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Make the best of the Easter break

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By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

As we head into the Easter holidays, Leaving Cert students are undertaking a busy and stressful week of oral exams and music practicals.

You are bound to feel exhausted at this point in the year so it’s all about pacing and priorities for the last stretch. Once you return to school after the break, you will have six and half weeks to the beginning of the exams on June 8. Before that you will have graduation to look forward to but it is very important that you make the best use of the class and study time you have left.

Priorities - rest, recharge and revision!

The orals, music practicals and any outstanding project work you need to complete should take priority for the first week of the holidays. Towards the end of the week, make out a revision plan to run from Easter Monday for the remainder of the holidays. You will definitely need to take a couple of days to recharge after a very busy term so take a breather over the Easter weekend, get some rest and enjoy some time with family and friends. Make a priority list of topics you want to revise in each subject and assign those topics to particular times on each of your study days. You will have learnt a lot from doing the mock exams about the structure of the paper, marking schemes and what the examiner is looking for. Build this into your revision from now on. Always finish your study sessions by looking at an exam question on the topic you have revised. It is also useful to look at exemplar answers. www.studyclix.ie is a real help for this.

Return to career research

The CAO Change of Mind facility will open on May 5 at 12pm and will remain open until July 1 at 5pm, so there is still plenty of time to finalise your choices and to look at alternative pathways. Your attention in the lead up to the exams and for a lot of June will be focused on performing as best you can in the Leaving Cert, so it can be difficult to find the time to focus on career choices. I highly recommend that you take some time over the Easter break to review your CAO course choices, making sure that you have placed them in order of preference. Explore all the options available in colleges for further education, many of which will allow you to progress onto higher education through CAO in subsequent years. Check out apprenticeship options which continue to expand across a variety of career sectors. Some study abroad options are still available for those who are interested. For students who need more of a supported transition into education, training or the workplace, check out the National Learning Network.

Go néirí libh in the orals and practicals. The end is in sight now so make the best of the Easter break and you will reap the rewards in June and on results day!

Niamh Dwyer is the chairperson of Kerry Branch of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors. She is also the founder of My Career Plan, a careers advisory service for teenagers and adults. See www.mycareerplan.ie for details or follow @mycareerplan on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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Wildflowers are not always simple to grow

By Debby Looney, gardening expert There is nothing quite like the low, humming sound of insects in the garden. I always find the different pitches of the buzzing fascinating, from […]

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By Debby Looney, gardening expert

There is nothing quite like the low, humming sound of insects in the garden. I always find the different pitches of the buzzing fascinating, from the drone of a big, furry bumble bee to the high pitched whirring of hoverflies.

And wasps always seem to have a dangerous sound – it is unique to them, in any case. It is possible to help pollinators into your garden at almost any time of the year, solitary bees such as bumbles and leafcutter bees, will come out of hibernation on a sunny December day if there are some heather flowers nearby. tulips, hyacinths, crocus and snowdrops provide sustenance in early spring, along with shrubs such as hamamelis, daphne, viburnum and willow. In April, the small flowers of the field maple attract many insects, as do the large trumpet shaped flowers of rhododendrons and azaleas. Wildflowers are now beginning to bloom, and they are the subject of today’s column!

While it seems counterintuitive, wildflowers are not always simple to grow, especially as we mean ‘pretty meadow blooms’ as opposed to ‘weeds’! Creating an area for wildflowers takes some preparation. Most important is that it is a weed free area. Kill off any grass or weeds before sowing, either by using conventional weedkillers, or by laying down a sheet of black polythene or weed suppressant. Make sure any seeds which germinate are removed also, and that problematic plants such as rushes, are dug out. Most importantly, ensure all grass is gone, as wildflowers do not compete well against its vigorous growth. Rake the top layer of the soil loose to a fine tilth, and do not add fertiliser! Wildflowers will generally not do well in a rich soil. When your area is ready, decide which seeds are best for your spot. There is much to choose from, for example, single varieties such as ragged Robin, teasels and poppies, or mixtures. There are seed mixes for perennial meadows, ones which attract birds – these usually have a high volume of seed bearing flowers, mixes for bees, ladybirds or certain colour mixes. There are also soil specific mixes.

SOWING SEEDS

Sow your seeds thinly and evenly onto the prepared ground. I tend to cover with netting at this time of year, because, although it is the best time of year to sow, and there is a very high germination rate, birds are also a problem!

The only maintenance really is to keep an eye on slug damage – I scatter in a few pellets when I sow anything – and if there are very dense clumps of seedlings forming, thin them out. When the flowers have gone to seed in the autumn, just cut them to ground level, leave the cuttings a few days for the seeds to drop out, and rake the foliage up. If left to rot in situ, it will make the soil too fertile for a good display the following year.

I mention the use of slug pellets. To the best of my knowledge, the use of metaldehyde poison in slug pellets has been banned for a few years now, and pellets are made of ferric phosphate which is not harmful to pets or birds unless ingested in very large amounts. However, there are some ingredients used in slug pellets which may potentially cause damage to earthworms and other soil dwellers, so please, always use sparingly and where possible, not at all!

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Routine and balance are crucial in the run up to exams

By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors As you approach the countdown to the beginning of the Junior and Leaving Cert Exams on June 8, it […]

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By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

As you approach the countdown to the beginning of the Junior and Leaving Cert Exams on June 8, it is very important to maintain a healthy balance so that you can pace yourself properly.

It can be tempting to try to pack in long hours of last minute study at this stage and become more focused on what you don’t know instead of what you do! Stress is a normal part of facing exams and in fact a certain amount of it is helpful to ensure that it mobilises you to perform well, but it is essential that you keep it, and the exams, in perspective. After many years of supporting students before, during and after exams, I know too well how overwhelming the experience can be so I urge you to do everything you can to look after your well-being at this stage.

Before the exams

Stick to a good routine with a healthy balance in terms of revision, rest, fresh air, sleep and diet. Don’t be tempted to work late at night as it is usually unproductive and impacts on your concentration the following day. Approach your last minute revision in a targeted way with the guidance you have been given by your teachers. Have a schedule with your exam dates/times highlighted hanging up where it is obvious and visible at home and take a photo to save on your phone.

During the exams

Set two alarms for the mornings of exams and allow lots of extra time. You will need to be in your assigned seat in the exam centre at least 30 minutes before the start of the exam on day one and 15 minutes before all other exams. Hydration is really important during the exams to help with concentration so make sure you have plenty of water. The first thing to do when you look at the paper is to read the instructions carefully, your teacher will have gone through these many times with you. Mark all the questions you are going to do and write out a quick time plan for yourself. Focus on exactly what you are being asked; the most common feedback from examiners is that students give a lot of irrelevant information so keep glancing back at the question to keep yourself on task to target the marks.

Breathing

If you feel you are becoming really anxious in the exam hall, focus on controlling your breath to bring a sense of calm. Breathe in through your nose for two seconds, hold your breath for one second, and breathe out through your mouth for four seconds. Repeat for one minute.

After the exam

Try to avoid too much discussion after each paper, ‘post-mortems’ of the exams are rarely helpful and can add to stress levels so once each exam is done, take a break and then move on to preparing for the next one. I can tell you that regardless of what happens in each exam, you will have lots of options available to you and an interesting journey ahead.

Keep in mind that while the Leaving Cert is an important exam and big milestone, it will not define you for the rest of your life. Best of luck to the class of 2022!

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Career Consultant. For details see www.mycareerplan.ie or follow @mycareerplan on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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