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The Lowe Down:

Heights of Exam Season

Freddy Lowe Published: 01 February 2024

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For years, I cited Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights as one of the worst books I had ever read. A schoolmate and I tried to buddy-read it in Year 10, and we both thought it completely and utterly awful. Strictly speaking, we hadn’t finished the book before arriving at this conclusion, but we justified it with the thought that the first few pages had made us suffer enough. In the years of adolescence that followed, I would attempt it a further two times and DNF it earlier on each subsequent attempt. Three failed attempts must mean something, I thought. My English teacher disagreed: she loved the book, and we had a running joke where she would berate me for not giving it a sufficient chance. “You’ll love it one day,” she would say in that classic teacher way (although her stupidly busy schedule made it quite generous of her to have these conversations with me at all – that’s the Wymondham High English department for you).

My fourth attempt to read it came this Christmas. I devoured it faster than the Christmas pudding. I entered the New Year with humbled awareness of how easy it is to be wrong, especially during one’s teenage years.

Happy New Year, Wymondham readers! At the time of writing, it is January, but by the time this is published, we should have all endured and survived what is commonly held to be the most depressing month of the year. Whether that’s statistically accurate or a myth is another matter, but one can’t deny the challenges of January: the depressing end of Christmas, the return to work, the immersion of our Wymondham school students back into exams – and no issue of the Wymondham Magazine. By contrast, February is the month of Valentine’s Day, the half term for those students mentioned above, and (most importantly) a return from this publication. So, a belated Happy New Year to you all.

We enter the season of increasing exam pressure for the Wymondham student folks. Yet each one of the students currently in GCSE season are heroes, and many of them put immense pressure on themselves. Recently, I spoke to a pal of mine who is undergoing the GCSE season. She achieved a ridiculously high mark on an English Literature GCSE mock, and told me the other day that she felt terrible upon receipt of the mark because she didn’t know how to maintain it! She is not alone. I know from experience that our minds go into overdrive in exam season: one is damned if you don’t score highly, and equally damned if you do because you’re then made nervous about repeating this during the week of the year where the exam marks count.

Yet they shall (of course) all be fine in the end. I always remind myself to reach out and support all the sixteen-year-olds I know when this time of year approaches.

The Wymondham teachers also deserve a shoutout, of course, during any mention of school exam heroes. It is quite remarkable the extent to which a good (or bad!) teacher can affect you long after you leave school, in both large ways and small. Most Wymondham teachers give far more time to their pupils than the call of duty necessitates, from small things like reminding gobby students like me that we might have underestimated Emily Brontë, to the constant providing of support to students who need it for any reason. It is similar to what the Secret Barrister writes about the legal profession. “In practice,” she says, “the job also requires the skills of a social worker, relationship counsellor, arm-twister, hostage negotiator, named driver, bus fare provider, accountant, suicide watchman, coffee supplier, surrogate parent, and – on one memorable occasion – whatever the official term is for someone tasked with breaking the news to a prisoner that his girlfriend has been diagnosed with gonorrhoea.” One would hope the latter task doesn’t apply to the average school teacher – but ‘social worker’, ‘relationship counsellor’, and often ‘nurse’ all apply to the range of tasks called upon for professionals working at schools. They should be recognised and respected for the versatility required of them daily.

Happy 2024 Wymondham readers – and good luck for the year ahead!

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