As a child I remember watching Grange Hill and being petrified about what my secondary school had in store for me. I had grown up reading Malory Towers and as a result I had spent most of my childhood begging my Mum to send me to boarding school whilst my Mum would argue that this wasn’t possible because a) boarding schools cost a lot of money, that we don’t have and b) boarding school is not really like Malory Towers. Now as an adult I am eternally grateful that I was unable to go to boarding school as I now appreciate that they were not really all about the midnight feasts and solving mysteries. In fact, I am grateful for the state school that they did send me to even though much of it was like Grange Hill. It wasn’t the best school but it undoubtedly helped shape me into the adult I now am and taught me everything I know and I’m not talking about what I learnt in the classroom;
• It taught me how to mix with a wide range of people from differing backgrounds.
• It taught me how to concentrate, you have to learn that one pretty quickly when you are in a large class of 30 plus pupils all hell-bent on reducing the supply teacher to tears.
• It taught me Sex Education – properly, and how it really is. I didn’t learn about it from the cringe-worthy lesson where I was forced to put a condom onto a banana in front of everyone that ended pinging off and nearly hitting the form tutor in the eye. No, I learnt sex ed from the “experienced” girl in our year group who succeeded in scaring us!
• It taught me that male teachers need to shave as I witnessed my English teacher one Monday morning shaving his face as he sat at his desk whilst we struggled to unpick Shakespeare.
• It taught me never to sit at the front, never to sit at the back, but to always hide in the middle.
• It taught me that for some teachers it is about crowd control and in those classrooms keep your head down.
• It taught me that being Head Prefect doesn’t mean you are perfect. This was particularly true when I witnessed him shoplifting a bottle of vodka one lunchtime and watched as he was later arrested by the police.
• It taught me never to sit with my back facing the room. You never know when an attack is imminent.
• It taught me that you can’t always trust people in a position of power. A lesson we learnt when it was discovered that our headteacher was mismanaging our school fund. Classes went without books as he sat in his swanky office and listened to his state of the art CD player.
• It taught me to stand up for what you believe in, which we all demonstrated when we protested after said headteacher returned to school.
• It taught me about tribe mentality. Join one or face social alienation.
• It taught me how to roll my skirt up to make it shorter and how to tie my school tie short.
• It taught me what makes a good teacher and what doesn’t.
• It taught me that Friday night at Greg’s isn’t someone’s house. It is actually the off licence.
• It taught me that chewing gum in your hair really is impossible to remove.
• It taught me that teachers don’t like being told they are wrong, even when they are.
• It taught me to always check my chair before you sit down because chewing gum also ruins your clothes.
• It taught me to duck if you feel a whoosh near your ear.
• It taught me how to defend myself.
• It taught me that some boys will lie to try and get what they want.
• It taught me that life is short.
• It taught me that everything isn’t always as it seems.
• It taught me how to be creative. Homework excuses?
• It taught me that even the prettiest and confident girls, the ones that you think have it all, are still insecure underneath the layers of make-up.
• It taught me that exercise won’t kill you but it can make you stronger. Cross country in Winter?
• It taught me that you shouldn’t daydream.
• It taught me that hanging around on street corners is boring and cold but you can never, ever, admit to that.
• It taught me that you should ask for help if you need it.
• It taught me the rules of society. A Year 7 should stay away from the Year 11 toilets unless they want to find their head down the loo. We must respect our elders.
• It taught me girl power.
• It taught me to always knock before entering a classroom, for reasons that will remain nameless.
• It taught me that you should revise for all those exams, even the ones you are convinced you will fail.
• It also taught me that sometimes you will fail but that it isn’t the end of the world.
But most importantly it taught me how to survive. I am a big fan of state education as they are like a micro-society and all those little things I learnt in the corridors of school have stood me in good stead when I left and went to university.
*However, I should add that it did not teach me German, despite me taking it at GCSE; I still can actually speak very little. So on that note I will end on the two words I can remember –
Impressive work. Not.