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Letter to the 2019 matrics and their parents from a deputy headmaster

| March 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

I was watching the recent World Championship Athletics in Doha on television.

As thousands of young women and men approach the matric final examinations, my mind turned to the subject of preparation – whether it be for a physical race or a written exam. No athlete at Doha was there to run or jump or throw for the first time in their lives. They had all run, thrown and jumped many times before, and for many years had been trained in starting and finishing. Each athlete had gradually built up to the point where they had mastered their discipline. Each had come through smaller school and club events, progressed to provincial, regional, county or state championships and, following an incremental path of progress, had been selected to represent their nation. We know how it goes. The conditioning, both mental and physical, is there and in place. When that athlete steps out onto the track in the final, they are physically at the top of their game. They also need to be mentally at the top of their game. They’ve been nurtured over time by a coach and support structure to be ready in their minds and their bodies.

Matrics must feel confident

Matric finals are like those championships. Whenever I see my matrics, I always remind them that they didn’t begin their subject today, last week or even last year. I always encourage them by saying they’ve been doing this for years. Their training is in place and it has been in place for years. In my subject, English, for example, I remind them that they have been doing comprehension, poetry and language exercises since Grade 5 or earlier. They can’t even remember how many they’ve done. And in this way, I encourage them that they are physically ready for the event. But it is vital that we ensure they are emotionally ready, too. They need to feel confident. Like the athlete who is both physically ready and emotionally ready, matric pupils need to be encouraged and built up. And so, in this next window of time, really notice your daughter or son. Perhaps he needs to go out for lunch instead of studying. Maybe you need to take her for a walk in the rain at some point. Or possibly kick a ball, build a puzzle, cook together, listen to each other’s music or go to the movies. Anything to ensure their emotional state is healthy. Sometimes, the best exam preparation is not exam preparation. Please read that statement again. Sometimes, the best exam preparation is not exam preparation.

Just like landing a plane

I liken the matric finals to landing a plane. Everything is ready. The wheels are down, the flaps set, the airspeed is appropriately slow and the runway is just ahead and clearly in sight. It’s a massively wide piece of tarmac and plenty long enough. The weather is clear and sunny, visibility is virtually unlimited and there is no wind – all that is needed is to put the plane down gently in a straight line and draw to a stop. The storm clouds of Grade 9 have been flown through, the winds of Grade 10 navigated and the turbulence of Grade 11 is in the past. Grade 12 is about landing the plane. There should be no stress, no anxiety and no tension. And my message to our HeronBridge matrics and to the broader community of matrics across our land is this: You didn’t just start your subject today. You’ve been doing it for years. You’ve progressed through the grades. You’ve earned your place on the track. You’ve written exams every year. You’ve made it through school, club and regional championships. You are standing on the track, looking down your lane to a finish line of open possibility. This is a time to be savoured. I don’t think we say that enough. This is a moment to savour. You have people all round you, filling the stadium with the roar of your name. You matter. You deserve the spot. Enjoy that moment as you crouch into your starting blocks. You are both loved and you are ready. Now… Line up the runway. Check your airspeed. Breathe deeply, smile and go land the plane.

Simon Crane is deputy head at HeronBridge College in Johannesburg.

Category: Autumn 2020

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