State Exams! 

State Exams! 

Well today marks a very important day back home in Ireland, the state Exams start. Traditionally this was a day that the weather was always lovely, sun shining and clear blue skies would bless Ireland for a week or so as the students in secondary (high school equivalent) schools suffered through their exams. The Junior cert, for students half way through secondary school, is just a stepping stone exam to the Leaving cert two years later. 

Now the Leaving Cert is a whole different kettle of fish. It decides your college placement, if that is the route you choose and most do go that direction, but I don’t think it is the be all and end all that it is made out to be. Yes, kids should study and try to do the best they can, but the stress put on some kids is unreal. 

Back in the time when I sat the Leaving Cert, college wasn’t an option, unemployment was quite high among school leavers and immigration was a huge option for lots. I was lucky and got a job straight from school and worked constantly till I retired from the Defence Forces 25 years later. Did I have a brilliant Leaving, not a chance as myself and school never really seen eye to eye. I done what I had to do to get through it and get out the far side. I passed the exams with the minimum requirements and it was done. It would be a little over 20 years later that I would return to education and go to college. 

So the question is, did the leaving cert help? Of course it did, it gave me basic learning skills, reading, writing etc, it gave me discipline to get up every morning and go do something, it taught me how to behave and it gave me friends I still keep in touch with now. 

And back to today, my son sits his Leaving for the 2nd time, making a decision last August to give it another shot rather than go to college and do a course he may not have been happy in or liked or just take a year out altogether. I admire him for making that decision and it couldn’t have been easy. But he is now a year older, a year wiser and knows what to expect from the 2 weeks of exams. 

I will finish by wishing everyone doing exams the best of luck and just do your best. It isn’t a life defining time but give it your best and see what transpires at results time in August. 

Just a note on school days! 

Just a note on school days! 

So after my post the other day where I led with school days are not the best days of your life, well I don’t really change that opinion and some of the teachers I had were pure mad and/or evil. But to clarify, I also had some great teachers who cajoled, nurtured and guided as they knew I hated school but they still helped me get through it as best they could and to the best I wanted to. 

Even in college my lecturers were great at guiding me through adult education, which believe me wasn’t easy but with the help of lecturers and classmates I made it through it and done a lot better than I had ever done in school. Being more mature, older even, going to college helped a lot as I choose exactly what subject matter I wanted to study and worked hard to achieve the results I knew I was capable of. It took the hard work and study hours to get the results in exams and assignments but I enjoyed it as I enjoyed the subjects I had chosen. 

I know a lot of teachers, even my mother in law was a teacher, so I wouldn’t tarnish them all with the same brush of being egotistical, mad or evil. A lot, and more than likely the vast majority are brilliant educators but I was talking about 1970’s and 1980’s Ireland were corporal punishment in schools was considered the norm. And remember if you got a whack of a leather from a teacher, the chances are you were going to get another one when you got home, innocent or not! 

Above is a typical leather strap that was used in schools for years. I had one teacher who wore it strapped to his belt and could draw it faster than a western movie cowboy to give you a clip of it across the arm as he walked passed you if you were looking around or not concentrating on class. 

I won’t say I was bullied or worse as some children were but my school days were not my favourite time of my life. Now I am older and can look back on it, I still can say they are not the best days of your life. To all the past and present teachers I know, good luck in the hard thankless job you do and I am glad education has moved on from where it was in the 70’s and 80’s in Ireland.