External Exams

9 07 2013


As I write this post I have just completed one full day of external LAMDA examinations with my Yr9 students and I still have three days to go.

The course was restarted last year – having been brought to a stop some time ago due to the cost of entering students.

I was informed by the examiner today that it is extremely rare to find a LAMDA course in a state secondary school and I am extremely proud of all that we have accomplished with our amazing students. We have created a diverse course incorporating the LAMDA specification as well as introducing students to a wide range of genres and techniques that will prepare them for future study of Drama and Theatre. We do not make it easy for them and include topics such as: Staislavski, Brecht, Musical Theatre and Shakespeare all in one year taught at a standard more typicaly associated with A-Level. The kids respond extremely well and so far they have exceeded our expectations.

That said – the examination process is exhausting!

Spending an entire day with sweaty, anxious students in this extreme heat is in itself a challenge. Taking on the multiple roles of; teacher, mentor, counsellor, friend, ally, to name but a few is definitely taxing.

I have had so many memorable moments already delivering this course. Like the time I let my own T-Shirt to a student who had forgotten to bring his “actors blacks”; or the time when I had to drive a child to and from his exam because he couldnt make it to school. There are several occassions I can recall when I could have washed my hands and declared that it was not part of my job role to resolve the ridiculous position I was placed in but these decisions have never caused me to experience a sense of regret; I want to see all of my students achieve and succeed.

Despite the fact that my students currently think I am the “Wicked Witch of the West”, I am very proud of them although they will never truly appreciate how desperately I want what is best for them.

Good luck LAMDA bunnies – you are amazing; although you will never truly come to know how much I care about each and every one of you you and how much I do to ensure that you achieve the success that you deserve.


Thanks for all the red pen

25 04 2013

red pen

It is that dreadful point in the academic year when tantrums and tears are a daily occurance…and thats just the staff!

GCSE students throughout the country have just realised that they are GCSE students and that they have exams coming up in the VERY near future and they are starting to develop a sense of urgency that they have never experienced or entertained before. Their lack of planning and preparation is OF COURSE the responsibility of their teachers; who must now treat their urgent requests to re-read endless drafts of substandard coursework – hastly put together under extreme duress and at the last minute – as their top priority.

I was discussing my own education with a colleague a few days ago. We are both feeling a little demoralised by how much our students expect from us. Dont mistake my meaning; I do not mind giving up my time for my students and often stay up to 3 hours after my day is technically over, to do 1:1 work or to direct and advise whole groups. It is not that to which I object. But I struggle when students want me to think for them, endlessly extend deadlines to accomodate their social commitments or allow their last minute panic, (following two years of not pulling their weight relying on the fact that they can pull it together at the last minute) to adversly affect my own work/life balance which is sadly lacking.

I was never top of my class at school; but I valued my education and took it seriously. To be honest, I was a little fearful of my teachers and very anxious about getting in trouble. I would never have dreamt of waving a stack of paperwork at a member of the teaching staff while they ate their lunch, assume I could dictate when I would hand in a piece of work or demand that I needed help after school on a particular date and time. Unfortunately there are a growing number of students who think that they own their teachers and are entitled to their time both in and outside of the classroom.

When I was at school, I submitted drafts of essays and devoured all the comments written by my subject teachers. I realised that these were the clues that would help me progress and I reflected on why a particular piece of work received the grade it was given. Although I was not an angel, I recognised boundaries and realised that my teachers did not owe me anything nor were they responsibile for my failings.

With this in mind I wanted to say to all my subject teachers particularly my GCSE and A-Level teachers – who were awsome, “Thanks for all the red pen“.

Without it, I would not have achieved the results I did, and my options would have been increasingly limited. I would hate to think that I only achieved my grades because a teacher went above and beyond ignoring whether or not I deserved and had earnt the qualifications I have to my name.

So although the next few weeks are certain to be highly emotional, I really hope that my students will look back and thank me for all of my red pen marks on their work, my feedback, criticism and the time I have spend coaching them and more importantly; I hope they come to realise that however demoralised they may feel on a given day that these interventions are as painful for me as they are for them and they are not there to punish them but rather indications of how much I care and want them to achieve the grades that they are capablee of.

Exam Results

13 08 2012

It is that time of year when thousands of children are spending a torturous summer waiting for the results of their GCSE or A-Level exams.

For a number of reasons I was always going to be fairly nervous about the 2012 results. I have taught two sets of exam students this year, my gorgeous Yr-9 LAMDA students and an equally fabulous GCSE class and I am anxious to find out how they got on, but it is also my first ever year of taking students through to the exam stage.

However I have the added pressure of waiting for results of my own. Back in the summer 2011 my Head of Department decided, in her infinite wisdom, that it would be a great idea to put me through my LAMDA Gold Medal exam. The premise was that it would enable me to empathise with my students, give me firsthand experience of the process which would in turn help me to plan my future delivery of this course, and it also had the added bonus of providing me with good evidence for my annual performance review demonstrating  my commitment to my ongoing professional development. It seemed a long way off at the time and I would have lots of time to prepare so I agreed.

However the time went very quickly and in the weeks leading up to the exam I actually felt physically sick. It was an acting exam in which I had to perform 3 monologues from different periods of theatre history and then be interviewed at degree level about my characterisation, knowledge of the social, political and historical context of the extracts and how I engaged with the work of a theatre practitioner during the rehearsal process. This is enough to make anyone nervous but as it has been over 10 years since I last took an exam I felt a little out of practice and as the first candidate to be examined I would have nobody else’s experience to draw upon.

I was also the centre co-ordinator and had to spend a lot of 1:1 time with the examiner including some very awkward lunch breaks during the three days he visited my school as well as making sure my students were in the right place at the right time in costume and not losing the plot due to their own nerves. The great thing was how this enabled me to build rapport and empathise with my students as it was one of those rare occassions when the expression “I know exactly what you’re going through” rang true.

Following my exam I had hoped that the examiner might take pity on me as a member of staff and give me some indication of how I had scored but he was the consummate professional. When the only thing we had in common was LAMDA it was difficult to find topics of conversation.

The results are due to be released within the next week and will be posted to me at my school, but as I leave for Mexico early on Thursday morning it may be a while still before I find out if I passed.

So like thousands of 16-18 years olds across the country I wait with baited breath and I just have to hope that I did enough on the day…