R-E-V-I-S-E: Find out what it means to me
So you should practise what you preach, right? Right. Except I have spent years telling students how important it is to revise, knowing that I have done very little of it myself.
I didn't revise. I didn't know how to use my time effectively and didn't want to waste my time doing boring things (like re-reading notes) when I didn't even know if they would help.
Whilst undertaking my GCSEs, I used to flick through a revision book before each exam. Finally, I gave up after a morning exam when I went home and my sister was on a sun lounger in the garden - I had my biology GCSE that afternoon and I looked at the page about plant and animal cells and thought, 'What's the point?' Laying out in the sun was a much more appealing way to spend my time.
College presented me with more of an impetus to revise. Luckily, I had my displeasing first year results to give me a much needed kick up the bum. However, I recall that in preparation for my Psychology A Level exam, I was skim reading over notes of a topic I had no clue about whilst standing in a queue to enter the exam; it genuinely was lucky as the very same topic came up on the question paper and enough information was floating around in my short term memory for me to get a grade I was happy with.
Conveniently there was an upward trajectory in my history: by the time I was sitting in exams for my English degree, I had spent time discussing key texts and topics with friends, I'd read around the subject and had revisited my lecture and seminar notes.
In retrospect I realise that the issue was that I didn't know how to revise. This seems to be exactly the lamentation of GCSE English students today as well! A quick internet search about revision will throw up pages and pages of similar advice: memes mocking the need to eat, sleep, revise, repeat; suggestions to collate colourful pens and highlighters and decorate all exercise and text books; instructions to make a timetable (oh yes, because the thought of a timetable is so appealing in itself it just screams enjoyment (and if you're thinking 'revision shouldn't be fun then fine, but you can't expect anyone to do it willingly!)) and take breaks to drink water and walk around the garden. Why do we continue to expect students to take revision seriously when the activity itself continues to be portrayed as a regimented, soul-sucking, monotonous task that would make any teenager jump at the chance to clean their room?
So here's what I'm advocating - that revision is approached in a different manner. A manner that aligns with our current theories of education: learning should be put into context. Go and watch a stage production of 'A Christmas Carol'; read another novel by an author you are studying; build a bird table to go in the garden; plan and prepare a nutritionally balanced meal for 4 people, using only £5; visit an art gallery; develop your own fitness routine based on information about your own body; make mini rafts with friends and race them down the river; debate with your brother why you should watch 'Eastenders' instead of 'Coronation Street'. There is learning and revision in everything we do, and the knowledge that sticks is the knowledge we find value in. Of course what we teach in schools is relevant information, but if the majority of the time we expect students to just confront words and numbers on pages, it is no wonder they struggle to find the worth in their learning.
A few weeks ago, I met someone who mentioned that mistletoe grows on trees, particularly in the South West region. Since hearing this, I find myself looking for and identifying mistletoe all the time, and marvelling at the fact I never knew this before. I also never knew it was a parasitic plant, or that it is abundant in orchards - curiosity feeds learning, and sadly if there's one thing lacking from exercise books, old notes and revision guides, it's curiosity.
Go and be curious, go and learn, and enjoy it.