Well if anyone mentions anything about school that song comes to mind, rapidly followed by any number of unpleasant memories and various pointless run ins with other kids and teachers alike. truth be told, this morning got off to a rough start anyway as I had some disturbing dreams from the past during the night anyway so my head was somewhere in the past when I caught sight of a tweet threat by OhMiaGod berating her own experiences with school.
It’s also coming up on 15 years since I last walked out of the dump of a school I had been toiling at, never to return. Truth be told, they were probably just as glad to see the last of me really. junior school was one thing, senior school, and a school where it was an all boys’ grammar school was seven years of hell, arguments, blood, tears, pain and frankly bugger all to show for it. Looking back now and knowing who I am now, it’s no surprise really.
Before going further, I need to warn you. I’m not holding back here, so warnings for mental health, and suicide. Yes, school fucked me up that badly.
I was at a grammar school but I didn’t really have the smarts for it, having scraped in simply to get away from the hooligans at my junior school who bullied me and means mum was making frequent trips across the road to give the headmistress a piece of her mind on the matter. Off to a winning start already really there. Being a socially awkward loner type who didn’t fit in and really doesn’t function at all well in a group put another bullseye on my back on top of not being bright in a conventional sense. Oh I was smart, but I have a short attention span and only really able to put my full mind to tasks that I find interesting, none of which were on the curriculum.
Being pretty naff at physical games? Yup, that’ll get you bullied too, especially while going through a puberty which you later look back on and see most of what you were feeling towards yourself was gender dysphoria, which thanks to the total lack of education regarding gender and sexuality that isn’t of the cis/hetero variety, this would go undiagnosed until years later.
Having a teacher who insisted you all showered after P.E, naked and he’d hover nearby to make sure you all went through meant I got so wound up about things I went into a state of permanently forgetting to bring my kit to school on those days and earning myself detentions every couple of weeks for non compliance. Hell, an hour after school failing at homework was childs play compared to confronting *those* confusing feelings each week. Of course, making my hatred of P.E so public meant other kids began questioning my sexuality, because of course, not liking football, hockey etc means you’re gay.
Having a personality clash with your English teacher, who only made things worse by singling you out and aggravating things further, because this is an all male environment and we love nothing more than pointless one-upmanship to assert our dominance? Guess I’m failing English that year then because the chances of me staying remotely engaged are now zero. That said I did really piss him off at the end of the year because there was one project I actually liked (devising your own directions for directing a scene in a play) which I actually put my full energy into and got one of the highest marks in my year group for it.
As I grew up I became steadily more angry, depressed, morose and introverted. punching things became all too routine, not good having already fractured both wrists in silly accidents, but testosterone poisoning does jerk things like this. GCSE choices came about, which was a laugh, because when it came down to it and after you take away all the mandatory subjects I only had two free slots, though picking French and doing a full course in I.T weren’t choices I’d have picked if anything better was available. Seriously, they were the best of a bunch of stuff I couldn’t stand. history? Nope, three years with a teacher who could put the dead to sleep with his droning killed that. P.E? Lol nope after two years of racking up non compliance detentions. Religious education? Well as by then I was perma-banned from that class , that wasn’t on. Seems turning up to that class repeatedly five minutes late, opening the door as moodily as possible and hurling your bag across the room to where you usually sat was enough to get me kicked out. Doing this five times in a row and after three detentions and my teacher had enough.
Yeah, I wanted nothing to do with Religion, even back then I could see what mess it was. I’d also recently lost my granddad and churches hold bitter memories as a result. School had this dopey prize giving service every year and marched us all off to church as a result. Mum had half heartedly said I should go into lessons that morning, feign illness and come home got get out of it. I took her at her word, did so and then forged a sick note. My year head saw through it called me to his office so he could call my parents and let them know what I’d done. Dad answered and cut him down, basically saying if I didn’t want to go to church, them I wasn’t going, and if the matter wasn’t dropped he’d come in and have words on the matter. Dad didn’t even care I’d forged a sick note, he told me he wanted us to grow up, make our own choice on religion and he’d back whatever we chose. I had chosen that day, he backed me up. Parental win.
Actually, I wanted to do art,. That got killed by my art teacher, based on the fact he made us spend the best part of two years drawing still life crap and not interesting things like comics and fantasy stuff. Funnily enough I put very little effort into the former and so my grades were deemed too crap to go into that class.
GCSE’s came and I somehow got a C grade or above in everything I sat, yes including maths, which I’m awful at and design technology, when my project didn’t even work. I even got an A for Spanish, not that I’ve ever had to use that in real life. Evidently I had the grades to go on and do A levels. What I should have done is saw ‘Fuck that’ and gone and got a job. I’m surprised school didn’t tell me to get lost by then really. I was still a socially awkward misfit who didn’t fit in anywhere and wasn’t really applying myself to my subjects. I picked A levels. FML.
Now, returning to do A levels, we got this big speech on how it was our own choice to be at school, as A levels weren’t mandatory and some guff bout being treated more like young adults. Riiiight. My first day back, my Spanish teacher spend the first lesson teaching us how to swear in Spanish out of the way, reasoning we’d figure it out sooner of later. Incidentally, knowing how to blaspheme in Spanish isn’t terribly useful for everyday life, but oh well. I also had an argument with my biology teacher, who by now had been my teacher for four years and I had spent all too many a lesson doodling and not paying attention only to leave him dumbfounded every time he tried to catch me out with a snap question to make me look silly in front of class and I answered correctly. He reasoned we should be putting in the best part of 30 hours a week outside school time across our subjects. I snidely made a comment about some of us liking a social life outside school. Ironic coming from me of all people and even more ironic as I was one of the chief offenders when it came to not doing homework in his previous classes. You can see this is going to end well.
Six weeks in or so and struggling with the workload, as well as the fact my English literature course was hamstrung by it being spread across three teachers who didn’t coordinate the workloads they were assigning upon us, one teacher who was even more monotonous than my former history teacher, allied to some of the worst books I’ve ever had to read did me in. Seriously, try reading Hard Times and *not* throw the book across the room after reading a couple of pages for being so tedious.
I had four other subjects (Spanish, Business Studies, Biology and General Studies) going. This was they year the AS level and League Tables for schools were introduced, so there was a lot of pressure put upon us to do well. I went to my hear heads (yes, both of them) and said I wanted to drop English and take a short course in another subject, thinking that as a young adult and my education being my choice now I could do this. I got told no and sod off in no uncertain terms, but I persisted. Eventually they said they needed my parents to come in and discus the issue. I went home and mum and dad agreed to come in one afternoon and discuss this with my year head. As soon as they came in, my year head dropped the matter and I was free to do something else, rather than waste any more time on a subject I was clearly not getting on with. That right, my SELF EMPLOYED parents both took an afternoon off from work for a meeting that was done in five minutes and was totally uncalled for. To say the three of us were annoyed was an understatement.
I spent the remainder of that year struggling along, falling further behind and with increasing mental health issues. I somehow scraped through the end of year exams, including Biology, somehow. My final year at school beckoned and knowing I was going to fail Biology if I continued as it was branching into areas I was weak at anyway I decided to swap it out for another AS level. once again, I got the ‘No, sod off’ treatment from my year heads and I snapped. This time I wasn’t going to drag my parents in and waste their time, I took things into my own hands. I decided I would fail in the most spectacular way I could think of, as this would hurt the school’s score on this precious league table they kept bleating on about.
Most of my biology lessons were spent either in a local cafe or weather permitting out in the countryside somewhere. I cycled to school so it didn’t take me long to take myself a couple of miles away somewhere, with books, doodle pad and walkman to while away my time.Most of the teachers weren’t local to my town, so I knew endless places to go where they wouldn’t come looking for me, as they frequently trawled the high street, the local supermarket and so on for other pupils who’d gone A.W.O.L during the day. it worked, I was never caught in the act, though I got the frequent “I know you weren’t in lessons but I can’t do anything as I don’t know where you were instead” from my year heads.
Of course, this eventually spiralled out into my other classes too. School reports that were filled with ever more exasperated lamentations never got to my parents as by then I had gotten good at forging mum’s signature (sorry mum), my attendance got ever more sketchy and my mental health was being steadily worn down by having keep going to a place I now detested, as well as the growing revulsion as to what my body was becoming as puberty wore on.
Throw in a pretty disastrous relationship with a guy I’d been introduced to by a friend and a pretty gnarly Christmas where at one point I got so irritated I barricaded myself in my room I had enough. I tried to take my own life after being diagnosed with depression, put on medication which seemed to only aggravate this and having also been warned that if I lost any more weight I’d be looking at being hospitalised. By then I had fallen to 8 and a half stone, which is not good when you’re near six feet tall, but I had zero appetite and couldn’t bring myself for force myself to eat. I won’t go into how I tried to end things, only that it didn’t work.
The school year wore on and on one of the increasingly rare days I turned up I got called into my year heads office. Cue a lecture on how I was throwing my education away, how I’d end up like some homeless person in the local park and so on. He also brought up my attention span issues. It was well known I had ADHD as a kid and to this day I still have issues with my attention span. Mum and dad mitigated things as much as they could by changing my diet as a kid as E numbers in food were a big trigger. My year head, knowing all this made some crass and needless remark about how I was of the ‘Ritalin generation’. How I didn’t thump him one for saying that I still don’t know. Needless to say this meeting was pretty well finished by then, by me shrugging and walking away, much to my year head’s annoyance.
A couple of weeks later and in a rare moment where I was actually trying to do some work I get a message from a runner to go see the same year head. I shrugged and said he can come find me as I was busy. I had zero desire to speak to him again. Ten minutes later he arrived, asked me to confirm what I had said and informed me my study leave for exams was cancelled. Comical really. How was he going to enforce that when he’d spectacularly failed to enforce my attendance the rest of that year?
Breaking up time came and I went on study leave, along with everyone else. Well I say study leave. I either sat at home, listening to music, playing guitar, computer games or working for mum and earning a lot more than a paper round would have got me. The exams came round and I ensured failure in Biology by not turning up for the exam. It sounds petty but after the past year at school, failure felt good. Mum and dad finally found out the extent of how badly I was doing at school at that point and I explained how I decided to handle things on my terms rather than drag them in again, because being annoyingly stubbornly independent is what I do well.
Results came a couple of months later. C For Spanish, D for Business Studies and the same for General Studies. To this day I have not used any of them for any practical purpose, likewise with most of my GCSE’s. I got into care work at the age of 29 and over the next two years I completed an NVQ 2 and 3 in health and Social Care, among other short courses. Not bad for an errant misfit who spent seven years being psychologically and physically traumatised by her school who was destined to become a park bum.
Funnily enough, a year after left school for good, they contacted dad as they were snooping around, wanting to know what their former pupils were up to for their records. Dad bluntly told them to go jump and that if I wanted then to know what I was doing, I would contact them. To this day this hasn’t happened and probably never will. Ought to be a riot if I did show up one day, right? I can only hope school has changed for the better since I left really.