I know things are hugely different this year, but the sentiment remains.
Although it is many moons ago, Mammy remembers getting her Leaving Cert Results.
Mammy was certain that the contents of the little brown envelope were going to change her life. Had Mammy’s life REALLY depended on the contents of that little brown envelope, quite frankly, I’d be living an utterly dreadful, mediocre and half-arsed attempt at one. 😂
Because the results printed on my little scrap of yellow paper were quite awful, if I’m very honest.
The only mark I remember (or tell anyone about!) was my A1 in Honours English. Go figure.
As for the rest of them? I’d say the examiners only passed me so that they wouldn’t have to read my verbal diahorrea again the following year. 😂I’m not exaggerating either.
But the other grades didn’t matter. The A in English was all that mattered to me, both then AND today. Yes, I got into college, but not until I had spent a week back in the brown uniform 😣😣 convincing myself that I needed to repeat the Leaving Cert.
It wasn’t until the second round offers and a trip to meet (attack😛) the Dean of the English Department in Coleraine, that I finally got my place on the degree course. (I might have only been 17, but I was a stroppy one!😂)
English was all I loved. It was all that I wanted to study and, as the little brown envelope told me, it was apparently all that I was good at… All that I was good at THEN.
As it turns out, I’m good at a whole load of things.
The Big LC recognised my ability to understand Shakespeare and write stories off the top of my head, but it didn’t (and couldn’t) know how strong I was at things like organisation, being a friend, laughing or leading.
So I was crap at French. Biology for me ended after the section on photosynthesis. But although my maths grade was dismal, I challenge you to find ANYONE who can work out a % as quickly as me when I see the word “SALE”. 😂😂
Now, over 20 years on, I’m an English teacher. I’m a writer and I’m a businesswoman. I’m a whole lot of things that that little piece of paper could NEVER have predicted me to be.
Our young people are incredible. And no class before has ever been tested like our class of 2020.
These young adults are like no others before them. They have had a LOT going on…
They have given their ALL for 2 years, and didn’t get to sit the papers. This will never be understood fully by the rest of us.
Some of them are dealing with trying to live up to expectations that might be unrealistic.
They were playing the match of their lives, and the goalposts not only changed…they disappeared.
Today is the biggest day in many of their lives to date.
Despite what it is inflated to be, it is NOT the most important piece of paper in the world.
Yes, the letters and numbers inside it will have an immediate effect.
Yes, some doors will open and yes, some doors will close, but what is written on the page does not define them.
NO assessment can fully know our children. It can’t measure the whole person.
It doesn’t see their kindness.
It can’t recognise their wit or humour.
It doesn’t measure their ability to change things.
It can’t recognise their skills as motivators, or thinkers, or makers, or doers.
It does not define them, nor should it.
And it certainly can’t understand or fully reflect the strength, resilience and bravery required to face final year in a global pandemic.
Be proud, because regardless of what is on that page, your children have come through the most trying end to school life imaginable…and we must remind them that they CAN do whatever they want.
Because WE know what they can be.
There are ALWAYS options and sometimes, the path that they are so determined to be the ONLY one for them right now, was never the right one for them…it usually takes a few years for them to realise that however.
But they will. 💕
So in the meantime, tell them how brilliant they are. And leave them under NO illusion that no matter what words and letters are on that piece of paper, that you are and will always be proud of them and that you will help them to get to where they want to go, may it be straight through the college door or in a longer, roundabout way.
But all roads lead ahead. And this long chapter is finally over. It’s time for the next one.
Today, I send love to all of the young people (especially my own Babbies😘😘) and to all you exam parents who await the results today.
And remember, those numbers do NOT hold the key to their future. They hold that key already.
It’s right inside them.
And no piece of paper or words on a screen can change that.