Is this what your teenagers are feeling at mock exam time? 
Do they quake in their boots at the mere mention of GCSE's or A Levels? 
Are they already studying their socks off as the thought of not achieving their grades fills them with dread? Or are they playing the work avoidance card as "it's too far away to be even thinking about now"? This is also a fear based behaviour by the way! 
I once had a year 8 dance class who were the lowest set of that year. In the first lesson, most of them walked in telling me that they didn't like dance and they weren't any good at it anyway! 
What had they had to have heard on a regular basis to think this about themselves? 
I knew I had to change the perception they had of themselves even if it was just about how they were as dancers. I taught them a short dance and encouraged them, had fun with them, made a few mistakes with them and they had to then practice in a small group to perform at the end in unison. 
They ALL moaned about performing to each other. They thought the others would mock them, they were too shy, they refused point blank! 
Until I told them something they had NEVER heard before! 

"There is ONLY feedback! There is no failure, only feedback!" 

Their little faces started to contort with confusion then a few hands went up! 
So miss, when I dance the wrong steps it doesn't mean I'm a rubbish dancer, it means I need more practice? 
Yes, thats some of it! 
Miss! If I keep doing it wrong and don't practice, or learn the steps right, my feedback is to learn from someone who knows the steps and practice more right? Huge beaming face as one student got it! 
YES! You've got it! 
Their little faces started to soften and you could almost see the little lightbulbs turning on in their brains! 
A big problem we have is that from being tiny, the responses kids get are graded by a smiley face (or sad face), numbers high to low, letters of the alphabet and house points. Some inventive teachers 'set' their kids by using book characters or settings etc. The kids over time become wise enough to know what 'set' table they are at regardless of how inventive this labelling becomes and its part of the process of them not feeling like they are good enough. 
"There is ONLY feedback!  
(There is no failure, only feedback!") 
It's also in the language we regularly use! 
How many times have you said, or have heard someone else say: 
If you fail to do this now, then you'll have to come back at break time to do it! 
If you want to get anywhere in life, you need good exam results! 
If you want to earn good money when your older, then you need to get good grades now! 
If you want to waste your life away, then carry on with what you're doing! 
Your failure to concentrate will be the downfall of you! 
By continuing not to learn anything in school, you'll not just reflect badly on the school, you'll continue to fail yourself and what will your parents think? 
Those of  
These are all things I've heard teachers say over the past 20+ years within educational settings. 
So how can we start to use our language so we help them gain confidence in themselves so they start to feel happier within themselves? 
— Always frame feedback as a good thing. For example; tell them mock exams are a great time to find out where their knowledge gaps are and you can help them if they want to fill those gaps? 
— When giving feedback, STOP saying something is 'good' or 'bad' and start by telling them the things they have done well first. Then tell them that if they want to stretch themselves they could do...(only give 1 or 2 pointers). Then finish with an overall statement which is positive. 
— Think about how you structure your language. Does it have a positive undertone? Or is there an element of sarcasm, negativity or shame? (If you say sentences like "you should have" or "you could have" which induce a feeling of shame, change it for "next time, maybe you can do X and see if it works for you" as maybe is a word that creates possibilities.) 
— Stop telling people to 'TRY'! As Yoda taught Luke; either do or do not! 'Trying' is giving them an excuse not to bother, or lack in effort. Do or do not give choice and is more empowering. 
Written by Debs Bamford, Behavioural Specialist at Confidence Camp. 
If you are an Educator and some of what I have said has resonated with you in any way. Maybe you are in a senior position and you have heard members of staff use some of the above phrases. Or maybe you are a teacher or support staff and want to know how to invoke positive responses from those young people you barely get a good response from, click HERE an book a consultation call. 
If you are a Parent and want to know how language can really make a difference with the responses you get then you can download 'The Little Pocketbook For Parents of Teenagers' HERE! 
Tagged as: Exams, Teachers, Teenagers
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