A call from my daughters school about her lower than average maths grade followed by a congratulations the next day for her excellent English grade got me thinking about my school days and all the things they never taught us that I wish they had and the things we learnt which I have never had to use!
I can’t think of a single time in my life that I have ever had to ask for a tin of tomatoes in French or for directions to the jardin publiques, nor to comment on what a nice sunny day it is yet the French phrases are still there branded into my mind. Nor have I ever had to find x or y, apply Pythagorean theorem or do a long division on paper. I have never once been invited to dance round a May pole despite being shouted at for a week at school to learn the moves as if my future depended on it. I have never had to play the glockenspiel or one of those serrated cylindrical things made of wood, never had to make a pair of oven gloves, never had to examine rocks up close from subterranean parts of Wales or find a Polynomial, never had to understand what a Gerund is and I have never had to name a piece of music from the Baroque period.
Don’t get me wrong, I think a good education is vital and I am thankful beyond words to the very patient teachers that gave me the ability to read, write and calculate, but equally there was so much we could have learnt in the time I was dancing round a May pole and making oven gloves that would have stood us in much better stead for the future. These days I crave and soak up knowledge on subjects like Theology, History, Politics, Literature and Geography and a fleeting look at these things at school just to ignite the interest and broaden the mind would have been a good thing but instead my head is cluttered with useless French phrases, sewing principles and maths formulas that I will never use.
So for the benefit of anyone that has recently left school and wondering what you actually need to know about life here are just a few things that might help.
Hair Growth in Intimate Places
At school we had a couple of awkward science lessons that covered puberty and we all sniggered at, and were also secretly intrigued by the glossy pictures showing the transformation from childhood to adulthood, particularly the pubic hair. But what they didn’t tell us at school is that the hair keeps growing and in different places and with increasing levels of vigor as the decades go on.
Once you get past 30, your eyebrows, if left untrimmed, grow with annoying ease like ragwort in a horses paddock, so too does nasal hair and hair from the inside of your ears, this bursts forth like a plague of bindweed and no matter how much you trim it and pull it the bloody stuff just keeps coming back. Your pubes get raggier and greyer as the years go on and your private parts soon start to resemble Howard Donald from Take That during his messy hair phase of the 1990’s.
When you try to pull those annoying hairs from your nose it stings like a bitch and makes your eyes water and semi blindness results for about an hour afterwards. Girls, you may grow a beard as you get older and and blokes your ball bag will eventually look like an old sock with a couple of potatoes hanging in it as gravity takes effect. I bet they didn’t tell you that at school! And guys when you spot that first grey hair on your chest you will know you are on the wrong side of adolescence and a whole new routine of all over body hair care is about to begin.
Sex, Relationship and Partners
If you went to high school in the 1980’s you probably had the lesson that covered what happens when ‘a man and women love each other very much in a very special way’. These lessons were accompanied by pictures of a dodgy looking bearded bloke from the 1970’s in the missionary position with a women that looked a bit like Ann Widdecombe, but regardless of this the illustrations were still strangely arousing to our teenage minds and we were gripped with interest for the whole lesson.
It made it sound like you meet a person, you fall in love, when you love that person in a ‘very special way’ you then have babies, buy a house, get a dog, buy a car, go on holiday every year and everyone lives happily ever after. The children grow up and have their own children, parents get older and eventually die and the circle of life goes on in eternal harmony.
I’m not going to reveal too much about the varied adventure of relationships, parenting, love and sex that awaits you as you go through your adulthood but needless to say be prepared to be happier than you can ever imagine feeling and as sad as you could ever be and then you will know you are on the cow pat and daisy strewn path of relationships. Enjoy the highs and make sure you have people to lean on during the lows, other than that it is only something you can experience and learn from for yourselves but be prepared because it is rarely a fairytale.
Maths – Learn To Balance The Books
If there is one maths principle they should have spent more time on at school it would be on managing your finances.
Someone once said that when you are doing well financially it is all on paper but when you are doing badly it is all in cash, this is very true. There will be times that you will be on the bones of your arse when things go wrong, for example if you lose a job, if a relationship ends or if a financial crisis jumps up and bites you on the backside as they often do when you are not expecting it.
Life is bloody expensive and there are always hidden costs. It is not just about buying a house and paying a mortgage, there are a dozen different things that go along with that like the bills, council tax, maintenance etc and if you do bite off more than you can chew you are buggered for a very long time. Borrowing money is easy but it is never a good idea, once you get into debt it is very hard to get yourself back out again.
If you can stay debt free and live within your means you will without a doubt have a much happier, more relaxed life. If the only maths you ever learn is to balance your books you will be in for a long and joyous life. I’m sure Pythagoras would agree!
Travel – Places Are Much Better In Real Life
I remember falling asleep at school in history and geography lessons. The teachers were very enthusiastic about the times and places they were talking about but to my adolescent mind it meant nothing because I had no frame of reference to compare what they were saying with.
It smacks in the face of the rules of school but if you can get away, even in term time, and visit new places, take in the history and culture and experience new countries and different people in real time it is worth so much more than months in a class room looking at pictures.
When you travel, even if it is down the road to walk the dog at the beach or the woods take a moment to take in the splendor of everything that nature has to offer, if you immerse yourself in the experience it will without a doubt broaden your mind.
At school we went on a field trip once to a local wood, the most exciting thing about it was trying not to get caught as we were sneaking acorns and worms into the teachers back pack and we learned bugger all from the trip but bizarrely years later a walk in the woods enjoying the silence, eating the berries and escaping the technology that rules my life is one of my favorite things to do.
In short, put the books down, get out, travel, visit new places, talk to people, pause and enjoy the moment and suddenly history, geography and a whole bunch of other things will all start to make sense. You will become more understanding of different cultures, you will become more tolerant with different people and language, architecture, food, fashion and all kinds of everyday things will all just suddenly start to make sense.
Don’t Stress About Failure, No One is Good at Everything
At school we are conditioned into thinking that unless we are good at everything, ie get straight A’s in every subject, then we are less worthy than people who have done better. I agree that striving for good grades is desirable but is it really realistic to expect everyone to be good at everything? Or is it better to know that if you have done your best and I mean ‘really’ done your best that that is good enough?
My own view is that if you can read and write it’s a big advantage, if you can calculate your finances and stay on top of your bills that is also a good place to be and if you get the education you need to achieve your dreams and goals that is great but beyond that do we all need to be straight A students?
As I said at the start of this post there are masses of things I learnt at school that I have never needed to use, there will no doubt be people that have had the opposite experience and who regularly ask for a tin of tomatoes in French but we are all different with different dreams, desires and abilities and we all want to do different things and we don’t all need to be straight A students in every subject to achieve our dreams.
Failure should not be something to be feared. I have learned more from my life failings than from any subject I studied in class and I honestly believe failure to be the greatest motivator and teacher of all. I have failed in relationships, business dealings, sports, jobs, practical projects, life goals and financial goals over the years but all this has done is made me a stronger more focused and more motivated person with the experience of failure to help push me forward. I think failure should be embraced as one of life’s great teaching experiences.
Am I bothered about my daughters Maths grade? Well I want her to do as well as possible and if she has done her best what more can anyone ask for. Do I think it will stop her being a good and great person? I’m absolutely certain she will achieve her dreams and be great at them regardless of her maths grade and if she is kind to people and happy in herself along the way that is worth more than a ream of straight A’s.
Get A Good Key Ring and Hide a Spare Key
When you are at school you will probably have a couple of keys, one for your home and one for your locker maybe and you will probably get a bollocking when you lose one or the other. When you get older you collect more keys as the years go by. You will have car keys, house keys, work keys, one of those tokens that looks like a pound coin that you put in a shopping trolley and more. One of the single biggest waste of times in your adult life will be looking for your bloody keys when you are sure you put them somewhere and they are not there. Check the fridge before anywhere else, I have put mine in the fridge so many times, then check the front door, I have also left mine in the front door more times than I can remember, then check your hand, I have spent ages looking for my keys when I am already holding them with something else in my hand.
Seriously though, save yourself a lot of time and trouble by knowing where your keys are and for those annoying times when you lose your door key or lock yourself out or lose your car keys make sure you have a spare hidden somewhere or with someone. You will save so much lost time.
You Will Get Older, (Hopefully) and There is Nothing You Can Do About It
When you are at school it feels like school holidays last forever and that you will be forever young and that everyone lives forever.
They don’t tell you that one day you will get old (if nature is kind to you), and that people you know and love will die and that your heroes will also get old and die. You can’t really prepare for this but at least know that it is an inescapable truth and try and accept it with dignity.
It’s quite a shock when you look in the mirror and suddenly realise that instead of seeing the youthful face that was going to play guitar and change the world with music there is some aging guy with a bald head, wrinkles and tired eyes looking back at you. You might start to question where the vibrant youth went and it will feel like the time has passed in the blink of an eye.
When I was at school you would hear old people saying things like ‘these are the best years of your life’ and ‘oh the years just fly past as you get older’ and I used to think ‘silly old twonks, what are they on about’… now I know!
My movie heroes in my teens were people like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Patrick Swayze. I can’t watch Stallone and Arny on TV now, they got old and it scares me, they are not the same, and Swayze tragically died a few years ago.
I think if at school we had a better appreciation of the fact that nothing lasts forever, and by that I mean people, life, relationships, looks and more we would probably all make more of our lives and value our relationships, friends, family, possessions and all of life’s little wonders much more. I don’t know how you teach this at school but there must be a way to replace the stupid things we learn at school that we will never use with something that instills in all of us an understanding that nothing and no one lasts forever and that we should just get on with each other, enjoy life, enjoy each other, support each other and make the most of it before it is too late. If you know how, do let me know!
Time to go and brush up on my Baroque composers now!