It’s results time of year again. With only the second post-covid set of results, but this year with grading levels predicted to be similar to those seen before the pandemic, nerves are running high. Whilst there will be some amazing stories of success with students gaining entry to Universities, Apprenticeships, and Sixth Form, there inevitably comes disappointment and upset with those who have not achieved what they had hoped.
As a teacher in school for results day, it is important to be as empathetic as you can. Remember, what it felt like when you got your results, and how it seemed like the world to you at that stage in your life. You might think your students don’t want your support, but showing you care and are there for them will go such a long way to help them come to terms with their results quickly and help them plan out their next steps.
Read on for some pointers in handling student disappointment on GCSE, BTEC and A Level results day.
Let them know you are there for them
On results day, make sure you are available to your students either in person or on email. Put time aside so that they can speak with you for support and to help them figure out their choices. Celebrate success for your students who have done well, but more importantly observe and be aware of those students that haven’t. Pull them to one side and let them know that your door is open to talk. There will be a plethora of different emotions, from laughter, to anger and tears, but make sure your students know this is all normal and happens to us all at some point in life.
Prepare yourself so you can help them
Know the school process for example what is required for sixth form entry for students doing their GCSE’s, university clearing procedures, and information on how retaking exams works. Have a clear understanding of the different scenarios so you can clearly guide parents and students through their choices.
Create a safe space
Some students may want to be with their friends when they open their results, others will want to go off and sit quietly by themselves. If you cater for every student’s needs, they will feel comfortable and able to talk to you should they not get the results they needed or wanted.
Communicate before results day to parents and students
It may be a good idea in the summer holidays, before results day, as a school, to send an email or letter to each student congratulating them on working hard for their exams, and explaining what to expect. This year in particular, there is an element of confusion over grading boundaries, with exam boards set to put marking back to pre-covid levels (you can read more on this here). This has caused some concern over the summer. Make it clear to your students that they have options no matter what the results, and the results don’t define their potential. Offer resources and explain who will be available at the school on results day and after to help guide though choices, as well as counselling services, drop in groups, helplines that can help students manage their disappointment and worry. It is also worth letting parents know what they can do to help their child at home.
Encourage them to take time to reflect and make the right choices
Go over the results with your students, particularly those who feel they have not achieved what they had hoped for, and help them assess their strengths and where they could potentially lead to. It may mean them needing to reevaluate their chosen path, but by encouraging them to think outside of the box, they will open their eyes to exciting new opportunities that they may not have thought of previously. For young adults, getting worse results than they had expected could lead to fear of the unknown. It may just take you talking to them about their choices moving forward that will make the difference between a student going home, locking themselves in their bedroom for a week in tears compared to one who has a clear idea of what they could do armed with all the facts and correct information.
A little perspective…
You can give your students scenarios from others you have met over your teaching years who may have faced similar setbacks, but who have gone on to great things. This will help inspire and motivate them to move forward with their chosen pathway. Celebrate achievements no matter how big or small. Remind them of their skills and how these can be used in lots of different ways. Setbacks are part of life and a huge learning experience, but by helping them early on in their adulthood will set them up as resilient adults in the future.
Every student is different and will cope in their own unique way, so being versatile, and adapting to each of your student’s needs is key. As their teacher, you just need to be an ear, a guide, a reassuring adult and the person that can pick them up when they feel disappointment and frustration. Encouraging them to positively move forward from this setback will have a huge impact on them in their future chosen path.