I recently watched the IAAF World Athletics Championships held in Doha, Qatar.
As thousands of young women and men approach their final matric exams, my mind turns to preparation - for a physical race or a final exam.
No athlete at Doha was there to run, jump or throw for the first time in their lives. They have all trained for years. Each athlete had gradually built up to the point where they had mastered their discipline.
Each has come through smaller school and club events, progressed to provincial, regional or state championships, following an incremental path of progress to represent their nation.Their conditioning, both mental and physical, is in place.
When that athlete steps out on to the track they are physically - and mentally - at the top of their game. They’ve been nurtured over time by a coach and support structure to be ready. Matric finals are similar.
I remind my matrics that they didn’t begin their subject today, last week or even last year. I always encourage them by saying they’ve been doing - and training to do this - for years.
In my subject, English, I remind them that they have been doing comprehension, poetry and language exercises since Grade 5 or earlier. In this way I encourage them that they are physically ready for the exam.
But we must ensure they are emotionally ready too. They need to feel confident. Just as an athlete is physically and emotionally ready, matric pupils need to be encouraged and built up. And so in this next window of time, really notice your daughter or son.
Perhaps he needs to go out for lunch instead of studying. Maybe you need to take her for a walk in the rain. Or possibly kick a ball, build a puzzle, cook together, listen to each other’s music or go to movies. Anything to ensure their emotional state is healthy.
Sometimes the best exam preparation is not exam preparation.
I liken the matric finals to landing a plane. Everything is ready. The wheels are down, the flaps set, the airspeed appropriately slow and the runway is clearly in sight. It’s a massively wide piece of tarmac and plenty long enough. The weather is clear and sunny, visibility is virtually unlimited and there is no wind. All that is needed is to put the plane down gently in a straight line and draw to a stop.
The storm clouds of Grade 9 have been flown through. The winds of Grade 10 navigated and the turbulence of Grade 11 is in the past. Grade 12 is about landing the plane. There should be no stress, anxiety or tension.
My message to matric pupils is this:
You didn’t just start your subject today. You’ve been doing it for years. You’ve progressed through the Grades. You’ve written exams before. You’ve made it. You are on the track, looking at a finish line of open possibility.
You have people filling the stadium with the roar of your name. You matter. You deserve the spot. Enjoy that moment. You are loved and you are ready. Now line up the runway, check your airspeed, breathe deeply, smile and go land the plane.
* Simon Crane is deputy headmaster at HeronBridge College.