Droughts and flooding rains
Throughout central Queensland, families living on grazing properties and in rural communities have been struggling with the ravaging effects of drought for years. Communities in far north Queensland have recently been devastated by heavy rains and extensive flooding. The effects of drought have been long, slow and cumulative; with inundation, the effects are sharp, swift, with immediate impact. This extraordinary climatic contrast is reflected in Dorothea Mackellar’s poem, My Country, best known for the second stanza, which begins with the line: “I love a sunburnt country”. Mackellar contrasts “sweeping plains” and “ragged mountain ranges”; she writes about “droughts and flooding rains”.
Parallels can be drawn between these contrasts and the pattern of academic assessments. Academic assessment can never have the severe impact of drought or flood on families and communities; however individual students may feel the psychological impact, emotional stress and physical effects of having big assignments to complete over long periods of time, several exams scheduled within a short period of time and short assessments that might be unexpected. In Mackellar’s poem, it is the geographic and climatic contrast that the poet emphasises.
For many students, a contrast appears to exist between quieter periods, when assessment is not occurring and intense assessment periods. Students may struggle with this apparent contrast: feeling relaxed during the early part of the term when there is little or no assessment; experiencing mounting anxiety as due dates for assignments and exam assessment periods approach. Mackellar’s reference to the “beauty and … terror” of this country may resonate for students contemplating contrasts within an academic term or year. Although families and communities are limited in what they can do to offset the devastating effects of prolonged drought and rapidly rising floods, there is much that students can do to manage the contrasts and rhythms of academic assessment periods.
Rhythms associated with academic life usually include an initial quiet period; followed by mounting assessment tasks as the term progresses; culminating in an intense period of exam towards the latter part of the term. By observing and acknowledging this pattern, students are able to plan ahead. Students can utilise quieter periods by taking notes in class, revising regularly, keeping up to date with brief tasks, undertaking research, preparing themselves and their workload as much as possible so they are well-positioned for the more intense assessment period that lies ahead. By working steadily when on the “plains”, students can be well prepared for climbing the “ragged mountain ranges” of more intense assessment periods. When students plan ahead to manage time and energy effectively, they minimise the effect of contrasting assessment periods.
© Michele Juratowitch