8 Waste-ah-Time Lessons from Secondary School
From Bishops in Tobago to Tabaquite Composite in south, secondary school taught us a host of valuable lessons.
Firstly, eloquence. Consistent subject-verb agreement makes the most clueless politician sound less daft.
Secondly, discipline. After all, it takes tremendous willpower to clean your sneakers every Saturday for seven years.
And thirdly, ingenuity. Because whoever came up with the idea to dry our sneakers behind the fridge was a genius.
But notwithstanding the honing of such traits, there are some ‘waste-ah-time’ secondary school elements I could have easily done without. On that note, here are a few of the least impactful highlights of my secondary school experience.
Here’s what I remember about my Geography SBA – almost 100 Convent girls packed in maxis headed to Los Iros Bay, and running up and down the beach pretending I was Summer from “Baywatch”. We went to do something with waves, and I vaguely recall holding up a ruler and a piece of string. Til’ this day, I couldn’t tell you what I wrote, learned or submitted to the Caribbean Examinations Council. In fact, it was only in researching for this article, that I discovered that SBA is the acronym form of School-Based Assessment.
Playing the recorder
There is nothing that evokes as much secondary school nostalgia as a spittle-filled recorder. Trotting to the music room, armed with this medieval instrument, could make any 13-year-old feel like a musical prodigy. In that regard, it definitely had that ‘like yuhself’ factor. This is laughable, of course, since my achievements on the recorder were limited to little more than a rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. I left the recorder, as well as Home Economics, unfortunately, in Form Two. Perhaps the instrument inspired others to pursue their musical aspirations. As for me, however, if I never saw another recorder, it would be too soon.
What identified you as a secondary school student more than your dirty uniform? Why, your raffle sheet, of course. Schools made it seem like your sworn duty to peddle that piece of paper, begging unsuspecting neighbours for 25 cents, in exchange for their chance to win a Walkman. And if you attended a Government-assisted school like I did, you had high-maintenance raffles that required a minimum donation of five dollars. Call it a first-time encounter with sales, but I didn’t turn out to be a saleswoman. So other than turning me into a money-mongering pest among my family members, the merits of the raffle sheet remain lost on me.
Now, I can see the value in cutting a Chubby bottle in half, lining it with wet toilet paper, placing two red beans inside and watching them grow. It is a fascinating, agricultural, ‘circle of life’ lesson for a primary school student. In all my days, however, no one has ever approached me on the street and said, “Tamika, name the process whereby a liquid moves from an area of high concentration to low concentration, through a selectively permeable membrane”.
I sigh when I remember adding food colouring to some water, placing a poor plant in the beaker and waiting for the water to travel up the stem. I guess it was a break from the monotony of the classroom, but it’s still a sucky situation for the plant. A paragraph explaining this phenomenon would have sufficed.
Since I learned how to factorize the day before my CXC Math exam, it should come as no surprise that I had the most defaced compass, protractor, and set square on the face of Trinidad and Tobago. The fact that I had to constantly borrow graph paper from my friends should have been an indication that my future would not involve that blue, metal tin with the three-inch pencil inside.
The late line
If the goal of the late line was to shame you into arriving at school before 8 a.m., I must have missed the memo. Signing the late book was akin to autographing a novel for a swooning fan. I am convinced that the more my principal admonished us for tardiness, the more the late line protruded out the gate and wrapped around the side of the building.
In fact, in those juvenile years, I had the least regard for punctuality. And by Lower Six, evidence of this had made its way into the “Teacher’s Comments” section of my report book.
Shudder. Matrices remain an enigma to me, not because I couldn’t do the math, but moreso because those oversized brackets held no meaningful place in my life. And don’t even mention their good cousins, vectors. Shudder squared.
Sine equals opposite over hypotenuse. Cosine equals adjacent over hypotenuse. Tangent equals blah, blah, blah. Quite frankly, I haven’t even seen the word “sine” since I graduated.
What, pray tell, was the aim of SOHCAHTOA? At least BODMAS had some practical value. But SOHCAHTOA has never assisted me in a market, it did not come in handy while learning how to drive, and it has not arisen in the most intellectual of conversations. One may argue that my future child will ask for homework help on this crucial matter. If “ask yuh father” doesn’t work, knowing Apple, I’m sure there’s an app for that.
I’m aware that many of your lives may involve some of the above. Consider this fact acknowledged. And to the more meticulous critics who may be hailing the thorough academic development of our youth, and wondering what suggestions I have for amending the syllabus, altering the book list or changing secondary-school traditions… Well, I have none. I’m not trying to break the mould as much as I’m reflecting, without the retribution of having to hush my mouth and do the work anyway. I suppose the things on my list are good for something – memories, laughs and sighs of relief that those days are long behind me.