Here’s the thing…
It’s that time of year again. When the exam results come in, and young people are defined by bits of paper. But here’s the thing – papers don’t tell the whole truth. They’re just tick-boxes, criteria checks and, on occasion, algorithms. It is not, nor could it ever be, a measure of you.
Someone who says it better…
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”– Albert Einstein
Here we go then…
No, we haven’t forgotten the dreaded algorithm fiasco of 2020. When politicians (that’s my polite term for them) decided to let a computer determine the results for thousands of A-level students across the UK. A computer you say? What could possibly go wrong? Perhaps ask a generation of students who lost their university places because the computer quite literally ‘said no’. Now I know us Brits love a Matt Lucas and David Walliams sketch, but do we really need it reenacted with the futures of our young people hanging in the balance? Maybe not.
So why I am I still harping on about a 2020 algorithm? That was then. There was an unprecedented pandemic. Change the subject. The world’s moved on. Okay. Fine. But let me ask you – has it really changed that much? Algorithm or not, it all still feels a bit tick-box and computer-says-no, to me. Our entire education system is set up in a way that places a single tree in the centre of the exam room, and expects all our students to climb it. But we weren’t all made to climb trees. Some of us were made for swimming in the sea. And you know something? Paper doesn’t do very well in the water. So look out to that vast ocean, and to quote Disney’s Dory – “Just keep swimming.”
Let’s get creative…
I started this blog to embrace my creative writing, so I’m trying to challenge myself to write a poem, short story or flash fiction to accompany every post. (Makes another coffee. Procrastinates. More coffee.) Right, here goes…
A piece of flash fiction by Chrissy Kett
I swim in the tank as I wait for their test.
There’s a swirl of colour. She’s coming.
This is it.
“You must climb the tree to meet criteria.”
I stare through the glass tank at the garden beyond. I look at the oak, towering above all other plants. Completely impossible. Unashamedly ridiculous.
Red lights flash around me, as water swirls away.
“Please,” I gasp, but they won’t listen.
They’ve always drained the tank. This is how it’s done. No exceptions.
I’m not like them. I’m gold. I have scales. I was never meant for their tank. I’ve been muddying their waters with my mere presence.
Fire burns my gills as death clutches my throat.
With a gasp, I come back to my surroundings. My peers have their noses to their papers, scribbling answers like sugar-crazed toddlers.
I stare at my own blank pages, which harass me like schoolboys who aren’t accustomed to the word ‘no’.
What’s the point?
I begin the walk of shame.
“Sorry,” I whisper, as I pass the paper to my teacher.
She just nods, but I see rage glinting in her eyes. Her anger isn’t at me. It’s at them.
I exit the hall, and make my way to Algorithm’s office. A man in a suit, with a heart of metal and a computer for a brain. Poor programming hasn’t prevented his grasp on power.
“You’ve failed,” he tells me. “You know what that means.”
I climb into the procedure chair, as he straps me down.
Buzz. The high pitch of the needle.
I bite my lip, tasting blood, as he pieces my skin with the tattoo.
‘F’ emblazoned on my forehead for all to see. ‘F’ telling you I’ve failed their system. But it’s a lie. It’s the system that’s failed me.
Enough creativity. I’m a ‘Type A’ personality–give me a list!
As we all know, sometimes people like to question our ‘viability’ – but us creatives are perfectly successful, thank you very much. And whilst some of us did do well at school, there are many who didn’t. And what’s become of them? Have they become complete failures? Erm, no. They’ve become amazing artists, empathetic coaches, singers, choreographers… You get the idea. I could go on. So let’s look at some things that speak louder than paper.
Five things that speak louder than exam results
Are you giving your full energy? Are you passionate about what you do? I promise it shows. And people will notice. And you know what? Us performers are great at it. Because even when we’re exhausted we know how to present ourselves. This works in every industry – not just for the stage.
Might sound naff, but a little kindness will take you a long way. As creatives, we can be especially perceptive, so put it to good use, and spread a little compassion. No – we’re not too sensitive. We’re just not emotionally stunted. Trust me: it’s a good thing.
- Common Sense
At the risk of sounding like a Boomer – common sense is something that you can’t take an examination for. And the irony is that a lot of very clever people really struggle with it. We’re back to the difference between climbing and swimming again. So jump into those waves, and take some initiative. Please. The people climbing the trees need you.
Don’t underestimate your ability to create ideas. We can see things in different ways and imagine things that others can’t see. It’s actually incredible. We just don’t realise it, because we assume that everyone else can do it. News flash – they can’t.
Yes, you. You’re inspiring. And I don’t care if you got A*s or not. You have the capability to do amazing things. Perhaps you’re a dancer? A painter? Or musician? Perhaps you’re a techie who puts up with us twirlies? Whatever you do in this weird and wonderful (insane) industry, you have the ability to make people escape into something far greater than themselves. To feel something. To engage with something. And what do people always need? The Arts. Especially during difficult times. Because people need inspiration. People need you.
Let’s cut to the last eight bars shall we?
I confess I’ve stolen this from my mother-in-law, but it’s one of her many sayings that I just love.
Okay, so maybe you didn’t get the results you were hoping for. It sucks. I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t. I’m not going to give you a list of celebrities who flunked school and tell you everything’s okay because you can become a millionaire just like them. Why not? Well, firstly, because you’ve seen them already. Secondly, because as a millennial I no longer know who these people are. (Seriously, who are they?!) And mostly because, well, let’s face it, it’s pretty dull.
I get it. You’re disappointed. So be disappointed. Be sad. Take some time. Sit with it. But do me one favour, and remember that you are not, nor could you ever be, a tick in a box. You are something far greater. And there’s no algorithm, that could ever measure just how far you’ll go.
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Hi, I’m Chrissy! I’ve started this blog to celebrate the Arts. I’m a performer who’s taking a little break from being a ‘talking prop’, and am enjoying the teaching and writing side of things. If you want to know a little bit more about me and my writing journey check out my About page.
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