Having been a teacher for nearly half-a-century and still training the children to not only face exams cheerfully, but more importantly LIFE (where everyday you face some kind of a test or challenge), I feel duty-bound to address the children again, to enable them to perform well for which they have been single-minded getting ready at various levels.
Anxiety will be on the ascent mode during the period between January and April. Exams come individually and they come in bundles !! Board Exams, CET, NEET, JEE and what not.
It appears exam and anxiety appear to be two sides of a coin, inseparable. Today’s students are tortured by the question, “WHAT IF?” This ‘what if’ is the result of many causes:
1. The pressure created by constant nagging of some parents (not all) for a glittering performance that was their unfulfilled desire in their own cases.
2. Peer pressure created by better performers.
3. History of poor performance in routine class tests.
4. Lack of academic discipline and poor time management.
5. Haunting negative thoughts like: I am certainly going to fail, I cannot focus or remember, so I quit (all these pointing to danger levels of low self- esteem).
Quite amazingly even very disciplined and academically very bright and promising students are not spared by the “Butterflies in the stomach” Syndrome (that is, WHAT IF) leading to cognitive, emotional and behavioural symptoms. Some of them are breathlessness, diarrhoea, headache, anger and frustration. In some extreme cases loss of speech and hysteria. Many parents and teachers may have been shocked by the confrontation of such a situation in their loved ones. Among my many experiences as a Principal of an esteemed College in Mysuru, let me share one with SOM readers.
I received a midnight telephone call around 2 am from a parent, herself a doctor, telling me that her daughter was behaving hysterically and was uncontrollable and if I could help, because next morning the student had to take her Physics Practical exam. I knew the student was bright and hard working. A ‘panic attack’ definitely, I knew. I didn’t know how to respond immediately. I just asked the mother if the girl was prepared to talk with me.
‘Yes’ came the answer after half-an-hour of mother’s efforts to stabilise her. Then came the voice of the girl student as if from the bottom of a well, barely audible. The student wanted to know if she could abstain from the exam next morning and if it was okay and would not hurt her future. I told her it was perfectly fine and nobody would force to take the exam next morning only, and if she wished I could arrange for the same with another batch some time later. If she did not want to take the practical exam itself, even then it was okay.
I just wanted her to unwind and calm herself. The phone went dead. But it rang another hour later to ask me if it was okay if she could come to the college in the morning and still not take the practical exam. I said it was perfectly okay. I found her in the morning in front of my office very downcast and pale (obviously she had not slept the whole night).
I said hello to her and asked if she was feeling fine and did not refer to the phone call. She asked me if she could attend the exam (!), I told her she could do so if she really wanted to or she could even take it later. She did take the exam and to my happiness met me later with a very bright and cheerful face to report that, it was very easy and that she had done very well !!
Well, she met me years later in Bangalore Railway Station, introduced herself and told me that she was an Orthodontist and was living in Germany. My happiness knew no bounds.
So the message to the students now is, your fears are like passing clouds and will certainly melt away. They are not permanent and therefore you can definitely wipe off the nagging WHAT IF from your thoughts and face boldly the small challenge called the exam and win all the way.
Try to visualise relaxation when taking practice exams so that you can learn to relax during actual exams. Also try and get good night sleep, take nutritive food, not road side junk food, exercise well and practice some relaxation techniques through yoga.
My very best wishes to all the students.
– Prof. K.V. Satyan, Camp: Mckinney, Texas, 2.2.2020
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