This week, the CAIE board released the Awarded Grades to A-Level students all around the world. To the dismay of many, a large proportion of students and teachers alike were, to say the least, extremely displeased with the grades awarded by the CAIE board.
I'm not going to address the aforementioned issue in this article. There's close to nothing that we can do now to change reality except to appeal to the assessment board.
What we can do, however, is to make the best of the given situation by:-
- identifying what we can learn from this experience (this has more to it than you may expect)
- charting the course moving forward
With that said, I also think it is of utmost importance for you to give yourself time to heal. Although this post is about regaining your strength and figuring out the plan moving forward, I suggest that you take your time to sort out your emotions before reading (or re-reading this article). It would help you to gain more value out of this and most importantly, you'll get back on your feet, stronger than ever.
Now that we've got all that sorted out, let's get right into it. As usual, I've provided a ToC (Table of Contents), so feel free to hop around to the sections that interest you and skip those that don't!
As a fan of upfront conclusions, I'll summarize this section real quick.
This entire article is a distillation of the insights I gained from an almost 2-hour long conversation with my collegemate who was awarded triple B by the CAIE board. In it, we talk about her experience, how she picked herself back up and her plans moving forward.
On results day, I came to know that one of my friends who took 3 subjects was awarded B B B by the CAIE board.
To say that this came as an utter shock to her (and all of us, her teachers and friends) would be an understatement. She was a student who showed up to class, performed consistently in her academics and maintained good relationships with her teachers, after all.
It goes without saying that it was completely understandable that she was devastated that night, her emotions raw, her thoughts cluttered. She needed the time and space alone to heal, and to sort things out by herself.
Here is where it gets interesting.
The day after, she texted me, assuring me that she had sorted things out and was feeling alright. We even scheduled a call for her to get me caught up on all that had happened in the past 2 days.
I was slightly taken aback at how fast she recuperated from the whole incident. An incident that would knock the Average Joe down for weeks, if not months. I initially suspected that it was a facade, a coping mechanism for such a huge blow. Little did I know how mistaken I was.
Hence, in this article, I share with you the insights I gained from her, as she shared her daunting experience, the lessons she picked up along the way, regaining confidence, and her plans moving forward.
💬 The Experience
In this section, I briefly share my friend's experience from opening her results, to facing her parents back home at night, and the things she did the day after.
Events which contains a particular lesson/point that I want to further elaborate on later in the article are marked with a '📎' emoji.
Opening The Results
On results day, my friend (hereinafter referred to as 'Fawkes') had plans with another one of our friends to open their results together in a remote hiking trail, far from anyone else.
As Fawkes received her results and got over the initial shock, her thoughts became muddled and she found herself repeatedly asking the same question: What went wrong?
📎-1 Nevertheless, she managed to hold herself together for the time being. It wasn't until she was driving back home alone when she couldn't take it anymore and broke down. That was also when she called yet another one of our friends and shared the news with her as well.
Going Back Home
📎-2 Fawkes' parents were incredibly understanding and gave her all the emotional support she needed. They didn't try to provide her with practical advice on how to move forward, nor did they place any form of blame on her. All they did was tell Fawkes that they were proud of her no matter what and they would figure the whole situation out together. Fawkes' parents placed her well-being as her priority, not the situation.
Fawkes spent the whole night in solitude. She didn't resort to venting on social media, nor did she continuously look for support in others. In fact, she was concerned that she was becoming a burden to others. She was worried that her friends who were supposed to be celebrating were burdened by her situation.
All she did was to let a list of songs play on loop. All night.
The Next Day
Fawkes' mother advised her to schedule calls with all her teachers to inform them of her awarded grades and to seek out their advice on moving forward.
📎-3 To her suprise, all her teachers were shocked to hear that she was awarded a B. They were certain that they graded her an 'A' because her tracking test and semester exam proved her worthy of the grade. They even offered to help her with the appealing process for her results to be re-graded.
📎-4 Fawkes' mother saw that she was in a more stable state and had a proper sit-down talk with her. Fawkes was initially set on doing law but her mother suggested that she should explore the possibility of taking up other courses. (further elaborated below)
Towards the evening, Fawkes found herself at peace with her current circumstances. She reassessed the entire situation and realized that she learned a great deal from this experience that she couldn't have otherwise.
📎-5 Fawkes also came to understand that if one were to do a cost-benefit analysis on the grand scheme of things, she would've been at a position where she received a nett gain. Personally, I think its the willingness to remove her pride from the equation that helped her to benefit and grow from this experience.
In the section below, we delve into the things she learned from this experience that helped her to regain her confidence overnight.
📢 Lesson Learned
In this section, I elaborate on the lessons she picked up in the process of healing from this incident and I share some of my personal thoughts on them as well.
📎-1: Finding an Anchor
In our conversation, Fawkes mentioned that as she broke down on the drive back home, she called one of our friends to accompany her and talk things out.
According to Fawkes, the rationale behind this was to have someone to anchor herself to. She was acutely aware that at that point in time, her emotions were muddled and her thoughts, knotted. She was worried that if she let herself wallow in those negative emotions, she would eventually lose herself in there and it was going to be twice as hard to get herself out.
Speaking from personal experience, I completely agree with this. While I still stand by what I said about us needing the time and space alone to heal and sort out our innermost thoughts, it is vital that we keep our feelings and emotions rooted, lest we spiral out of control.
It is understandable that we do not wish to burden our friends. However, we should also be empathetic enough to see that if they are our true friends and have our best interests at heart, they would be more concerned if we shun them out. Politely tell them to give you space if that is in fact what you need, but don't be meta-considerate by shunning them when you need an anchor.
On the off chance that every single one of your friends ignore you when you reach out to them, here's a piece of free advice. Find new ones.
📎-2: Timing Matters When Giving Advice
Sean McCabe, one of the content creators that I've been following for quite a while now, published this short thread recently:
The right advice at the wrong time is the wrong advice.— Sean McCabe (@seanwes) August 13, 2020
Advice without context is not merely less effective: it can be downright destructive.
Aim to provide context in the advice you give, and ask for context in the advice you receive.
This thread came at the perfect time and made me see how wise Fawkes' parents were for providing her with emotional support first, instead of jumping straight into the practical advice. Although the act of addressing the practical aspects of things is pivotal to one's plans moving forward, it is also important to remember that rushing the healing process would only lead to deeper wounds.
One of the main things I learned from Winston in the past year is that more often than not, people do not need you to provide them with a solution. What they need is for you to lend your ear and provide reassurance. Eventually, they'll draw strength from your support and solve their own problems. Fawkes' parents did a great job doing what they did there; and we can all stand to learn how to better support others, be it our friends, family, partners or even a stranger in need.
📎-3: Defining Your Worth
One of the main things that contributed to Fawkes' swift recuperation was validation and reassurance from her teachers. All 3 of her subject teachers reassured her that they graded her an 'A' as they thought that was the grade that would reflect her class performance for the past year or so. They also explicitly stated that they were confident in her competence and would support her all the way throughout her University Applications.
According to Fawkes, she sought solace from the fact that her teachers believed in her capabilities, as did her family and friends. As much as she knew the people around her had faith in her, she was under the initial impression that it was just a way for people to express their sympathy.
After some thought however, she realized that she might have been too harsh on herself. The people around her, with whom she interacts the most with are confident in her. All that matters is that the people who she cares about and who cares about her are giving her their unwavering support because they believe in her. The only thing left for her to do is to play her part in believe in herself as well.
Why should she allow a grading system and a piece of paper to cause her to doubt herself? Why should 3 alphabets define her entire self-worth? Why place blame on herself when it wasn't her fault to begin with? Her teachers did grade her with 3 As, didn't they?
With similar series of logical questioning, her healing process catalyzed and her growth process began. She made peace with her situation, realized that she was just a victim of unfortunate circumstances and that there was nothing that she could do about it besides to learn as much as she can from this experience.
In my opinion, she might be a victim of circumstance but her mentality is one of a victor.
📎-4: Courage to Change a Chartered Course
Another thing that was incredibly impactful was Fawkes' talk with her mother. Among many other things that were brought up, Fawkes' mother suggested that she should reconsider her choice of reading Law. They discussed in depth about her passions and interests, her outlook on life and her inclinations. This then led to them reassessing if Law is really what she should take up as her main course.
In hindsight, Fawkes has always known that she wouldn't be one to practice law. The rigid technicalities of the law were contradictory to her abstract nature. She just enjoyed the notion of being a Law student because it was something that she has aspired to be since Form 4.
However, she repressed those doubts. Following a course that was carefully chartered out for her years ago offered the path of least resistance. She didn't need to question the imaginary expectation she placed on herself, and she didn't need to do any introspection. All in all, it just seemed the safer option to follow a mapped-out route that many who came before her testified was a 'sure-fire way to success'.
The entire process of talking things out and laying all her cards out in the open gave her the opportunity to reassess her options. It helped her to put things into perspective and consider alternatives.
For now, she is considering reading PPL instead of just Law, and I think that it might just suit her better. Although nothing is set in stone just yet, she repeatedly told me how immensely glad she was at the mere fact that she is now reconsidering her options.
This could potentially change the course of her life, and it all boiled down to mustering the courage to look at the opportunities available to her. Should she have been awarded 3As, I think its safe to say that she wouldn't have even thought about changing her course, simply because there would be no need to get out of her comfort zone and consider alternatives.
📎-5: Growth Mindset & Gratitude
While the speed at which Fawkes recovered from the situation is certainly admirable, what impressed me more was her thought process.
Throughout our conversation, she never once played the victim card or threw a mini pity party. All she did was tell me the events that happened throughout the past 2 days and why she was grateful for each and every one of them. Although she structured her sentences in various ways, I realized that they all had the same element: she learned something from every single one of those experiences.
I think this is a venue worth exploring the next time you and I face a failure/challenge. Before we feel frustrated and resentful of the situation we are in, we should reign in our ego and look for oportunities to grow and improve. That way, even in a difficult situation, you'll come out of it gaining invaluable insights and you'll feel more grateful and fulfilled in general.
Instead of lamenting, learn.
Instead of being spiteful, be grateful.
In the long run, earning people's respect is always more valuable than fishing for people's sympathy.
🧭 Moving forward
The biggest takeaway from this entire experience,at least for Fawkes, is that stumbling and falling is part and parcel of life. The best we can make do with a given circumstance is to take it as a learning experience and learn as much as we can from it.
Fawkes used to be afraid of failures, as we all are. However, she is gradually beginning to realize the value of failing and she looks forward to fail more. This also gives her more courage and confidence to try new things out because she knows that it either goes well, or she just opened up an avenue for herself to learn. The key is to focus on your growth.
You either win or you learn. There's no failure.
Fawkes also drew strength from the support of her teachers and friends. To her, as long as the people around her believe in her capabilities, there's no reason for her to doubt herself. Re-gaining one's confidence is also another integral element in the healing process and is vital for one's growth in the long run.
This entire experience has not only taught Fawkes a lot but also inspired me. The way she handled the entire situation was frankly quite impressive. My friends and I couldn't be more proud of her.
A day after our conversation, I sought her consent to write this article in hopes that her insights from this experience will help more people out there to heal and get back on their feet stronger. Unsurprisingly, she was enthusiastic about the whole idea as she has always been an advocate of sharing experiences with others to help them out.
Lastly, I hope that this rather lengthy piece has added value to your life in some shape, way or form. The whole point of starting this writeup is to motivate students out there who are in similar situations. They can draw parallels from Fawkes' experience and gain inspiration from her process.
If you managed to draw strength or inspiration from it, why not share it with your friends who may need them? It would mean the world to me if this article could help just one more person out there. The more this article benefits people, the lower the time cost of writing this article!
With that said, take care and I'll see you soon. Cheers!
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