The Big Test

Ignite Life
October 19, 2014

Yesterday I watched a movie, Boyhood that took over twelve years to make using the same actors to play the characters over this time. Its very gutsy from the point of view that the filmmaker was playing with the unknown – how can you predict how it will turn out when you cast a six year old as the main character and then have him ‘act’ through his schooling years.

The whole idea of how we are shaped over the years is an important aspect, but we don’t really know how it is all going to turn out. The end of the movie is about Graduating (pictured) and transitioning to another part of life. Coming of age is pretty relevant this week as year 12 students around the country are finishing formal classes and sitting their final exams. Now I am one for education and am very thankful for the opportunities that my mum worked so hard to provide for me but also feel a certain reality check needs to be highlighted.

I have a few things to say about this, don’t get me wrong I am a believer in hard work but I also see the unbelievably dangerous pressure that can be expressed at this time. Most of my career has involved working with youth in this transition stage but also those that are still holding on to things in adulthood that stem from earlier years, from that I have a bit to say about this.

If you are about to enter into the world of exams and tests, I want you to consider a few things… sorry if it sounds like a lecture but here it is in Bels direct to the point manner.

For Parents…encourage your children to do their best and they will reap the rewards if they put in. By all means support them during this time but watch your language around it. It is not the end of the world if they don’t get 99.9 but it is the end of their world if they are so crushed that they weren’t perfect and feel that not being in this world is an option.

Don’t under estimate being around. Yes they will pretend that they don’t want you to be there and maybe roll their eyes at anything you say but here the thing, they need to feel supported with out the cotton wool smothering pressure going on. You can help by making them nice food, forcing them to get some fresh air and having some normality in their life, maybe even dropping them off when they need it. It’s a fine balance but sometimes it’s the little things that help – do these unconditionally, because you want to support them, not because they owe you for going out of your way. As a side note, their final score is not an indication of how good you are as a person, parent, a friend, or professional – it is just a number. By the way you don’t need to enter into the competition amongst the parents, its something that your children have the consequences for… you could have done everything in your power to get them to straight A’s but they are the ones that need to show up and do the work and no amount of boasting or making excuses can change that.


For the students – Yes getting good grades can help getting into Uni but its not the only way. Many very very successful people finished school in year 10 – they have that little something that school didn’t cater for but don’t get me started on that, its a whole other story. Skills are transferable and you can know something in theory but be a complete hack in practice.

Sometimes the best thing that can happen in life is that you don’t get what you want as it determines whether you truly wanted it in the first place. The best things in life are doing the thing that lights you up, the things that you are passionate about – regardless of the score you get in your last year of school.

That number that you so desperately want is only relevant at this point in your life. It doesn’t make you a great person if its high, it doesn’t mean you are unkind or don’t have something to offer the world if it’s low. Once you get on the next road, no one actually cares about it. This is not to say sit back and relax and not do any study, its just saying there is a whole other world out there that has the most amazing things happening in it and you can be part of that – this is not just determined by one year of your life.

This is practice for the real world. Some things come naturally and you don’t have to work your butt off cos you love it and it doesn’t feel like work. But there are other thing that might not float your boat, that’s ok –no need to dismiss them, sometimes it requires a bit of extra attention just to get through.

Be kind to those around you trying to support you. It is not their fault if you don’t do very well. You need to be responsible for yourself. Yes sometimes big life changing crappy things can happen but ultimately no one else can do it for you.

Even though I say all these things, I don’t want you sit back and just relax. The race isn’t over yet and good grades usually require some study, commitment and balance. Life is one big challenge and don’t feel so pressured that you can’t think when it counts. Take deep breaths and just do it.

Take care of yourself and balance things out. You cannot be obsessively studying 24/7. You need good food, fresh air, some time with friends, playing sport etc. Sleep is also pretty handy, your brain needs to rest so that it can peak when it needs to.

Maybe the next few weeks seem like a drag and you can’t wait for schoolies. Just remember one bit at a time, you have been waiting for this time to come so that you can move out in the real world. Its not to be taken flippantly but also isn’t the end of the world if its not perfect.

The thing that I wish for you is challenges for learning, moments of ease and some inspiration for where you are heading.

Best wishes with whatever lays ahead.



  1. I am sure that you would agree that this can be relevant to all of us, not just year 12s!