Wednesday, 10 September 2014

What to Expect in School

Over halfway through my first week back in the oh-so-new year, life has returned to the daily bustle of waking up at 5.30 in the morning to wash my hair in the dark (in order to preserve electricity), trotting out the door seconds before the bus arrives and embarking on miles-long treks throughout campus en route to my five lessons.

To this day, this routine still strikes me as an alien occurrence because, as it only came into force a mere few months ago, I sometimes have to remind myself that school has now become a part of my life. Each day promises a longer distance away from my previous existence as a home-schooler which, in many ways, fills me with bucket load quantities of sadness. As much as I crave to throw myself into studying for my GCSEs, I really wish that studying at home was still an option - instead of a memory that has since moved to my past. However, I stop in my tracks whenever a thought like this pops into my head, allowing the moment to pass before I resume with my work and, very much indeed, a new way of life.

Having attended a full term that originally began in June - otherwise the final six weeks before summer saved us from yet more maths horrors - I regained the month-and-a-half that I'd lost to school at my home, which somewhat resurrected my former means of learning: home education. Writing essays at my desk felt like second nature, along with not being tied down with stuffy uniforms (which nobody ever bothers to wear as demonstrated in the rules) and lining up in wait of picking up a mid-morning snack.

The difference between school and home education is that, while adults have the right to lay down the rules for you, no policies are enforced if you're home-schooled: the rules needn't be declared. I miss being entrusted with the freedom to make independent decisions - such as not being influenced or pressurized into choosing my GCSE options, or obliged to follow non-negotiable rules - but I live in hope that freedom will be returned to me in time, which I would prefer to be sooner than later or even never!

Therefore, I'd fallen back in my old pattern so easily that returning to school last week was a massive shock to the system; like 99.9% of pupils, I didn't want summer to end. And, in case you suspect that I'm over-exaggerating, I can assure that I'm not. No smartly-made-up lies could disguise my unease at losing the final moments of summer that I wanted to share at home, instead of being confined to a classroom that gave an unattractive view of the guttering.

My heart, torn between learning and freedom, struggled to resist cravings for unlimited spare time, afternoons out and, as a physical benefit, gaining the right amount of sleep that all teenagers need. Although the weekends traditionally promise trips to town, time spent enjoying my hobbies and, of course, significantly extending my hours in bed, they are mere flashbacks of the summer that you wish would return - less than a week on, I know what I would truly want. And would I be wrong if I represented most of the pupil population by saying so?

Anyway, school life shall hopefully settle into a (somewhat) peaceful routine in the next few weeks, or so I'm hoping for. In days, most of my lessons have been focused on gluing papers into my new workbooks and discussing the syllabus which, once you hit Year 10, involves a lot of hand-writing on the notes alones! Apart from Maths and Physics - which, after my first lesson tomorrow, could steal the undesirable crown that Maths has forever worn: my ultimate pet hate - I'm enthusiastic about my lessons and impatiently waiting until the getting-started process is over, when the real work can truly begin.

Without work, I get bored and, if ever taken on a journey to the Land of Boredom, I lose patience. Even when I am in a decent mood, patience is something that doesn't come easily to me, whose side effects also include throwing a strop bigger than a Hollywood screen siren, becoming withdrawn and eventually chopping off somebody's fingers with my ultra-sharp tongue. If entertained, however, this problem can be avoided - to the relief of mankind (and its many fingers). Learning is my entertainment which, as it will literally be all that I can do for seven hours each day, ought to become either my friend or arch nemesis. Needless to say, I didn't choose the latter, though several subjects have been regarded as enemies from day one - but who would I be if I didn't reserve some hatred for one or two topics?

While life itself features plenty of craziness, the madness more than doubles when placed in an environment like school - which, in some instances, might justify the teaching of fractions. As embarrassed as it makes me feel to say so, I was absolutely oblivious as to what to expect on my first day - even now this trend is still on the radar, as new lessons enter my timetable and I mix with numerous groups of various people. Long ago, my mum started to say that nothing surprises her anymore which, now that I've gotten older and gained more experience, is one of the most honest statements you will ever come across. Whereas my eyes would have popped out of their sockets if something unexpected occurred during my first week, I no longer waste vital energy in even batting an eyelid! You adjust, you learn and you accept what is going on around you, yet only if it doesn't directly affect you whatsoever.

The bottom line is that there is plenty to look out for at school. Unlike a public place or even your home, crowds of either cute-faced Year 7s - who look like they are descendents of the pint-sized fairy Tinkerbell - or grizzly-natured Year 11s are all that you will see, with a mixture of other year groups and  thrown in. People in need of the must-have anti-wrinkle cream will become semi-professional cry babies at the sight of youthful teenagers doing what they know best, sans qualifications: having fun with smooth, line-free skin. It's a strange world because there isn't quite an environment like it - unless you're attending the social event of the year, where will you find a building bulging with hundreds of teenagers?

If I'd been handed a guide about school life before I reached this point, perhaps my first few weeks would have been easier, potentially a so-called breeze. But it doesn't exist. Only knowledge and experience guides you in not only school, but various aspects of life. As much as I detested making simple mistakes and losing track at times, maybe these moments were necessary in order to progress then move on. Nobody is perfect, let alone myself. We have our weaknesses and our strengths, the latter of which we prefer to hone our skills on. Putting your entire heart into whatever you do is counts above the niggling issues and the stuff that lies in between. These are facts that are not published in a Dummy's guide or made available on Google; you just find out about them.

So, despite being slightly on the inexperienced side, it doesn't mean that I haven't learnt anything about schools in the term and past week that I've spent at mine. Some facts are as obvious as getting out of bed fifteen minutes before the bell rings, while others require a bit more understanding until you get them right. I'm well on my way to reaching the 'right' part, and will pick up more in months and even years!

1. Noise. A lot of it.
For those who are used to the peace and quiet that is commonplace in, say, a forest or the countryside (in my case), school will be like attending the loudest heavy metal concert on the planet. Your ears, and maybe your sanity, will face a great struggle until you adjust to the excessive noise levels - which are derived from classroom chatter, stern telling-offs from the exasperated teachers or a rare clip from YouTube being shown during lessons (thanks to the malfunctioning speakers).
I nearly jumped out of my skin when I first found myself in corridor, surrounded with a hundred pupils' or so voices and occasional shouts -  maybe what some people would define as a normal tone. At home, the TV and sometimes aeroplanes flying over the house are usually what I hear, so I was really amazed by the amount of noise that some pupils - especially the ones with a fondness for energy-boosting Redbull and the like - can make!
My advice: get a pair of earbuds - or, if you cannot risk getting into trouble, stuff some cotton wool into your ears - and save your hearing while you can. Otherwise, how would you ever keep up with the Top 40?

2. Queues as excessive as a day's worth of homework.
Even if your school is deemed to be of a lower-than-average size, you can bet your life that queues for anything - the canteen, classes or the toilets - will be very long, which seriously robs you of precious breathing space.
Time is also sacrificed if you're stuck in the queue for school dinners, so be prepared to wait a while until you indulge on a portion of chips whose calories you cannot bear thinking about. Well, you aren't short of time to contemplate about it, are you?

3. Knee-length skirts? Only kidding!
Enter any secondary school, then tell me what you see. Capacious corridors? Endless rows of stairs? Tons of girls, many of whom have started on the path towards adulthood? Look a bit closer, and you will notice something they wear. The answer is neither their layer-thick foundation nor numerous piercings that exist in all areas, but this: their skirts.
As most of you will be aware of, practically all schools enforce a rule which states that skirts must rest on or below the knee. However, teenagers will always be teenagers, which means that there are bound to be rules that we simply don't like - and pull out all the stops to break.
That's right, knee-length skirts are a rarity in schools, unless teachers with eyes like a hawk are in sight. In my first term alone, I laid eyes upon tube skirts that barely left anything to the imagination, Year 7s hardly much taller than my four week old kitten hiking up their skirts to above the shoulder and skirts so short that underwear was almost on show.
Decent, smart and law-abiding are definitely not the words that I would describe the knee-length-avoiding tactics that most girls have resorted to - for what purpose? A skirt is a skirt, but the thigh-length ones should be strictly reserved for the nightclubs and parties.
Meanwhile, my knee-length one has only served as a joke to the others, though I've recently gotten my own back: rules have since become stricter, and short skirts are no longer acceptable. Like Nelson Muntz says (or rather laughs), haha!

4. Homework, homework, homework.
The bane of many pupils' lives, our education wouldn't be complete without the presence of the one thing that we just love to hate: homework.
Intrusive, tiring and, depending on what it requires, sometimes pointless, homework causes many issues for some pupils, who crave to fall onto the sofa and go to sleep until their alarm clock goes off the following morning.
My brother and I don't always like it - especially if set with a task in an oh-so-detested subject - yet we have to accept it for what it is. Personally, I believe that, if a teacher is talented in his profession, giving out homework shouldn't be outright necessary; we go to school in order to be taught in a classroom, so why does home study enter the equation?
Of course, revising on stuff with particular resources - books, the internet, etc - at home ought to be encouraged, yet the distance between home and school life shouldn't get mixed up. Otherwise, homework will be forever begrudged for many generations to come - for too much of our time is focused on what we dislike!

And lastly, expected the unexpected. A trick that becomes easier over time, being prepared for anything helps you throughout your entire life, not just in school!

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