What I learned at high school

Today I’m joining along with Dani and sharing what I learned in high school. If you’d like to see what others learned, head over here.

Last day of Year 12 classes
Last day of Year 12 classes

What did I learn at secondary school? Phylum Platyhelminthes is the class to which tapeworms belong. Objects fall to earth at the speed of 9.8m/s2 (resistance aside). Doric columns are plain, ionic have a scroll at the top and Corinthian columns are the fanciest.  I learned what was meant by the term ‘split infinitive’, I learned what were complimentary colours. I learned the structure of a motte and bailey castle.  I became acquainted with  ‘Stella!’, ‘A handbag!’, ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’ These snippets of learning have usefully – or uselessly! – stayed with me in the 28 years since I left school. Yet our schooling is not just about the information we are taught, is it? We learn about friendship. We learn where our comfort zone lies, and perhaps if we can push beyond it. We begin to learn about what sort of person we are and want to be. And some of what we learn we don’t realise at the time but only come to understand later in life.

What was the setting for my learning? Independent, smallish girls’ school. For me, it was a comforting environment after my co-ed primary school. I was a quiet child, not comfortable wih drawing attention to myself. My body, however, had other ideas and hit puberty early so by the age of ten I had boobs, a face full of zits and was a head taller than most of my classmates. Primary aged school boys aren’t always the most sensitive in not reminding you of these characteristics! At my secondary school, it was not an issue. To grow, we need to feel safe and relaxed in our environment. I learned this.

A firm friendship was formed with a couple of girls within my first term at school. We happily hung around together for a few years before the other two began to diverge in their interests (one to the party scene, the other the arty scene) and me not really feeling like I was quite right for either. I felt like I didn’t quite know where I belonged. I wasn’t one of the cool girls, but I wasn’t one of the uncool ones either. But despite my inner uncertainty, I was still liked. I could always find people to hang out with. I learned that even if we’re not sure where we belong, it doesn’t mean that we are alone. And maybe that is enough until we really find our place.

I learned that school camp was not something I was ever going to grow to love! I hated it. I hated being with people 24/7. If only I could curl up alone at night, or maybe share a room with just one friend? Could I not be allowed to read quietly with a torch in my sleeping bag for just a little longer than ‘lights out’? I hated orienteering, ropes courses, raft building. Did I survive being out of my comfort zone? Yes, of course. But did it really teach me anything that I couldn’t have discovered through other means? I doubt it. I learned that not everyone operates in the same way, and nor should schools expect them too.

I think one of the most valuable lessons I learned is one that I discovered upon reflection. Fulfilling your potential does not mean doing the course with the highest entrance mark. It means doing what resonates with your soul. That’s a bit tricky for a 17 or 18 year old to understand. How do they know what really makes them tick? What nourishes them? They are still learning about themselves. But as much as possible try not to be swayed by the prestige of a course or institution. Think about what YOU like. Give yourself the opportunity to explore this. This is something I’ve tried to pass on to my boy and my girl.

Adolescence is tricky. Being in the school environment that caters to our personality helps us navigate these bumps. I know my school was the right school for me.


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