(I am aware that this title makes our education system that’s the envy of the majority of our planet seem like a plague-like entity to be avoided and destroyed with some form of chemical weaponry, so don’t bother pointing out the total snobbishness of this post, or indeed the snobbishness of this very sentence, that I only picked up upon in editing, but didn’t feel compelled to change)
School sucks, fundamentally because it’s a mixture of the first time you have to deal with structure and deadlines in your life, often a structure imposed upon you against your will, which just antagonises you towards and distances you from the entire concept of education, and the weird mix of life experimentation and general ‘not giving a toss’ of teenage life.
However, with these tips (or, more likely, actual ideas you form yourself from your own experiences that are much more relevant to you than this piece of garbage wrapped in an eloquent header), you should find your education tolerable, if not halfway enjoyable!
1) Choose extra-curricular activities
This isn’t to make yourself ‘more appealing’ to Universities or employers, because in all honesty, Cambridge doesn’t care that you were in Chess club in year eight, but these activities help make your education more personal to yourself; it’s no longer exclusively a series of lessons and deadlines you don’t care about imposed on you by people you don’t like, but there are things you enjoy and that you chose in there as well.
Also, it genuinely helps make friends, because you are grouped with people with similar interests, rather than grouped with people of a similar age, who do not inherently share any characteristics – we can’t even coordinate puberty for God’s sake. Even if you don’t actually make friends at these clubs, you’ll still be around a crowd of people similar to yourself, which can help you settle into the school, because everyone’s more comfortable around people like themselves.
2) Treat your teachers as people
Because they are. At the majority of schools, the teachers are teaching because they couldn’t make it in their preferred careers – Physics teachers probably couldn’t get into engineering, so they took up teaching; History teachers didn’t have any of their work published, so they took up teaching. This certainly isn’t true for all teachers, and some have been dedicated to teaching from a young age, but if your English teacher spends their morning drowning their sorrows in a cup of cheap coffee while crying into their anthology of quirky and sophisticated confessional poetry that is loved by poetry hipsters but was a commercial failure, the last thing they want to do is go an try to convince 13-year-olds that Shakespeare is cool, or stop them from eating pencils.
Ultimately, you wouldn’t shout out stuff at a mate while they’re talking, so don’t do it with someone who’s trying to educate you for free; this way, you avoid the vicious cycle of being disliked by the teacher, then getting bad grades, then committing some suspension-worthy atrocity in their lesson.
3) Don’t worry about exams until February
Your teachers, those of you doing GCSEs and A-levels, will tell you from the very start of your courses to keep an eye on exam technique, essay structure and timings. This is nonsense. If the academic year runs September to July, the ‘teaching’ year will run from September to May, before exams start. You’ll notice that exam technique, while important, can be learned and mastered within a few months, compared to the textbooks of knowledge you simply have to learn by heart over the course of the year.
It may differ for you, but I found that grinding through the entire, or most of the, course in the first two-thirds of the year means I can approach the exams with five solid months of knowledge that has built up over the course of the year, to the extent that I can rattle off the 753,234,596 processes that go into forming a God-forsaken meander without revising, and the more short-term, specific knowledge of how to structure this particular essay for this particular question.
That being said, do at least listen to your teachers if they say do otherwise; they have degrees in education, I’ve not even got a degree full stop.
4) Find a very long-term hobby
One of the hardest bits of school for me was the sudden, annual realisation on about the 14th of November, that half the year was done, and we’d not even finished a third of the course, and these exams are really important for my future, and all the rest of it; at times, it’s good to just get your head down and work, moving from one menial homework task to the next, as this can be reassuring. Having things to do all the time removes those awkward hours on the weekends where you’ve not got work to do, but think you should be doing work, and then you get confused and start marathoning Doctor Who.
Similarly, if you have a hobby that either can’t ever be completed, or will take forever to complete, you can easily while away hours doing this, rather than having those scary periods of indecision: I would recommend marathoning all of Chuggaaconroy’s Let’s Plays, starting a new save on Football Manager or Warhammer. Yup, seriously.
5) Make a Facebook conversation for your classes
This will probably only work when you’re doing A-levels and only have four or so lessons in total, otherwise it’ll just get difficult to keep up with all of the groups, but this is a great way to share ideas for work, and work itself; especially at A-level, with the focus on all subjects being on wider reading and critical responses to ideas, as well as the basic reading and learning of facts.
Also, it adds a social element to the work; not only can you get work done together easily, and lighten each of your loads, but it’s even easier than ever to get distracted as a group by hilarious history-related things like this, this or even this, which can hardly be a bad thing.
Also, I’m aware exams aren’t for another five months or so; that way, you have time to try my ideas and find out they suck, while still having enough time to actually revise! Hooray!