- Friends come and go. I probably would've been devastated if you told me in Year 7 that my whole circle of what I considered 'best friends' would vanish, change, and evolve a good three or four times. It happens, and just know that the right people will stay with you, and that people will move on throughout life, so don't be so consumed by lost friends as school is just the beginning.
- People can be nasty. For me this never reached bulling but the occasional bitchy comment or mocking (or laughing, laughing was the worst) was definitely a downer. What you must keep in mind is that these comments are a reflection of the offender, not you. Also say to yourself, will this moment still bother me in a year/5 years time; 9 times out of 10 it won't, therefore you know it's no long term problem (plus whoever's dishing it out will likely be gone by that point too).
- Homework stress is absolutely not worth it. I used to be the type of person to never miss an assignment as I was so afraid of the consequences. More questions to ask yourself if you happen to be in a similar position: 'Is this counting towards an important grade?', 'Is the teacher really going to care in a few weeks time if I don't hand this in, or hand it in late?', and 'Will this homework even be marked or acknowledged?' (bearing in mind the track record of some teachers...) Ultimately, I found it best that for each unit/subject, have a rough picture of what you will need to know for the exam or final assessment, and put a lot of your energy into learning this exact information, splitting the rest amongst other hobbies and your free-time. You'll be surprised at how irrelevant some of the homework becomes once you have the bigger picture and an accompanying mark scheme in your head. Obviously homework can be a great expansion of class understanding, but be aware of the rough importance of each piece and never sweat the small stuff. Which brings me onto my next lesson learned..
- Health is more important than any letter on a page. Though it's frustrating that I only realised the true importance of self-wellbeing in my last year of school, better late than never hey? And it means I can spread this message to any of you guys still within school. I know how pressured it can feel when everybody is expecting a good grade from you, or you alone are over-working yourself to achieve good results; and whilst ambition is not the enemy, the accompanying stress for many is certainly an issue. Take a step back every so often - breathe deeply, drink plenty, and eat well. Deadlines can be extended, exams can be re-sat, and university placements postponed. Prioritise yourself over any grade; once you begin taking steps to help ease worry (by doing tiny snippets at a time, and as much as I found it impossible, try to start more serious tasks as early as you can), you will have more clarity and focus to work towards the bigger picture more strategically. Tackling it the other way round (overworking and sacrificing your health) can get pretty destructive.
- Exams are NOT a reflection of your intellect. I cannot stress this enough. If I had a pound for every time I'd gone into an exam tempted to fill my paper with 'Why I hate exams' essays, well, I'd have a lot of pounds. To put it simply, an exam is nothing more than a memory test. I think once you realise this, it can make you do two things; either crack down on your revision knowing exactly the information you need to regurgitate, or you get increasingly frustrated at how twisted the education system is, and how unrepresentative that hour-long paper is of the knowledge you've amassed from x years at school. Ideally, it'll be a mix of these two. Once you can embrace the second and tackle the first, you can realise that school is not the end of the world. In that moment in that exam hall, you can only write what you write, and that is all you can do. Exams do not last forever. These are mere stepping stones which will not determine how many opportunities or potential you have. Gotta move onto bigger and better things.
- Everyone is just a person. There were people throughout school I used to fear, envy, or judge subconsciously on the regular. I think everyone is guilty of these thoughts at school, it's impossible not to when you are so impressionable and are surrounded by a myriad of other people your age. Again, this took me a while but once you jump the hurdle and realise that every single person at school (including yourself) experiences doubt, insecurities, problems and embarrassing moments, the sooner you can find more comfort in a once extremely divided environment. Inevitably there will be cliques and labels assigned, but once you question what these labels, groups and individuals are actually defined by (what is 'popular/cool' besides a social construct?) and by who, you feel less alone than perhaps you once did. Be confident in yourself, give out positivity, and do not do what you would dislike other people doing (bitching, sniggering, acting superior or arrogant) as this will only make you unhappy in the long run. Most of the time, people are in the same boat, and any divisions or supposed differences are defined by ourselves. Try not to be a part of the problem by walking around claiming to 'hate everyone' etc; negativity generates negativity.
- You are allowed to change. I am so far away from the person I have been at different stages of school. We all fluctuate depending upon our friends, influences and experiences, and whilst these changes can be bad and good, they fundamentally shape who we are in this moment. Confidence will grow, maturity will emerge (to a degree, like I've said previously my humour is not the most advanced), and the right people will stick with you throughout the process; don't hold on to negative people who are draining to you. Even if your school experience is tainted with any bad decisions, bad people, or bad experiences, know that none of these are permanent, and that the growth we face within school is fundamental to who we are today. All you can do is take what you can from school years, work hard, and know that the outside world is so much bigger and better.
Sunday, 3 July 2016
What School Actually Taught Me
Ah school, some people love it, some people hate it. Upon my reflection of the 14 years I'd say I'm on the fence about the whole shenanigan. I mean, I can't resent it completely because it's where you grow and become shaped as a person etc etc, but at the same time, it was sometimes pretty brutal. Anyway, here's what I've taken from it: