Exam stress isn't what it used to be

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I write concerning the article "Ambition can cost lives" (Education+, 28 May). I wish to comment on the featured "stressful" revision timetables.

I am 31 and was a student at Cambridge, where my revision schedule for my finals comprised 10 weeks of eight hours a day made up of two three- hour stints and one two-hour stint, except on Sundays when I often only worked for five hours. And I did not consider myself a hard-working student: indeed, my partner worked a 10- to 12-hour day, six to seven days a week for her entire final year as a vet student, and even this was probably the least worked by any of her fellow students. Fourteen-hour days were not uncommon.

Thus I find Yvette Essen's four-and-a-half-hour day laughable. Unfortunately, I know that today's students are no longer capable of working as hard as students of merely a decade ago. I have just resigned a permanent lectureship at a traditional university to take a lower paid job in the "real world". There are many reasons contributing to this decision, but one of them is a loss of patience with students who refuse to work outside of the hours 10am-4pm, Monday to Friday.

The students at my university believe themselves to be hardworking, are certainly pleasant people and, I would assume, are completely typical of their cohort. I do not blame them for their inability to concentrate for longer than 20 minutes. Rather I blame the culture in which they have developed.

Name and address supplied

Green at the gills

I thought perhaps it was 1 April when I read your extract from the University of Greenwich student handbook on coping with exam-room anxiety (Education+, 28 May). The advice given is "imagine the colour of your anxiety and then breathe it out, seeing it become paler and weaker". Presumably, this advice is not meant for science undergraduates.

Whatever happened to good old-fashioned study and mastery of the subject? Parting thought: should employers in the real world offer stress counselling or just hire someone who can cope?

Dudley Brown

Ashby de la Zouch

Leicestershire

Teacher's warning

Headteachers warn of a dire shortage of teacher recruits (Personally Speaking, Education+, 28 May).

I have taught for 25 years. I always wanted to teach and, despite bad patches, I still have a passion for the job. My daughter, now in sixth form, expressed an interest in taking up the profession but I've managed to dissuade her.

I do not want her to be regularly called a bitch; I don't want her to be told to "f**k off" when she makes some reasonable request; nor to have her property stolen, nor to be physically threatened - all of which regularly happened to me. Having seen all the effort she has put in and will put in to mastering her subject, I don't want her to face classes of pupils who will resist being educated every inch of the way.

Headteachers themselves have to take much of the blame. I've taught in inner city schools in London, Glasgow, Cardiff and Birmingham and, in many cases, the teachers, never mind the pupils, never see the headmaster. In one London school, the head addresses the school through loudspeakers in the classroom walls, like an academic fart. In another the head didn't know the name of his pupils.

You don't hear of head teachers calling for higher standards, smaller classes, better discipline. Who can name a head who has ever made a stand about anything? This is why government has to intervene.

The money is a red herring - most teachers would admit that, considering the long holidays (when many take off for four weeks in France), it's reasonable. Job satisfaction has gone out of teaching. The pupils know this - after all, they have created and observed the situation. They above all know what a teacher's life is like and few are daft enough to choose it.

Anne Simons

Cardiff, south Wales

Unqualified success

I am saddened to see that the measure of a good teacher seems to be whether they have an honours degree.

It is a sad fact that there are many teachers who are highly qualified in their subject but cannot teach that subject. Conversely I have met teachers who don't have honours degree but still manage to be excellent teachers.

Let's not measure a teacher's ability by the knowledge he/she has but by whether or not they can impart that knowledge to our children.

Gaynor McKernan

Midmar

Inverurie, Aberdeenshire

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