As we are fast approaching final exams at my high school, stress abounds like the varieties of chicken (strips, nuggets, fingers, fries) in our school cafeteria. Students are crying at the drop of a hat and hyperventilating over mounds of study guides and daily review sessions.
This is not okay. One week of each semester should not ruin a year of learning.
Students: read this manifesto out loud. In the mirror.
Parents: you must read this manifesto to your students.
Teachers: allow this manifesto to help you walk a mile in the shoes of your students who might just need a little more grace and a lot more patience this time of year. You can even have your students read this together, in unison, before they take their exams.
The Final Exam Manifesto
Final exams do not determine my worth. No matter the grade – whether plus or minus, whether A or B or C or D or even F – it does not connect to the core of who I am in any way, shape, or form.
The attitude I have toward my final exams will directly affect how I perform on them. Therefore I will do my very best, but when I sit down to take said exams, I will breathe, release, and let go of the outcome. I will realize that one test does not determine my entire future.
I will go with my gut. If I have listened, applied myself, and worked this semester, there is a good chance I will inherently know the answer to the question. If I do not, I will use my best skills and strategies to make a satisfactory educated guess.
And it will all be okay if I get that answer wrong.
Education is a gift. Knowing not everyone in the world has such a privilege, I will not complain, whine, or spread negativity about my exams – even if I think they are unfair. There are thousands – even millions – of children who would give anything to take my unfair exam. I will take that into consideration before, during, and after my test.
This, too, shall pass. Ten years from now I will not remember the answers for which I put pencil to paper during this exam. I will remember the relationships and meaningful moments spent over the expanse of the year because that’s what I will choose to embrace. I will not allow one (or several or many) test(s) to ruin my day, my week, or my summer.
If, by some token, I made some drastic mistakes and choices that put me in a difficult position for this exam, I will choose to take responsibility for my actions and vow to make it better next time. I will realize that life offers me a plate every day, and that tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes. I will seize the opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons and do better next time.
Final exams do not determine my worth. I am enough. I have genius. Like Einstein said, I will not think I failed because I was a fish and they tested me on climbing a tree. I am not stupid. I may not be perfect in every area, but I have value. I have passions and dreams and they matter.
It is not okay to call myself a failure. If I fail, I will get back up and realize how I can do it differently next time but it does not make me a failure.
I am unique.
I have different learning styles and gifts than my fellow students.
Not one of us is the same.
But we are all the same. No better than the other. I am not worth more than my classmates and they are not worth more than me. I will take this exam with confidence knowing that whatever the outcome, my worth will never change.
Today is the best day ever because if today were my last day, I would want it to be my best day. Exams or no exams, I will pursue excellence, chase my dreams, and live my passions.
This exam will not determine my worth. Period.
I will choose joy.
17 years of teaching have taught me that students leverage too much of their worth on their performance in the classroom, on the court, on their ACT, on their GPA. If they don’t perform well, they don’t see themselves as worth anything. I was one of those students.
As a teacher, I can pass on what I’ve learned (finally) after 40 years of life. I want to place a road block right in front of that danger zone that means loss of self and “enough-ness” and help them see that no matter how they perform, it doesn’t change who they are. This idea, in and of itself, helps them (interestingly enough) to perform BETTER on exams, because they don’t see it as being the thing that makes them important. They see it as what it is: an exam.
Please pass this on to students, parents, and teachers you know as an encouragement. Final exams – any exam or grade for that matter- do not determine their worth. Period. Let’s revolutionize education. Let’s revolutionize the world. You are SO WORTH loving – just the way you are. This is teaching upsidedown.