pants with a stripe found. Thankfully they are acceptable. TICK TOCK TUCK TOCK. Breakfast is served and surprisingly eaten. Last minute run to Tesco for fizzy water. Label hastily removed. This is what the ban on water was about. No bottles with labels allowed in case you had written all the answers (to the English Comprehension) on the inside of the label! We head into the car. No chewing gum. Skid up to Tesco. Chewing gum purchased. Trundle down the coast road. “You do have a watch right”, I sez. Checking of pockets “No”. I surrender my watch.

“Call me when you are out!” I say. “Oh no I have no more credit”. Credit organised with other half sitting at home on the computer.

We arrive at the school, everyone else in uniform. Wait no, Two other cool dudes in smart track suit bottoms with THE stripe. It s all cool. He walks in. I realise I have done it I have got him this far.

It’s gonna happen. English Paper 1

Que Sera Sera

#leavingcert #leavingcertmamma

I turn on Lyric Radio. Its Doris Day and she is singing “Que Sera Sera”. I turn it up loud. Its a fitting song for a fitting moment. For me it brings tears and I remember my long lost dad used to sing that to me all the time when I was young. I wonder if he is watching over the grandson he never knew. I hope so.

Taking your mind off it and staying healthy

I decide to go to Pilates. A very good call as I completely forgot about the Leaving Cert. I met a long lost friend and we decide to visit the swimming pool in the sports centre and then the jacuzzi and sure whilst we were at it why not the steam room. We were on our way to the hot room when I thought better check time on the clock (being as I have no watch right!). OMG the exam has just finished. I break the world record from getting from the steam room in the sports centre to the school; 14 minutes. I am grossly late but forgiven.

How did you do?

So the awkward moment arrives.

“Well?”

Surprisingly I get a full run down. I am delighted to hear that the agreed timing for each question has been adhered to even though it meant that one questions remained slightly unfinished.

So mammas, when your student tells you what they did and what they answered and how the answered, even if you know that these are very dodgy answers there is no merit what so ever in telling your student this. Your goal is to keep them on a steady ship to encourage them and to keep them in a good and balanced state of mind for the next exam. Nod, Smile, Praise, Encourage.

 

 

If your child only had one exam on the first day be grateful. Anyone doing Home Economics  had two exams today and anyone doing Engineering will have two exams tomorrow. More on that in the next blog. In the meantime its back to the chamomile tea. Actually I bought three different types of soothing tea today. We tried them all out this afternoon and they all tasted decent. I ll let you know which if any of them help my student sleep!

So first day over and we all survived. One less exam until we say goodbye to the Leaving Cert!

#LeavingCert #LeavingCertMamma #LeavingCert2019 #LeavingCertificate

Exams Completed: 1 Exams Left to go: 10

Subjects Completed: 0 Subjects Left to go: 8

#leavingcertmamma

Leaving Cert Mamma – Taking care of yourself

 

#leavingcertmamma

The Leaving Certificate period is definitely a tense time, no doubt about it. Its stressful and tense for those that are sitting the exam as well as for those who are supporting them. Tensions rise and tempers fray. The biggest challenge that I have found throughout the run up to the Leaving Certificate has been to what extent I am going to sit back and let my son make his own decisions and to what extent I am going to wade in and say “uh uh that s not the way things are gonna be”. In the back of your mind you are thinking about the immense disappointment that awaits if things turn out so much more badly than they anticipated (and the associated grief and hassle for the rest of the family of course), but on the other hand you know you have to trust them to make their own decisions and own the consequences. I found this particularly hard. I worked in academia and trained people on passing exams. I used to set final university exams and I know how they need to be answered and revised for.

Investing in Trust

The hard task of parenting here is to invest in trust. To trust that your child is anchored to the wisdom of the Universe and that they are evolving in exactly the way that they need to. The task here is to curb your rescuing tendencies! Its hard!

Investing in Yourself

#leavingcertmamma

As a parent you will be tested, you will be asked to produce things at the last minute, you will be asked to make unusual things to eat at odd times, to drive to far flung shops and you that will be the butt of their frustration their anger and their disappointment. The key here is to find a harmonious way of engaging with this and not allowing your tension to overflow and unbalance them. The best way to do this is to invest in yourself. To build a strong foundation from which you can nourish and support your young person.

 

Finding your support during the Leaving Cert as a parent

#leavingcertmamma

Different people will do this in different ways, whether its coffee with a friend, whether it s a run on the beach or a yoga class or maybe its a treatment such as acupuncture or osteopathy or a massage or perhaps its a treat to show that you are caring for and valuing yourself. In order to support others you must be in a position to support yourself. So if your child is doing the leaving cert find a way to support yourself. I found that my child’s behaviour changed due to the pressure of the Leaving Cert. It started to change during the intense time of the orals and practical exams in March and April which were also times that he had to attend for the interviews and auditions associated with restricted courses. I found myself parked on  Sandymount Strand one afternoon having what can only be described as a panic attack and I realised that there was no one there to talk to and no one else whose business this was aside from me. It was a fairly cathartic moment and I decided that because I could see this experience was going to be incredibly difficult for my son I was going to have to seriously support myself, and I finally took out my phone and made that appointment for the acupuncturist that I had been meaning to make for the last three years. I have budgeted so that I am prioritising my self care over items that I might think I need or want such trips out or meals out or clothes or shoes! But of course clothes shoes and meals out may be the ticket for someone else. There is no one size fits all. just make sure you know what you need and you get it!

12 hours to go to the Leaving Cert 2019

#leavingcertmammaSo we are just 12 hours from the Leaving Certificate now. Today we all received a big email from the school’s exam coordinator detailing all the information you could possibly want to know about the logistics of sitting the Leaving Cert, they include the things everyone knows such as; NO CHEATING as well as unusual things such as no clear water bottles. Not sure if this goes against the school’s no plastic policy or whether there is some bizarre way you can cheat with a water bottle. Or maybe the school anticipates a riot between rival football team supporters in the main exam hall.

No water bottles in the exam

#leavingcertmamma

Then there is the instruction about uniform. You may or may not wear your uniform, but if you don’t you must dress appropriately for the occasion. Not sure what appropriate dress code for the Leaving Certificate is and more to the point inappropriate dress code! I d assume evening or beach wear would be definitely out!

Get a good night’s sleep

Then we are facing into the first night of sleep. That night when you know that the next morning the Leaving Certificate awaits you. Everyone says “get a good night’s sleep”. Pretty impossible really for most ids knowing what lies ahead. I have invested in a very large box of chamomille tea and also in a box of lemon verbana and lemon balm tea! I was also lucky enough to have wonderful friends who between them got a herbal mix for supporting a good night sleep to our door. Thank you Dil and Helen!

Tomorrow the adventure starts!

#LeavingCertificate #LeavingCert #LeaviingCertMamma #LC2019 #LeavingCert2019 #KrysiaLynch

Exams Completed: 0 Exams Left to go: 11

Subjects Completed: Subjects Left to go: 8

#krsialynch #leavingcertma #leavingcertma

Leaving Cert Mamma – The run up

 

#krsialynch #leavingcertma #leavingcertma

Leaving Cert English

First of all let me be really clear about one thing. I never wanted my son to do the Leaving Certificate (LC). I had hoped he would do the International Baccalaureate (IB). I even placed him in one of the few schools in Ireland that offers that option. But children are children and they want to do what their friends are doing, so here we are on the eve of the Leaving Certificate.

Why did I not want my son to sit the LC? Primarily because of the stress it puts on young people to regurgitate so much rote learned information, secondly because of the limited skill set they acquire by doing the exams and finally because there is no easy option to repeat it which makes the undertaking even more stressful as there is no safety net to fall back on.

Leaving Cert and Stress

It puts an incredible amount of unnecessary stress on young people at a time of their lives when they are already going through enough stress and emotional turmoil thank you very much. All exams are stressful, but the Leaving Certificate comes as an all in one package that requires a lot of rote learning over a wide range of subjects and can only be done in one sitting over a period of just over two weeks. It’s an insane way to assess whether a young person has the required understanding knowledge or skill set to progress further in life. Late puberty is a difficult time for kids, perhaps more so now than before. The pressure that kids are placed under with respect to image and self esteem is intense and is of course fuelled by social media, the last thing most of them need is more stress.

Leaving Cert Repeats

If one of the exams doesn’t pan out as expected, it can’t simply be repeated. The entire  Leaving Certificate has to be repeated. Furthermore, young people cannot do this at school in the same way that they can in other countries and neither can they resit the Leaving Certificate in a few months when all that shallowly learnt knowledge is till fresh in their head. No, they have to wait an entire year and sit all six subjects again. Pure madness and pure stress.

The rationale? Well people might just do two subjects a year over three years and get all H1 s. Yes and so what? Pretty much every other type of learning that we do in life is done piecemeal, so why not this? I am sure that the third level sector could magic up some way of giving bonus points to one sitting if they wanted to; there are a lot of brainy academics there after all. Lets face it, once you are 23 years old the University sector  actually doesn’t even care if you have a Leaving Certificate at all provided you have demonstrated adequate life experience. Meanwhile, if you wanted to enter an Irish University having done your A levels there is no issue with having done one a year if that is what you did. Such warped logic that causes so much stress for young people.

#leavingcert #krysialynch

What skills does the Leaving Cert give us?

The LC as a final graduating school examination is so arduous and so utterly inapplicable or reflective of skills that young adults actually need such as analytical skills, team based approaches and more importantly than anything emotional intelligence. In most other countries young people have to demonstrate continuous understanding of the subjects they are studying, and also have a far greater opportunity to demonstrate individuality and uniqueness and personal opinion. You wouldn’t dare do that in the LC; it might lose you marks!

The Leaving Cert Industry

The Leaving Certificate generates a whole industry around it too. The first of those is the education system itself. Schools vie for top places on the leader board of points acquired in the leaving certificate and parents crave places in those schools because big points means good college places which surely must mean good jobs and successful offspring and successful parenting! Right? Schools with high places on the leader board focus a lot of 5th and 6th year on testing, on question answering, on rote questions, on predictive question spotting and the like. Navigating the LC becomes more about strategy than understanding knowledge passion or wisdom. Those children with access to the strategies will undoubtedly do better. Bestowing of merit praise and worth on the kids that do well of course duly follow in the schools which have focused so intensely on LC preparation. Kid’s worth and their value to the school are ranked and noted. Some schools offer prizes to high achieving children.

Next the vast array of books and websites and guides that help you add finesse to your strategy. Parents anxious to support their children go ahead and buy these. I swore I never would, but of course I did. I, like any other parent would do anything to help my child through this gruesome rite of passage. Finally, of course the grinds. Again parents seeing the anxiety that the LC is provoking within their children opt for this. Some parents feel that their children are just not receiving enough guidance in school to navigate the exams. God forbid they were only receiving an education. So there are all year courses, Christmas courses, Mid term courses, Easter Courses and even crash courses. Again I swore I would never engage with this industry, but I did. My son needed help, and I turned to the structure of these courses in the holidays to try to keep some sense of momentum going. Its been a holy hell.

Then of course there is the sub industry of getting assessments. Validated assessments for a wide variety of physical and emotional conditions can change the way you might sit your exams which can be very helpful for some kids and can shave a large percentage of points off University requirements. The problem is that the Public School Intervention teams can’t cope with the number of assessments they are expected to approve and sign off on, so parents are obliged to go privately. I drew the line here. Whilst its obvious my son has challenges in processing some directions and understanding instructions or comprehensions, something identified in primary school, I didn’t pursue it with formal assessments. He tells me half his class have exemptions and exclusions and special dispensations and are on the DARE program for University entry, so there is definitely a thriving industry filling in the gap that the public system cant cope with.

Leaving Cert and Self esteem

Undertaking the LC stratifies kids into groups of those who will be successful (referred to I believe as 600 pointers or 500 pointers), to those who wont be as successful. The children who achieve well below the average for the school are rarely referred to with pride in any annual report. They are there to fill the register. The stodgy carb filler in the Sunday Lunch. Don’t tell me for one second that kids aren’t aware of this stratifying and judgment of them as human beings. It can’t be good for their mental and emotional health and it isn’t something that a focus on mental well being for a day, or a week or a month in school is going to easily lighten or shift.

All kids subject to that regime end up viewing their worth, or a part of their worth in these exam results. That is not exactly healthy. It applies equally to those kids that are high exam achievers and to those that are low exam achievers. Its part of our education system that we encourage our youth to value themselves on external achievement rather than on internal understanding stability and self worth. Any self help book you pick up will emphatically state that the route  to self esteem does not come from external validation and external achievements. Self esteem comes from connecting with yourself, and  from realising your value from the inside not from the outside in, yet on we go with the Leaving Cert despite the emotional dangers it places on children. Needless to say, this is in addition to the emotional stress of actually sitting the exams, which for some children is extreme.The lead up is incredibly stressful and some kids just are unable to cope. Many children I know a year ahead of my son went to counselling because they were unable to cope, some children I know dropped out of school altogether because they couldn’t face the stress. It’s not surprising to hear some parents I know going as far as to call it state sanctioned child abuse.

#leavingcert #krysialynch

Leaving Certificate results

Leaving cert and higher education

So our kids will go through all this in the next three weeks. And the end game? When its all done and dusted and most of them arrive in a 3rd level course. What then?

For 10 years I lectured in Trinity College, University of Dublin in an Associate Professor’s position and I saw the first year student entrants that the Leaving Certificate produced. The students had all done well in the LC else they wouldn’t have gotten to Trinity, but the capacity for insight, for analysis and for independent thinking was disappointing and lagged significantly behind students that had done the A level exams in the UK. I would regularly get asked if they could use their LC crib notes or if I would be providing revision notes. Answer no and no. The first months of their university career was really about de-schooling them from spoon feeding, from shallow learning and rote answers! I am not saying that some of the facts they learnt were of no use, just that the way those facts were learnt did not serve them well in further education where the emphasis is on analytical thinking, not mindless regurgitation.

Leaving cert and shallow learning

Shallow learners have to become deep learners and that can be very hard for many students as the LC does not really expose our students to that. There is a very limited focus on deep learning, instead the focus is on shallow learning and beating the system to gain points eg “rewrite the maths question and you will get a point”. Then of course there is the memory game aspect of it. The exam favours the short term shallow learning of the facts re-expressed in a way that will maximise marks. The result: a nation of shallow learners all of whom hated their Leaving Cert experience, and many of whom still have nightmares about the stress of it years later during those first few weeks of June!

To all those parents supporting their children in the Leaving Certificate Exams over the next few weeks, I hope that you will be supporting yourselves. More on that in my next blog. Good luck to all those facing into their first exam. Nothing else in life will be as hard or ask so much of you.

#LeavingCertificate #LeavingCert #LeavingCertMamma #LeavingCert2019 #StateExams #LCstudent #LeavingCertParents

Exams Completed: 0 Exams Left to go: 11

Subjects Completed: 0 Subjects Left to go: 8