Guidance Counsellors Busy Calming GSAT Students


Stress, anxiety, excitement and fear are some of the many emotions students face before they sit an examination, because of what is at stake or the expectations of family, friends and themselves.
Even though mostly 10 to 12 year olds will sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), these emotions are rife and guidance counsellors and teachers are busy trying to address them before the March 25 and 26 examinations. From the use of physical education to singing and dancing, the stress relief methods vary, but they are all focused on one common goal – getting GSAT students relaxed prior to the examination.
Acting Assistant Chief Education Officer with responsibility for Guidance and Counselling in the Ministry of Education, Ms. Antionette Brooks, is appealing to GSAT students and their parents to remain calm.
“Remember you have been preparing for GSAT since Grade One, so take deep breaths, calm down, try to relax and I am begging the parents do not get excited because you have to face reality. If the parents get all worked up, the children are going to become anxious.try to maintain a cool head and just continue to work with the children,” she implores, during an interview with JIS News.
She further adds that students should not be overexerting themselves at this time, but should be paying attention to their weak areas.
“I’m sure that within the schools, the teachers would be taking them through the final touches. They could still be putting in as much effort as possible, not overdoing it, getting excited or feeling pressured, but just practising, particularly those areas in which they think they are weak,” she says.
According to Ms. Brooks, who has 19 years of counselling experience, parents should not be placing undue pressure on their children.
“Parents should now be sitting with their children, not rushing them, but making sure that they do a little bit of work in the evenings to refresh their minds about those areas they figure may be difficult,” she points out.
Some 1,004 schools and 48,200 students islandwide will participate in the 11th sitting of the GSAT.
Meanwhile, several schools in the Corporate Area and rural Jamaica are hard at work with final preparations.
Grade Six teacher at the Oracabessa Primary School in St. Mary, Mr. Linval Mitchell, explains that a number of strategies are being employed to ensure that the students remain relaxed in order to achieve maximum performance.
“We are presently having evening and morning classes. We also have a counsellor who comes in and helps them to relax. The counsellor visits each class once per week and as class teachers, we try to give them coping strategies in terms of how to relax and behave. Our physical education (PE) classes are geared toward letting them do physical things, the theory has been put on hold for now, so every week when we have PE class, it is mainly outdoor activities for all 201 GSAT students,” he notes.
According to Mr. Mitchell, who has been coaching GSAT students for the past 10 years, the students also get motivational talks from the school’s Principal and other teachers.
Clan Carthy Primary School, in Kingston, has 180 students sitting the March 25 and 26 examination and according to Grade Six teacher, Mrs. Winsome Reid, the students are not all relaxed, but are being encouraged to be calm.
“We are actually doing revision now, trying to sort out the weak areas, especially with the children who are getting less than 80, reviewing and teaching again, because some have forgotten, and getting them to do personal studying,” she explains, while noting that she has even regrouped her class in batches of four with strong and not so strong students.
“We counsel, we sing and dance, talk, praise them, that’s all you can do, every hour of the day I am doing it, because that is how they relax,” the teacher explains.
Another Grade Six teacher at Clan Carthy Primary, Mrs. Nicola Francis, tells JIS News that her students are sent to the Guidance Counsellor as soon as any sign of stress or anxiety is displayed.
“As soon as I see any sign of stress or anxiety I get them to speak to our guidance counsellor. I see a lot of students displaying those signs .they tell you they are worried [but the Guidance Counsellor] gives them coping strategies, breathing techniques and tips to handle the stress because they are timetabled for it,” she explains.
Other schools, such as Allman Town Primary, in Kingston, have taken the GSAT students on a number of excursions for them to get a break from the academics.
Grade Six teacher, Mrs. Lewin Robinson, explains that her students, in recent times, have gone to the Logos Book Ship and Hope Gardens.
Meanwhile, 11 year-old Bridgette Swaby of Oracabessa Primary is not stressed or anxious about the upcoming examination.
“I think I am going to get good grades on my GSAT. I have been watching less television, studying more often and attending morning and evening classes. I am not really stressed because when I think of the GSAT, I think of it as any other test,” she tells JIS News.
Students must ensure that they get a good night’s rest before the examination; have an adequate supply of pencils, an eraser and a sharpener; follow the instructions of the presiding examiner/invigilator; and complete each test paper.

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