Tomorrow, I finish school.
(For those who don’t understand our school system, I’m going on what’s called “study leave”. That means I don’t have lessons and don’t have to come into school except to sit my exams, and for extra-curricular rehearsals etc. I’m not technically free of exams until 20th June, and Fame! lasts into July, but I’m free of lessons. So you might see me around, if I’m procrastinating, but you ought to tell me to get back to my revision.)
When faced with the prospect of saying goodbye to friends, acquaintances and teachers, it’s difficult not to get a little bit emotional. I try and maintain a Spock-like indifference to the whole thing, as is my habit — when we ‘left’ in year eleven, everybody was in tears despite the fact almost the whole year group would be coming back for sixth form, but I didn’t cry at all. However, I was touched reading through the goodbye messages my classmates have already written in the notebook I passed around, and tomorrow’s going to be worse.
It’s our last day. That means people signing each other’s shirts. It means an assembly where they show us embarrassing pictures from year seven, where each form contributes a video or PowerPoint for everybody’s delectation. It means tears and hugging and everybody going to the pub while I return home to revise for the French exam I have on Thursday because I need an A in French and also I don’t drink alcohol.
It’s going to be hard not to get a little overwhelmed by the whole thing.
Therefore, I decided to compile a list of all the things I’m not going to miss about being a school student, to remind me why it is I’ve been waiting for this day for the last few years, and with its help I ought to be able to keep that Vulcan face on in public so that nobody can accuse me of having emotions.
- Getting up in the morning. This should go without saying, to be honest. There’s nothing worse than getting up at 6:40 every weekday for weeks on end when you don’t get around to going to bed until midnight. It’s compulsory, so you barely even notice you’re tired, but it builds up. And then you’re never quite well-rested — not least because your body clock can’t adjust to holiday time and you never stay asleep in the mornings.
- Dress codes. Now, I was glad to leave uniform behind me when I went into sixth form, but I’m still frequently infuriated by dress codes. I don’t mind wearing a suit and I’ve a penchant for waistcoats, but unless I actually have my jacket on, none of my school clothes have pockets. Formal wear for girls seems incompatible with pockets. Not to mention that in winter I’d much rather be wearing a hoodie and jeans, and in summer I don’t want to have to wear a jacket, or tights.
- Always being dehydrated. It’s partly laziness and not wanting to refill my water bottle. It’s partly fear of embarrassment at always needing the loo in lessons. Whatever causes it, I get to the end of every school day with a splitting headache. At home, I drink like a fish — water, squash, tea. Oh, and that reminds me:
- Caffeine deprivation. Seriously? I’m expected to get through a whole day on the single cup of tea I had with my breakfast? I don’t think so.
- Noise. Oh my Hamlet, the noise. Schools are such noisy places. It’s the one thing that books don’t capture about school settings — there’s never a moment of silence. My school is fairly standard in size for the area and has around 1500 students, and when they’re all in the same collection of buildings, the accumulated noise is unbelievable. Not least because I have sensitive hearing.
- Bus journeys at peak time. There should be a law that states no phone belonging to somebody under the age of 15 should have the ability to play music out loud — or that all external speakers should be dampened upon entering on public transport. There should also be a law that you can’t change where you’re sitting without a good reason. If your friend is not sitting within three feet of you, you are not allowed to have a conversation with them. Why? Please refer to 5.
- Pressure. You get to the end of the year and suddenly teachers realise they need you to practise writing essays, so you get set five to do in one weekend, and then another one on the Monday that’s due the next day. By the end of it I was having more nervous breakdowns about homework than about the Very Important Exams coming up which will decide my entire future, and I’m pretty sure that’s not how it’s supposed to work.
- Stupid rules. Every school has rules that contradict each other. Every single one. You know, like you can’t eat in classrooms, but then you can’t eat in the canteen either because it’s next door to the exam hall and there’s an exam going on so you can’t make noise, and there’s a year seven drama lesson in the sixth-form centre and it’s about zero degrees outside. This happens. Regularly.
- Ridiculous timetables. Three lessons in a row between break and lunch. No break for food, toilet, drinking etc. See 3. for why this makes me very sad. Also my Monday timetable: triple Music, double French, and Classics. Three periods of my weakest subject and two of my second weakest on the first day of the week? That’s just cruelty. Really genuine cruelty.
- Being told it’s not so bad. And this takes various forms. Sometimes, it’s a motivational statement like, “You’ll never have this much free time again in your life!” (Dude, one word: university.) Sometimes, it’s the massively depressing idea that, “These are the best years of your life.” (If that’s the case, I quit now.) And sometimes, it’s just, “Oh, stop complaining, I have to go to work.” (Hey, at least you get paid for it.)
School has been a huge part of my life for the last fourteen years. It’s dominated things from my daily timetable to my diet to my hobbies. I’m not the kind of person who can’t bear the thought of leaving and half wants to come back next year, like some of my friends: I’m ready to move on.
But at the same time, it’s hard not to view it as the end of an era. I’ve never lived in a house where nobody’s going to school — my sister started primary school before I was born. It’s going to be a huge change for me and, I think, for my parents.
So I might have to print off a copy of this list to read tomorrow when I’m surrounded by overly emotional students. It wouldn’t do for them to realise I’m capable of feeling things, after all.