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. 

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So are school days the best days of your life?

So are school days the best days of your life?

My simple answer is No! I hated every minute of school, reckoned it only thought me how to read, write, add up and get out of bed on time. All things I could and would have learnt as part of growing up without the need for some egotistical teacher to annoy me. Anyway the purpose of this post is today marks a big milestone in my son’s life. He has finished secondary school (High school) and received his final results from his state exams. 

He may not have done as well as he hoped but he still has plenty of options. When I finished school back in 1984, those same options were not available and jobs were hard to find. But I managed to get a job, which led to another job and finally a 23 year career in the Irish Defence Forces. Regrets? Absolutely none. If college was an option back then I more than likely would have had to go, but I wouldn’t have wanted to. 

Fast forward to 2004, I made a decision to get some college education before I turned 40, I gave myself 3 years to achieve this and considering I had very little academic leanings, the first part was tough. Learning how to write and present college assignments was hard but I achieved my first certificate a year later, scoring quite high. I wanted to do better, do more. But the clincher for me was I was more mature than 18, I was choosing a subject matter I had a real interest in and I wanted to succeed. 

What followed was a 1 year Diploma in Public Relations with an added Diploma in Event Management. Again I loved the course, the learning, the classmates I met and am still in touch with today. What I didn’t enjoy was 6 exams in a few short days but I got over it and done really well. I was learning my strengths and weaknesses, assignments and projects were my strength, exams and study my weakness. I had achieved my goal of getting a National Diploma before I turned 40. 

And so my career in the Defence Forces ended a day I had some spare time on my hands so I decided to go and try get my Degree in Media. I done a 1 year introduction Diploma, getting Distinctions in nearly every module. I followed this up with a 2 year Higher Diploma, equivalent to an Associate Degree here in the USA, and again I achieved Distinctions in nearly all modules except 2, in which I received Merits. This is from someone who only passed subjects in school and walked away with 5 D’s and a F in his Leaving Cert. 

Fair enough it is a different world now, and college is readily available, but maybe it is wasted on 17/18/19 year olds only out of school. I know it definitely would have been on me and I wouldn’t have got the results I did get if I had gone to college at 17 instead of 40 ish. 

I still have one more goal, my Honors degree but that will have to wait a while, maybe a long while. But to anyone struggling with results today and limited options, remember, Rome wasn’t built in day, you can always come back and do college, more mature, stronger and brighter. 

And lastly I am a proud Dad, Robert completed school, done his exams, gave it his best shot and is about to start on a whole new chapter in his life, he is no longer a schoolboy, but a young adult. Love you son. Hold your head up high, be proud of yourself and who you have become and enjoy being a young adult.