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?
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photo credit: ashley rose, via photopin cc
11 thoughts on “Five things I learned at school which were not on the curriculum.”
I can honestly say I learned nothing in Secondary school that was of any use to me either in life or in College. And I pity all the Leaving Cert students who will enter third level education in September and realise that they have learned nothing that will be of use either.
Memorising a Yeats poem or a paragraph on World War One will not get you an A in English/History at third level, you are expected to have opinions of your own, opinions backed up by research that involves 800 page books, libraries, databases, references, footnotes, and an in-house style of writing and etiquette.
The biggest problem in Ireland is that third level should be a continuation of second level education but it is not, you are just flung into third level with no preparation and no idea what lies ahead.
I minded a very intelligent girl. She was selected as the “Irish times writer for the leaving cert. Despite huge points she did Arts. Having been taught the “correct” answers for English she was so excited to go to Uni and to be allowed to have her own opinions. However she said she still felt stifled. She left the course for journalism. That put an end to my “Educating Rita” dream.
You seem to have had a very different experience.
Yes, totally different experience, I found Secondary school stifling beyond belief, Jesus when I think of the monotony of reading The lake Isle of Innisfree over and over again in class so we could quote it in Leaving Cert, and College to be the opposite but everyone will have a different experience. I think essay writing and research should be really taught in Secondary school, it’s not that difficult and it gives the students a headstart when they go to third level.
Fair play to her though, Irish times writer for the leaving cert, that is impressive, if I told my parents I was in the Irish Times, they would just assume I robbed a bank and disown me!
Great post Tric. I had to laugh at your talking in class story. I once had my English/History teacher stop the class and say “Miss Jones. You are talking again” to which I replied “Mr Wallace. Do you mean to tell me that after teaching me for three years, you still don’t know what I am like?” He burst out laughing. He also gave me an excellent reference when I left school 🙂
i love this post, tric. and as you know, i believe learning comes outside of the books and in all kinds of ways. )
to be done
will this be on
You were brilliant in your lesson learning. I love your lesson #3. I never belonged to any group. But I didn’t have a difficult time getting along with others. I didn’t cause problems and aside from some minor issues with others, most didn’t cause me problems. The depth of this lesson took me decades to learn. But I learned it. I know it now.
I love your independence. And your father telling those nuns off! 😉
Real life is what prepares us for living. School – NADA! And it’s getting worse with the new “common core” curriculum that they have recently instituted here in the states.
I’m sure I learned something valuable in school, but whatever it was eludes me right now.
People do judge, often without knowing. I had a chat this morning with mu husband about judging without knowing. Good post.