We all know that education is important, however, getting educated is not always about academic results. School was not a happy time for me. Coming from a non-English speaking background my primary years were for the most part confusing and lonely. My one good year, the final one, did nothing to magically change how I felt about school, and after years of practising and performing all I wanted was the freedom to have fun. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the strict authoritarian system which awaited me in high school.
Now education can, and should, be fun and enjoyable, especially for school children. I know this for a fact. However, the ‘chalk and talk’ method of teaching we were subjected to in high school was mindlessly and hopelessly boring. To be honest, I can’t remember one challenging, interesting or satisfying moment ~ not one! The focus was only on results. And so I developed a healthy disregard for the system and everyone in it, and instead of applying myself, I chose the path of least resistance ~ I decided not to participate and did the bare minimum.
In my second year of high school, I really dug in. While I never got into any trouble ~ I was quiet and obedient ~ I didn’t put in an ounce of effort. My mother was called in to discuss my ‘lack of interest’, and while it was a mystery to all concerned because I refused to discuss it, a conclusion was reached. Due to my recent IQ test results ~ obviously I must have thought that was fun because I came through with flying colours ~ I would not have to repeat the grade. As I was a year younger than everyone else, it might not have been such a bad idea if encouragement and support may have been forthcoming, but as it was, I blundered on!
Needless to say after five long years, it was a relief to leave. My final results fell far short of shining ~ I failed. But I wasn’t the least bit worried. I had complete confidence in myself ~ I knew I’d be fine. My mother, while she would have loved to see me go on to university, also knew I’d be fine. She didn’t ask me what I wanted, but she didn’t berate me either. Instead, having watched me apply myself diligently in both piano and ballet over the years, and knowing my abilities as only a mother could, she pointed me in exactly the right direction ~ a short technical course which suited my skill with numbers and bookkeeping perfectly. And I breezed through it! It was easy. I was organised, had a good head for figures, and it wasn’t too many years before I was working in trusted administrative positions … and after I was married, I happily managed the family businesses.
Apart from spending a few years studying herbal medicine when I had a sick baby ~ a purpose which I was very passionate about at the time, I had no deep desire in furthering my education. Life was good, and I was very happy. But as always in this journey of ours, new paths present themselves. And when I became a school mother, that’s exactly what happened … a new passion was born. I wanted to teach. So in my early forties, I applied to university, and based purely on my determination and enthusiasm, for I didn’t have the required high school results, I was accepted.
And I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. I loved, loved, loved, being a university student. I used to stand in the middle of the campus and just drink it all in. The challenge, the effort, the satisfaction and the accomplishment were all thrilling to me. It was hard work, but every second was worth it. While I am, and always will be a product of the school of life, getting a degree was the biggest gift I have ever given myself because I followed a dream, believed in it and succeeded. But while getting educated is important ~ it gives us choices, and that’s a wonderful thing ~ success and happiness in life does not depend on academic results or higher education. It depends on love, passion, determination, belief and confidence, and the joyful enjoyment of the journey. That I know for sure.
And so, I write this blog post for two reasons, both of which are based on my personal experience. Firstly, to say, don’t pressure your children. Take the focus off results and performance. Ask them what they want and listen to what they have to say ~ you may be surprised. They have a lifetime to get educated, and when they are ready, they will do it. In fact, some life experience before they go off to higher education is a very good thing. They may even make a different choice while they are out there getting that life experience, and that’s OK too! Let them choose, and then, even though it may not be your choice, support it.
And secondly, be an example for your children. Show them that they can follow their dreams. My daughter watched me follow mine. She watched me succeed in my chosen work, and then succeed in following a passion. And I did it all for my personal pleasure, in my own time, when I was ready. And she is doing exactly the same.
Inara Hawley © 2014