Posts Tagged ‘lifelong learning’

50 years on…

December 24, 2021

For some reason, it came into my head that 2022 will mark half a century (!) since I did my A levels and left school. The sense of of the relentless passage of time was rather overwhelming, and I turned to reflecting on my world of so long ago. A Catholic boarding school; no sense of health and safety or safeguarding as we know them nowadays. From the naivety of the priests who ran it, a great sense of freedom in those heady days of the late sixties and early seventies. Much discovery of music, sexuality, astonishing films on TV… laying the foundations for my student days…

And, from the good teachers there, the inspirational ones, the push to be curious, explore the world of knowledge, art and literature. An amazing French teacher, years ahead of his time, who actually concentrated on getting us to speak the language, an English teacher who allowed and encouraged us to read anything and everything, a classics teacher who gave me a lifelong love of Latin and things and places Roman. No chance of becoming a scientist: no-one to teach Maths or sciences beyond O level. Was I bothered? Only much later on did I realise what roads had never been open to me, and by then any regret was pointless, futile: I was already me.

What remains today is the abiding feeling that learning is a lifelong activity, and that humans have a developed brain and a sense of reasoning for a deliberate purpose; yes, the priests’ message was laced with religious arguments, but for me the precepts are good in a secular world too. Since I left school all those years ago, at various points in my life I have chosen to go and learn German, Italian, Spanish, Yoga, and I have taught myself the art of bread-making and learned a lot about IT. From the relatively narrow field of my A level studies, my reading has broadened out in many directions…

Perhaps such attitudes meant that it was inevitable I would become a teacher myself… I don’t know. But I do hope I passed on some of that curiosity to those I taught.

I’m conscious of how much easier life generally, and schooling in particular, was in those long-ago days. You learned what you needed to learn for the exams, practised writing essays and sat the exams. No coursework, no continuous assessment, no relentless data-based pressure to make progress, and thereby enhance the school’s results and marketability. I have no memories of stress; perhaps I was lucky – I worked out how to be organised and get things done, and those habits have stood me in good stead.

Regrets? As I’ve aged, I’ve been aware of having missed out on sport and music. Back then, if you were keen and already capable, then games teachers were interested in you and encouraged you; if, like me, you knew nothing and couldn’t play, they were completely uninterested in helping or teaching you; you were bored, ignored, shivering and freezing on the edge of the field, and your lifetime loathing of sport grew early and long. With similar friends, I learned the joys of walking and rambling; that’s it for my physical activity. Music was the same: I now wish I could play an instrument, but there was never the opportunity. My voice broke early, so I was forbidden to sing lest I put others off. Just in case anyone is envious of the simplicity and freedom of those long-gone schooldays, there were those downsides, too.

I liked school. My father, who had only four winters’ worth of Polish rural schooling to his credit, encouraged me in my learning journey and I’ve never forgotten that. Education was the gateway to the world and to possibilities.

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