Hating school, loving learning

I hated school. Hated the bullies, the canings, the discipline and, later on the pressure of achieving in subjects for which I could see no useful application. I hated the uniforms and oppression of humour, the cliquishness and the embarrassment a shy boy feels when forced to stand up in class and perform.

I hated the way my brain struggled (and failed) to understand maths, and the way an IQ test defined my potential. I hated that I had to have some sort of adult purpose assembled in my head by the end, when really, what I wanted to do was have fun and explore life’s seedier quarters. I hated it, but I learned a few things, too.

No, I don’t mean the periodic table of elements, or the ability to translate Pliny the Elder, but rather I learned about people. I watched unformed, raw personalities going through the relentless industrial mixing tanks of crude or cruel jokes. I saw other children overcoming obstacles and teasing to become secure and mature near-adults. I watched and saw some children fail and make terrible life choices - and learned the value of consequences.

I saw children becoming teenagers, and learning how to be friends to their friends and partners in those first moments of adolescent romance. I learned, even though the biggest lessons weren’t easy to learn. In fact, some of the most important lessons had stress, anxiety and tears as their ingredients.

My kids’ turn for school

And so I watch my own children embarking on their school careers. I see their daily triumphs, and I love to celebrate with them, and when it’s hard for them, I get to encourage them and cheer them on: They’re learning through discipline, disappointment and pressure.

I guess I’d love to be able to roll them up in bubble-wrap and protect them from the pointy sharp corners school throws at them, but at the same time I understand that the process is helping them to have rounded personalities. It’s bringing them into contact with a disparate array of characteristics in their peers.

Some of these are unpleasant; let’s hope these teach my children the contrast between right and wrong, and well, there are good kids out there too, and I hope that some of their integrity will wear off on my children.

Parenting remains essential. My direct input is going to shape their background and their sense of history. But then some of their growth will come via their classmates and teachers. I just hope that what I teach them at home will be enough of a foundation to make the right choices, as their sphere of influence grows.

There’s so much growth that happens at school that it’s worthwhile staying involved with your child, but sometimes school is a surrogate parent and you have to let go to the learning processes and emotional growth at work under its care.

I can hardly believe it when my children say ‘we had a great time at school!’ but I’m also relieved.

What are the most important lessons you learned at school?

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