Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain


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Free of shorthand. Normality resumes.

So it’s no big secret that I have always wanted to live in a musical. Not be in a musical but actually live in one. Shorthand revision has kind of destroyed my life and yesterday I received the best news in the world, I passed my 100 words per minute. It is probably the biggest achievement of my life.

I mean I’m proud of the driving license and the fact I was able to save enough to buy my car (despite it being old enough to be someone’s grandmother – if it were a human obviously), my degree and my wonderful job and the fact I’ve been able to keep some great friends despite my inability to hold it together and organise a meet up without planning four things for the same time. But shorthand was bloody hard and I probably had more breakdowns revising and practising for my 100wpm than I have ever had in my life, and that is saying something – I was pretty dramatic as a teenager.

Anyway I’ve passed and I’m so happy that I don’t quite believe it’s happened. I keep checking my results to make sure it hasn’t changed and so far, so good.

My pass means that I am slowly returning to the real world where I actually have free time to do what I want and where I don’t have to finish work and then go and work some more. It’s nice, I forgot what life without revision feels like. It’s pretty sweet and the thing that’s really nice is I am spending time with my family again and once I feel I have caught up with them, I’ll be able to catch up with my friends. It’s nice to have time. Time to do what I want and to have spare time to ‘waste’ doing nothing at all.

Blogging can now resume and I’m going to try really hard to get back to how it was before I fell off the face of the Earth and landed in Shorthand Land (do not let the rhyme fool you into thinking it is a happy place). I feel like Andy in The Shawshank Redemption (SPOILER) after he crawls through all that shit to escape prison and he looks up to the sky as the rain cleans it all off. Shorthand is my metaphorical shit, I am Andy, and my pass is the rain cleaning it all off me.

Here’s to hard work paying off, the desperate determination to achieve and everything working out in the end. Shorthand is done, 100 words per minute completed and normality resumes.


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Leaving Education

I want to start this post off with an apology. An apology for my lack of blogging rants and rambles. I’m sure you haven’t missed me and therefore will have no need to read my explanation. But I’m still going to explain. Exam week is upon me, and this is the first time, in what feels like a long time, that I have actually had time to just sit and let my thoughts wander without guilt for not revising or interruption from nerves. The worst of it is done and I only have two exams left: one tomorrow and one next Friday. I have time again to read and enjoy my spare time.

Soon my textbooks and notes will be packed away permanently and I’ll be able to start work, properly, at my local newspaper. I’m really excited to start but I’m also excited to be able to leave the office, and not feel guilty for not doing work at home. If I do work from home (which I already know I will, I like to keep busy), it will be because I want to, because I’m hunting for a story that I can’t let go off or because I want to get ahead. It will be a question of switching on the jetpacks rather than just trying to keep up in the race.

This will be the first time I am properly out of education. I have been in school or some sort of educational institution since I was five years old. I’m now 21. That’s 16 years. It’s a very long time. But it does feel like it’s paid off in some way. Going to university and then taking this journalism course has taught me a lot about myself and my drive and that I’m a lot more like my dad than I realised. It has confirmed to me that journalism is what I want to do.

It will be good to leave something where expectations of what you deserve are always high. You expect a good standard of teaching; you expect teachers to, practically, spoon-feed you information; you expect it to be entertaining so you’re not bored; you expect it to be done for you. Education has become a bit of a complacent subject in many people’s minds. The fact it is compulsory makes people believe that it’s a life requirement. It may be a human right but not everyone is as fortunate. Education has just become one of those things to get through.

Standardised testing developed league tables and school has become more of a military operation to get those A’s and those passes so that they climb higher in a ladder designed by the institutions higher up. It doesn’t matter about how you’ve grown or how you’ll survive when you actually have to deal with people that aren’t paid to be fair to you and teach you things. It is all about the piece of paper with the various numbers or letters that you are given at the end of your time.

It sounds very dramatic and I am very much aware I am fulfilling all the literature graduate stereotypes I could by writing the following, but it feels a little like a horse with blinkers on. Education gives you a goal: to pass, to move onto the next step. A little like rolling the dice and hoping your number is enough to get you to the Free Parking on the Monopoly board. You go through the system, turning and stopping and starting when you’re told to and then you reach the end. The blinkers are removed. You can see. It’s a sense of freedom that only comes when you’re finally given control of your own life and choices; when you’re young and all you’ve ever known is classes and homework that can be a terrifyingly brilliant prospect.

Right now I’m still in the tunnel of exams, squinting my eyes to see the light. I can’t wait to be done with it. I’ve really enjoyed my course but having too much of anything soon makes it lose it’s flavour. That’s what I feel like with a institutional education. I’m done, it served me very well and I enjoyed the majority of it. It was a great part of my life but it’s time to shut that door. I want to now learn through the real world, through making my own mistakes, through hearing those of others. I want to now walk on that board game that is our existences and choose where my next step is.

So thank you educational system for giving me the basics I needed. You could be better, but so could I. I’m grateful I got a chance to walk through your channels almost to the top of that imaginary ladder everyone likes to use in their metaphors (the top is a PhD right? Could NOT have done that, just thinking about it hurts my brain).

I’m very appreciative I got to ride the educational merry-go-round. But I’m looking forward to getting off, and going to find another.


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Why growing up isn’t that bad

When you’re a child, all you can think of is how you want to be a grown up and do grown up things like drive a car and watch television whenever you want. Little problems such as car tax and crappy programming isn’t a concern because the OPTION is there and that’s what it’s all about: options.

When you’re a teenager, you think you’re grown up and life is, like, SO stressful because of all the grown up things you need to handle and all those grown up feelings you’re experiencing that you never felt before. Then you have the thought that you can’t wait to grow up because of your parents, and school and all those things that make life hard when you’re 15 and will disappear when you’re older and as cool as those pictures you see on tumblr. (I still want to be as cool as some of the photos of the people, clothes and houses on tumblr).

When you’re classed as a ‘young adult’ (which is a weird term right? Or is that just me?) you become a little bit terrified of growing up. Mainly because it sounds scary and by this time you realise there are things like tax, terrible pay and lots of responsibilities and you realise you don’t want anything to do with all those adult things. That’s the last real, strong thought you have about being an adult. It makes you queasy and nervous and adulthood does not seem to be filled with the excitement and promise it had when you were five years old.

But then you get to a point as a ‘young adult’ where you’re practically a grown up but still doing the crappy things that young people need to do. The word exams buzzes like a neon light but it isn’t anywhere as pretty as those cool, vintage signs. I am at that stage and I have come up with the top three reasons why being a grown up isn’t as bad as people make it out to be.

You get to do what you want to do

I know most young people nowadays have a lot more freedom than they used to and I know most think they can do what they want anyway so this isn’t a big change. But it is. When you’re a grown up, you answer to your parents out of respect rather than because you have to – it’s more of a habit than them teaching you how to be in life. When you’re a grown up you get to chose how you live your life, what you study (if you do), where you work, what you watch, what you wear, who you talk to and where you go. I mean, the negative is that you can’t really blame your mistakes on anyone else because that doesn’t really cut it but, at the same time, every achievement and every adventure is yours alone.

You get money

Obviously this doesn’t happen as soon as you become a grown up. You’re not handed a cheque and told “congratulations, you’re an adult.” That would be absolutely amazing but no, you get money in exchange for work. Work, when it is a part-time job and not the job of your dreams, will be tedious within the first week but that monthly paycheque will feel like it’s sent from the Gods. It will probably be one of the happiest moments of your life. I’m not even kidding. As a person who is not driven by money, I still remember the excited, joyful feeling I got at 16 when I received my first paycheque.

You never have to do exams

Unless you become a doctor then ignore this. But if you’re a normal person then this will be one of the best things ever about growing up. No more revision, no more frustrating hours spent looking at notes and never feeling satisfied that you know enough. Never having to spend two hours writing as much as possible about everything you can remember on the subject. I. Can’t. Wait.

I mean there’s more obviously. The whole driving thing is pretty cool and the whole following your dreams (career wise and personal wise) is probably the single bestest thing ever about growing up but these, I feel, will apply to most grown ups and grown ups to be.

Growing up isn’t terrifying, it’s exciting and I feel like I am back to my five year old self where the grown up world is thrilling and full of promise. The only awkward thing is that I’m not quite sure when you actually know that you’ve entered the land of the grown ups. Should I expect my certificate of entry in the post?


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Exams don’t really mean anything

GCSEs, the exams given to sixteen year olds in England taking their final exams before leaving school are being changed. Actually, they’re being removed. Instead the English Baccalaureate will be introduced with students sitting big exams that count for the whole year from 2015.

Coursework will be scrapped and students will be tested purely on their ability to do well in these end of year exams. Which means they’re not really a test of intelligence or even the ability to do well in academia. They are simply a memory test, testing the ability of a person to drill information into their brains to then regurgitate out onto the fifteen page test paper. That’s it.

Exams don’t really mean anything.

I was pretty lucky in school as I didn’t really struggle. Everything was quite natural and I didn’t need to work very hard to stay on top in the grade boards. I did, of course, but I only studied for the subjects I knew I struggled with. I was fifteen/sixteen and although I loved school, I wasn’t as committed as I should have been in an ideal world. Obviously I became a better student, a more determined and focused one when I realised that school was easy sailing in comparison.

Exams aren’t my favourite thing in the world. In England we start school at six and are tested pretty much from day one. It’s the need to be graded and put on a leader board. A letter or a number, depending on your grade system, will tell you how much you’re worth in school. It’s not the best indicator either.

You don’t need to test students so much to be able to tell who are those that are struggling and who are excelling. That can be seen in class and with the work set there. In the real world there are goals and aims. Schools can show this through targets rather than exams.

Someone that can be amazing at tests and being subjected to examinations isn’t necessarily smarter than the person that doesn’t get the highest marks. Someone that doesn’t do well in exams that test teaching done throughout the entire academic year, represents maybe a memory not as strong as someone that does better. It doesn’t show that they are stupid.

Exams don’t really mean anything. They are a means to an end. The government like statistics and like to be able to tell the rest of the population: ‘look 70% of students across the land have achieved A*’s to C. That’s a 10% increase on last year! YAY! Go us, look how well we’re doing- teaching your kids very few life skills but teaching them how to effectively pass an exam! YAY!’ (Statistics and actual comment completely made up but something completely feasible as to what appears during exam results time). As a result, it means that tests need to be done to give the government some way of measuring the school system.

It isn’t the most effective way of course, and it isn’t what education should be about: statistics. But, as I come to slowly realise, where humans are involved so are numbers. If schools were improved and massive yearly exams removed then the government would not be able to effectively measure anything in a fast, effective and efficient way (in money and time).

Exams don’t mean anything in measuring a  student’s further success or brain power. Most of the exams I did well in not that long ago, I would probably not be able to do now. Not because I am stupid but because there are specific things you need to know to attain a GCSE that you will never need to know in life. It’s hopefully retained for that school year, written, then pushed to the back of your brain, forgotten slowly as you become occupied with other exams and bits of useless information, the space then filled with actual knowledge and experience.

Exams may feel like a big deal, and they are in a way, because until you can become smart enough and powerful enough to change the system, you have to play along. But in the grand scheme of things, in the ‘life map,’ exams are nothing major. They may show where you come in a pretty unfitting educational system but they do not determine intelligence.

To be something, you have to do something or say something worthy. An ‘A’ in a test does not stop you from being an amazing person. It does not put barriers up. If you want to do it, then you can. Don’t let a grade decided by people that haven’t been in schooling for at least 20 years determine what you do. Not getting an ‘A’ isn’t the end of the world, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re an idiot.

This is exactly what I mean. Until you are 16 (at least) most of the things you learn are purely to let you pass an exam.


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My current situation in images

I have exams and they are sucking away my creativity and ideas for writing at the moment. It seems the more revision I have, the better my ability to procrastinate but the lesser my creativity, basically I have a drained brain. The correlation between procrastination ability and amount of revision to do is strong. A direct result of this correlation I speak of is below: my current situation in 10 wonderful pictures.

If I could credit these images to someone I would but sadly all have been saved during my lifetime online and I have no idea where I found them all!

I wake up realising that although the sun is out, I will not be enjoying it. No. I will be indoors reading up on Relevance Theory or lots of poetry and novels written before the 19th century. Yay.

I write out my to do list. It’s depressing. So I re-write my to do list, adding things I’ve already done onto it, so I can at least cross something off.

I realise I don’t have as much time as I thought I did, to do everything I want to do. So I begin by browsing the web: Facebook, blogs, tumblr, Pinterest, The Guardian…you name it.

I start reading through my first set of notes, out of what feels like millions and feel like this…

I force myself to work. Reading, rewriting, re-reading, rewriting and re-reading my notes. It’s painful, especially when I remind myself I’m paying for this. I asked for this. Urgh.

I work hard but the more I do, the more there is. Then I worry that nothing is going in and I won’t remember anything in the exam anyway.

I have no idea if I’m actually being productive by working in this way so I panic. I panic quietly though so that I don’t disturb the boy as he revises. Quiet panic is another talent I have mastered during this exam season.

I eat dinner with the boy. Although nothing that looks like Elmo and not just vegetables. That’s not a full meal. That’s a snack.

Great in theory. So I do more work until bedtime but my brain is drained and exhausted, it’s already decided for me usually by 9 – 10pm that enough is enough.

Revision never ends and I never feel like I’ve done enough. Instead I feel like this and I don’t even care.

Then it starts all over again. This is why I am  not a lover of revision and why I dread exams. The emotional rollercoaster of a fear of failing, a not giving a shit, slight insanity and hysteria at realising you have so much to do, a misplaced pride that you’ve done enough then a regret that you don’t actually feel like you’ve done enough can break anyone. So there you have it, my day in only 10 images. It ain’t pretty I know.


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Why I hate revision

I’m going to keep this short because frankly I’ve done enough of revision that talking about it just seems like some sort of twisted self-torture. I have been in education for a long time (even though I am only 20). As a result I have done a lot of exams which have needed some sort of revision in order for my brain to feel somewhat prepared, which it inevitably never does feel.

Revision was something I didn’t do much of at 16 when I was doing my GCSEs. I revised what I struggled with and the subjects I knew I wanted to do well on and may not if I didn’t revise. This still took up a hell of a lot of time and wasn’t fun but I did it. College came and this time I revised pretty hard, so hard in fact that I felt that I needed to be put into a Tibetan monastery after just to calm the stress of all the revising. Now I’m at university and in my final year. Two years of revising like my exams were life and death and I find myself doing the exact same thing this year.

Reading notes, highlighting notes, copying notes, rereading notes, researching note, rewriting notes…and the cycle continues. There is no end. It’s kind of like The Neverending Story; but cruel with no happy, flying, white, fluffy dragon that you can ride on to scare your bullies (or revision in this case) into a huge, smelly bin. Revision is just a continuous cycle reminding yourself that although you tried really hard this year, it still isn’t enough. Your exams are still shit scary and failure is still a threat. That’s a big reason why I hate revision. It’s like a bully.

Revision taunts you by reminding you of things you thought you knew, then realise you don’t the more you read into it. Then the more you read into it, the more you realise there’s more to know. It’s a horrible, scary maze of never ending long words, theories, names and dates to remember that you’ll never actually use in the real world.

I hate revision because it is long. It’s long, it’s repetitive and the comfort of feeling prepared for an exam is never achieved. On that note, I’ve procrastinated enough, back to revision it is.

I could actually do this with the amount of things I’ve consumed. And I would love to throw them up in such an artistic manner.