Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Huw's School Days

I went through all the old school stuff in my bedroom at my parents' house today. You know, all the stuff you were told by your parents not to just throw out when you finished school, as “it might be useful one day”. Yes, that’s right – all of my science books containing my clearly bored and incomplete scrawlings on Brownian Motion and how to draw electrical circuits. Thank goodness I kept them: finally, I can put my mind at rest as to how best get a perspective on the wonder of random collisions between molecules or indicate the presence of a resistor.

There was some stuff I’d kept which was just stupid, like my Maths books. Obviously, it must have felt a bit sacrilegious for the teenage post GCSE me to throw them out after the hair-tearing anxiety the contents had cost me, as surely it wasn’t due to any desire to revisit simultaneous equations. But the thing was, at no point in my book did it say how or why to do simultaneous equations (or solve tricky Loci puzzles, or apply the sin curve) – it was just full of answers to unseen questions and problems from textbooks.

And speaking of unseen, perhaps the most pointless bits of work I’d kept were my answers from English Language and Literature exams on unseen texts and poems. What had I been thinking? That one day I’d look back and reminisce “Ah yes, Unseen Text A and B, what a joy they were to study, compare and contrast in that brief 10 minute period between turning over my exam paper and beginning to frantically write any old tosh about assonance. Fond memories.” ?

So, two bin bag fulls later and I’ve managed to purge myself of most of the junk I’d needlessly amassed from my 11-18 education. Next up is the Uni lecture notes, most of which I’m sure will be as pointless a collection of doodles as you could care to read, consisting of as they will a title and date (something like “Postmodern Perspectives on the Feminist Branch of Gestalt: Focault’s Perspective Lecture 4 Feb 9th 02”), a brief attempt at defining the topic, a gap in the notes as I realise having not done the required reading I don’t know what’s going on, a further gap in the notes as I notice that a particular girl across the lecture hall is looking more/less fit than usual, a further gap to text someone on the peculiarities of fitness variance, and then probably an unflattering sketch of the lecturer.

Back to the stuff I’ve rooted through though, it’s prompted the recollection of some long lost memories. Stuff like me and my friend Laura’s unfathomable obsession with the pleasing nature of the name FW de Clerk which required us to graffiti each other’s work with declarations of love for the great man whilst we were suppost to be plotting timelines of South Africa's last 200 years. Upon seeing some of my old A-level English Literature work, I remember the sinking feeling of doom I felt time upon time as piece after piece of work got handed back to me graded with a seemingly never improving D- together with the bewildering comment of “Encouraging!” attached (that turned out okay in the end though). Oh, and a project on the Amish we had to do when we were 14 (btw – see here happy shoppers): why the hell were they teaching us about such an obscure strand of religion in a school in the south of England? Sure, it was a good excuse to get to see Kelly McGillis’ rack in Witness, but seeing as I didn’t even realise that Muslim and Islam aren’t the names of two separate religions until I’d long left school, perhaps there were more pertinent topics we could have been studying?

What really struck me though was the prevalence of one certain topic which managed to pop up in Geography, Humanities, Science and even Maths. It’s funny how you never hear much about acid rain anymore...


deanne said...

Hm - my mother still has my old spelling books from when I was about 6, purely for sentimental reasons (I assume!).

Shane said...

Hello Huw. I liked this post. You are linked.

I agree re the way in which 'FW de Clerk' sings in the ear. Also related to your post, I like the word 'quadratic'.

A related note of buffoonery: At primary school, after our weekly class 5 spelling test (in which we scored out of 20) the teacher would note our scores and we would then troop forth one-by-one to get an ink stamp in our spelling test booklets. There were 3 stamps to choose from - 'Excellent', 'Improving' and the ignominious 'Try Harder'. Gladly, the first of these was most familiar to me. However, regardless of the sequence of any child's scores, the teacher would stamps as follows:-

19 or 20/20: Excellent
17 or 18/20: Improving
16 or below: Try Harder

That it did not occur to the teacher that a child scoring lots of 19s and 20s would find it odd to receive an 'Improving' stamp upon a dip in form (17 or 18) baffled me. Now, I think of it as disappointing.

Good day.

Claire said...

Ah the good old days of scribbling over each other's GCSE homework about something much more important and my case usually something connected with music. I did a similar clear out about a year ago and took great pleasure in disposing of books that I hadn't even thought about let alone found useful since leaving school. The worst thing I found though...reports!! Seeing all of my teachers complain about my shoddy handwriting when theirs was barely legible was something I found so amusing I've actually kept the reports stored away in Mum's attic for a rainy day!