Secondary School

THE BEGINNING

It took half a year to find a school my mum was happy with me going to. This was because the schools that were offered weren’t accessible to me. They expected me to take long and complicated bus journeys when I had never been on a bus by myself before.

In that time I was home schooled and found out that I was capable of learning and understanding. I started to become confident in my academic abilities since my tutor was always praising how well I understood new concepts and how fast I could work out problems.

SETTLING IN

When I finally went to secondary school, I knew it was my time to make a good impression on this group of people who didn’t know me. What I wasn’t expecting was having to adjust to a new environment and routine.

I spent an afternoon being shown around to see where my class for registration was, where I could get lunch and meeting some of my teachers. However, when it got to my first day, I was late for registration. This was because, even though I was shown where it was, too much time had elapsed and everything looked different with all of the other students getting to their own class. Panic set in whilst I was standing in the stairwell and tears started to form in my eyes. Everyone was rushing around me making my head fog up and my thoughts disappear. Once the chaos had lessened, I tried asking someone where I needed to go, but of course, they were in a different year and didn’t know. When the corridors were empty, I walked around and eventually found the right room. Not a great start to my new beginning.

When it came to the classroom, now that I knew I was capable, my work improved. I stayed on top of my homework since the friends I made would do it at break time and we would sit in the computer room.

But I still wasn’t happy. I could now make friends, but keeping them was the next big step. Due to my social struggles in primary school, my confidence and self esteem were low and I believed that no one would stay friends with me once they got to know me.

My peers thought I wasn’t very smart and never believed anything I said. If they asked me the answer to a question in class, they would double check it with the teacher and I was always right.

I didn’t know where I belonged. I wasn’t articulate enough to be friends with the smart pupils, but I wasn’t rebellious enough to be friends with the pupils who misbehaved.

GCSES

GCSEs were the highlight of my secondary education. I had found a group of friends that accepted me (I am still friends with some of them) and I was top in some of my classes.

However, at the time I didn’t realise, but to cope with the pressure of my GCSEs I became obsessed with the 18th Century. This included designing my own house. I looked into the architectural designs for this period of time and I researched and made sure to make blueprints that were architecturally correct. I studied the language they used and I tried to make dresses that were of this time.

I got by with the minimum work. I had never been taught how to prepare for essays and exams. Of course it was touched on in classes, but I didn’t have the concentration to learn it properly and there was no alternative given for  someone who didn’t understand.

A-LEVELS

For A-levels I became complacent. I had done better than I thought possible in my GCSEs and so I relaxed more with my work, but I was also unused to the independent learning I had to now do. No one told me that I would be given essays to write with a deadline 6 months later, and that writing notes during my lessons would be important for my exams.

Of course, in hindsight it’s obvious that this would be the case. However, because no one had explicitly told me , I wasn’t prepared for the work load. My education up until now was supposed to supply me with the tools for this, but nobody had taught me how to learn.

Taking notes was a mystery. I didn’t know what to focus on and my writing was too slow to keep up in lessons. Independent revision was something that I had done the week, sometimes even the night before my exams by just re-reading everything in the text book. This meant that I wasn’t able to make suitable revision notes for myself. I tried different methods for revising like: recording myself and listening back to it, but this wasn’t right since talking into the dictaphone was difficult and it took too much energy to hear and understand what I was listening to; I tried making revision notes, but I would end up copying word for word since I couldn’t distinguish which of the words were important and which weren’t; I also tried making powerpoint slides, which was good since I am a visual learner, but in the end it took up too much precious time.

Time management is something I still find difficult and at the time I just floated through my A-levels. I copied what my peers did, but I was a different learner to them. My concentration was shorter, which meant, whilst they wrote lines upon lines on their revision flashcards, I would sit there bored and angry at myself for not being able to focus.

To deal with the pressure I yet again used escapism and became obsessed with fanfiction, where I could get lost in another world and forget my stress. All of this resulted in A level grades that did not reflect my true ability and a sense of inadequacy that I wasn’t sure how to deal with.

Ultimately, it all worked out in the end, which has meant that I am able to tell you about going to university. So, tune in tomorrow to hear about this new adventure and please leave a comment below about your own experience with secondary school and the ways you handled time management and  the home/school/social life balance.

My best wishes for all of you.

Jessica.

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