As a teenager I was a bit sullen, difficult and angry to say the least. There was a lot happening in my life which contributed to this but I often wonder would I have been the same cranky child without all that going on. I think perhaps I would.
I found authority particularly difficult to deal with. The idea of sitting still and doing as I was told made me want to stand up and do anything other than what I should. School was a chore. Now looking back I can however identify many lessons I learned which were not on the curriculum.
Lesson number 1. How to get out of trouble.
I was often in trouble for talking, being late or just drifting away. The result was an angry teacher. For some of those teachers, I did not care how mad they got, and was oblivious to their rant, but for others who were strict and who had consequences I learned to think quickly.
“Were you talking?” they would roar at me, expecting my denial. I would look them in the eye and say “Yes I was, sorry about that”. I found not reacting as expected, to be highly effective, and on many occasions, disarmed the teacher enough for them to let me off any consequence.
I have found this lesson particularly effective in parenting. By not reacting as expected, I have managed to calm situations, or get information I would never have been privy to if I had showed emotion.
Lesson number two. Developing a great memory.
This was not something I developed overnight. It took many years of not doing my homework.
Each day, minutes prior to class, I would ask, “what poem did we have to learn last night?”, or some other similar question. I would then sit down, block out all noise and within minutes memorise the poem. On almost all occasions I was word perfect when asked to recite it in class, much to the disgust of fellow classmates.
This ability to memorise something quickly is still with me today.
Lesson number three. Be my own person.
School can be a very group orientated place. People like to fit in, and to be one of the gang. I found myself enjoying friendships with individuals who lived in different groups. I had no desire to join any group exclusively. I was not a team member, and was unwilling to be one of the gang. If a gang wanted to do something I did not wish to I would walk away. As the years went on I had less and less difficulty saying I was not interested, and doing as I pleased.
This lesson has also stayed with me. I have friends, plenty of them, but I do love my own company, and I am very comfortable in my own skin.
Lesson number four. Education does not come in books.
As I sat in class I watched girls learn reams of notes off by heart, with one purpose, to pass their exams. The love of a subject was irrelevant. Teachers were judged by the quality of the notes they gave you and not the way they taught or inspired you. I had some fantastic teachers which others never rated. Now the exams are long finished and most of what we learned long forgotten, but many of those lessons by the “lesser ranked teachers”, remain with me to this day.
Lesson number five. Every one judges a book by it’s cover.
When I began secondary school at twelve years of age I remember being “misunderstood”. I was not one to tolerate a teacher who couldn’t keep control, or who was unable to teach well. I wore my feelings on my face. My English teacher had no time for me, and vice verse, culminating in a school report which had the comment, “Public enemy number 1”. The nuns also told my parents that they suspected I was responsible for the graffiti on the wall, which I had probably done while smoking in the lane at night! Such was their opinion of me.
My father was very annoyed and told them I swam every morning at five am, didn’t smoke and was in bed before nine every night. Once again a lesson learned, that no matter the reality, that I did not actually cause any trouble in school, because I looked like trouble I was trouble.
This lesson has stood me in good stead in life. If you can make a good first impression, it takes a long time to destroy it.
Today is day two of the state exams, the junior and Leaving Cert. I pity all who have to sit them. As I imagine the thousands of students around the country sitting down spewing up all they have memorised, I wonder, what were the lessons they learned which were not in any book and which will stand to them for life.
How about you? Did you learn anything in school?
photo credit: Cayusa via photopin cc
photo credit: ashley rose, via photopin cc