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Life Chez Dee Episode #7: Exam time

Tomorrow marks the start of the GCSEs.

It doesn’t seem like five minutes since William was taking his year 6 SATS, and here we are five years later with him about to sit his GCSEs.

Is he stressed? I’d say so … well, a bit anyhow … he doesn’t think so though. But it is an incredibly stressful time for all those going through exams. What he’s facing is mammoth. 10 GCSEs with two or three exams per subject, spanning from now until 17th June. The amount of work they need to get through, the information they need to learn, is huge. I know we’ve all been through it, and year upon year more will go through it, but I don’t remember this same amount covered in the curriculum, or indeed the amount of revision which I did for my O Levels (way back when), being anywhere near on the scale of the amount which William is doing.

Just each day, the amount they’ve done in their lessons this year – not surprising really. The exams are getting harder; he’s squeezing a three year course into two years; both the class work and the homework has been vast. The revision sessions provided by the teachers, after school, before school, lunchtimes, even being pulled out of other lessons.

He’s taking RS as a GCSE. Since it’s a compulsory subject, the school made it compulsory to take this as a GCSE – a good idea, if they could provide the lessons to support this, but with only one hour per week being allocated, this is a massive challenge in itself. Thankfully, William has a natural ability when it comes to the humanities; and always having enjoyed and excelled at RS, I’m hoping this, together with him being a natural clever clogs, will be enough to carry him through this.

I’m stressed; it’s just the way I am. I get stressed for him. William is generally chilled; in fact, if he were more laid back he’d be horizontal. He never seems phased by anything really. The fact that I think he’s a bit stressed, means he really is. I don’t recall him EVER being stressed in his life.

I have no doubt that William will rise to the challenge of the GCSEs, and do well as he so often has in his life so far. But whatever the outcome of these exams; whether they’re a triumph and he ends up with his targeted 8s and possibly even 9s, or whether he gets a good pass at 7, which undoubtedly he will, I’m proud of him. He will get through, I’m confident, and he’ll be off on his next adventure in September to college when A levels beckon.

He is such an intelligent boy … I’m his mum … I’m going to say stuff like that. But he really is. Far more academic than I ever was, or am ever likely to be. And he’s achieved so much so far, and if I’m honest, I’m very much in awe of him. He’s clever; he’s kind; he has a lot of skills and achievements to his name which have enriched him. Swimming; scouting, and now even helping out with a group; playing piano and trumpet; helping me to build a charity website and indeed helping with so many other jobs associated with us running this charity; entering swimming events and triathlons in memory of Edward. Exams don’t measure all this enrichment or all these additional skills, talents and qualities.

Doing all this whilst still coping with the significant trauma of losing his brother, which he had to deal with at such a young age, at only 13 years old, is quite something. Still he copes with the loss, as we all do, and I, as his mum will recognise this now and always, as it is so often overlooked by so many.

He excels at music; he performs, and has performed from being a very young age. I remember so clearly when he was only in Year 4 at school, and playing piano in the school play, Mary Poppins, for the children playing Jane and Michael Banks to sing their letter to Mary Poppins. Such a massive thing for him to do. To play at that level; to have put such an enormous amount of time into learning that piece; to play for others to sing to, is a hard skill in itself, but to do this at 8 years old was such a massive, massive thing. I was so proud of him, I don’t know if the school realised how hard it all was, and he was brilliant, and took it all in his stride … and he played again in the junior concert the following year, at 9 years old, again a difficult piece, again for another child to sing to. He spent months working on these pieces. I knew how hard these were for him, and I knew how beautifully and confidently he played, and I couldn’t have been prouder.

I just wanted to highlight the amount of work which goes into a performance, especially of that difficulty, for any age, but especially for one so young. That commitment to do well, to work hard at something so difficult, is a wonderful thing; something which has, and I know will stand him in good stead in the future.

That was then. He’s subsequently performed on numerous occasions, including at Chetham’s School of Music. Really enjoying the performances as much as we have enjoyed listening to him, and I still get goosebumps when he plays. From learning the trumpet and making the effort to do well, without lessons for several years, to now playing lead trumpet in several groups and orchestras, including Lancashire Schools Jazz Orchestra; excelling at this now too.

Not only is he facing a whole month of GCSE exams, but also keeping up with jazz practice for their upcoming concerts; keeping up with piano for upcoming concerts; learning new pieces; getting ready for Grade 6 trumpet exam, which will be just after GCSEs finish.

The pressure is immense. I don’t want to belittle in any way, but William has always worked well under pressure, which again, is a fantastic skill in itself.

All of the above, and more, has made William the wonderful young man he is today, and I am incredibly proud of the young man he has become. I may nag, I may chivvy, I may annoy him, always being on his case, I may get stressed at him, and for him, on numerous occasions, I hassle him about phone use; Instagram use; you tube use; gaming; getting to bed; doing chores … but I’m his mum, that is my job. He’s growing up, the dynamics of the family are changing again, William is becoming a fabulous young man, but I will always be his mum, nagging, hassling, worrying, defending, and championing him, and it’s my prerogative to shout out about him; to tell everyone, as I burst with pride. And I will carry on doing so, because with all the humility which William has, he won't push himself into the limelight, to be praised in the way he deserves so much.

Whatever the outcome of your exams William, you are a well rounded, very intelligent, and very capable and talented young man; I love you and I couldn’t be prouder. Go smash those GCSEs.

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