The life lessons they imparted were the confidence to communicate well, self-worth, a positive, open mind and a resilience and determination to find the right path to a fulfilling life.
Education, education, education – let's turn up the tension. Well, it's September, the month when a great swathe of society (children, young adults, their families and teachers) have to get their heads into gear. Another testing academic year stretches ahead. I wish boundless belief, stamina and optimism for each and every one of them.
But dwell on a truth... on what it must be like living constantly on the borderline; you know, being one of the doubting teenagers really struggling with the stern ESO or baccalaureate challenges, when nothing is gifted and nothing is clear, particularly in this bleak era of unemployment. My heart goes out to them and those within the schools and at home who care deeply and who have to consider very carefully their influence on this complex, timeless rite of passage.
Maybe you were a student on the borderline. I was, albeit in a different education system, in a different epoch. But the maelstrom was the same. Can I make the grade? Is there a point? What will I be? I sweated, struggled and muddled through somehow, both the education and the raw and personal teenage emotions of identity and worth, driven to a greater extent by the opinion and belief of others more than my own, if I am honest.
What made the difference, what drove me on, carried me through the darkest times, were the discussions and interest shown away from the core curriculum, from the people who were encouraging, concerned and supportive, who kept me believing and who instilled their belief in me – my parents and some vital teachers. And they had my attention because I liked and respected them and felt this was mutual.
The life lessons they imparted were the confidence to communicate well, self-worth, a positive, open mind and a resilience and determination to find the right path to a fulfilling life. Everyone, they said, is good at something if we believe in ourselves and strive. They instilled values that have held me in good stead to this day. No person is better than another. We all walk at a different pace. One never stops learning. It was a distinct, vital perspective away from that within the rigidity of the state's definition of an education.
How on earth my under-pressure teachers found the time to connect not just with me but with a great many pupils is a mystery. Yet more unfathomable is how any teacher under the pressures of today can do this. But some of them still do. Both my children found mentors at their institute, to whom my family is eternally grateful.
But it is such an enormous ask these days. On the one hand our economy-obsessed society targets younger and younger children as bone fide consumers with all the toys and ploys possible regardless of the depressing consequences, and on the other it cannot afford the time for a holistic preparation for the shock of imminent independence. Or, rather, establish the invaluable worth of inter-dependence in tandem with sure-footed self-worth.
The system is all about results and needs to be. But a vital result is the motivation of young people through having the time to listen and focus on the individual, to build trust and to talk about life, a life that is rolling on apace and is about to come into sharp focus.
But both teachers and students are starved of this essential time, while at the same time loving parents find economic pressure forces them both to work, and all important family and home time evaporates.
Meanwhile, the values the dominant marketers instil are materialism, image and electronic communication which are no replacements for real communication, real values and the life skills so necessary for a healthy, caring society.
It is a matter of wellness on all levels, a discussion long overdue. Forgive me if I come back to it next month. In the meantime let me know your views.