In this piece, Kieran reflects back on the more pivotal years of school-life, meant to turn you from fresh-faced kid to hardened teenager. How well does the system achieve this? Not very.
“What is four multiplied by six?” This question (or one of its numerous, equally irritating cousins) became synonymous with the plague I called primary three maths. The answer to the question, thought up by the wicked witch of the west end, was normally a harmony of “I don’t knows” and “How are we supposed to know?” Now I understand the philosophy taught in schools is ‘if she’s asking now she’s taught you before’ but as a lackadaisical six year old my only concern was the topping on my lunchtime sandwiches. Twenty six may have been the icing on her cake but chocolate was definitely the icing on mine. Did I as a six-year-old care that the ice caps were melting? Not as long as the Indians were beating the Cowboys.
Three point one four… blah blah blah. If there wasn’t steak inside it then I wasn’t buying. Sorry folks. If I had a penny for every prepubescent boy that cracked his head open because he swung on a chair then trust me, I wouldn’t be trying half as hard at writing this piece than I am. Of course I stopped swinging on those seats but at this time, I still believed a fat man with a red suit could fit in my chimney without seriously hurting his respiratory system. Boy, oh boy am I fun at parties.
Primary seven came and three big things happened to me this year. One, I finally got a taste of responsibility as I was tasked with being a prefect. Two, I went on an outward bound trip with the school and no parents around so this was my first taste of independence. Three, I won a cheap bottle of rosé at a school fun fair and swapped it for a bottle of Lucozade, allowing me to showcase first hand my tycoon businessman skills. (Picked up at an after hours family party where my mum swapped a bottle of water for what smelled like nail polish remover). Primary seven went smoothly and with great pleasure I can announce that twenty-four was the magic number I needed to complete my Heineman Primary seven math course.
But like most things in life, my twelve years of innocence were crushed under the weight of a barely five-foot, sixty-year-old woman’s black plastic heels.
Whenever I picked up a pen from there on out it would be to contemplate Newton’s third law and how apples don’t fall on people’s heads accidentally. Gone were the days that my pen was little more than a snack to chew on when James and his Giant Peach started to bore me. Gone were the days I thought for myself. Now it was back to the chorus of “Miss how do you do number 7?!” How silly of me to think secondary school would allow me to prosper as an individual. I can happily say that I would rather the Cowboys beat the Indians than have to learn that three point one four one wasn’t made of pastry.
Actually though, it’s not all bad, learning that Adolf Hitler doesn’t have the same music taste as me and my friends was some what refreshing. Learning how to structure a paragraph may not be interesting or something I’m particularly great at, but learning that a small thing like that can keep the hounds at bay until another homework task is given is a relief. (If only the swinging chair boy had understood how simple it could’ve been.) Had I done the maths in primary three, I would probably have understood that the moaning old woman only wanted what was best for me. The execution may have been poor, but all’s well that ends well as the adage goes.
I’m not a fan of school but I appreciate what it can do for a person. Hell, if I was asked to do it all again I’d say yes, if it wasn’t for these pesky secondary school hormones kicking in. Where else would having a fat bald man scream at you (wearing trainers with a suit) prove beneficial to you? And really, what better way to spend your time head down in a pile of Nat 5 business management text books, just me? Okay, moving on … Exams! The biggest test of whether or not your entire existence on Earth has been worth it, fifteen years to learn why Jem cries at his trousers not being ripped and we still manage to get a C. Not to worry though, in six months time you can repeat the same process and feel exactly as bad as you did before, when you realise the SQA no longer find Jem’s emotions a worthwhile topic.
But until then it’s just another day, more doom and gloom Nazis and Jews, less wild and hectic Cowboys and Indians. Never fear though, as now you’re ready for the big bad world of work. To put on your six-inch heels and scream at a twelve year old until they cry, not in a bad way though of course because this is a passing of the torch, snake-skin boots for four hundred pound Prada heels. In with the old, and out, with the new.’