Tuesday, 7 July 2015

go your own way

Leavers' assemblies. A momentous occasion of shirt signing, montages of five years in five minutes, last minute words of wisdom from exhausted teachers and tears from the even the most sullen, streetwise students.

This is the time we have all been working towards. Teachers are spent; having coerced and crammed knowledge into this cohort it is time for them to take hold of their own reins and move forward in their own future.  For even those who do come back to sixth form - as some form of education is now compulsory until age 19 - it's not the same; whether it's the lack of uniform or the reduction in subjects they study, the rapport becomes more mature and discussions foster a rising equality in acquired knowledge.

For many years this has always been a sombre time for me; saying goodbye to young adults that I remembered were sprightly stepping into the school hall to be grouped into form classes five or seven years previous. The year 11s , despite having crowed about how they can't wait to leave, now seem pensive as they enter a pivotal stage of their life: we are opening the doors to a future and releasing them from the cocoon of school days. Some return to specialise their learning but many move on to colleges or apprenticeships.  The year 13s are a different kettle of fish. This is the moment they really leave the river and swim out to sea. With the sixth formers there is an air of unbridled excitement, which I certainly don't remember having. You can see the eagerness with which they turn their back on school and long for the unknown. I loved the safety of school and sixth form college and at this point in my own life didn't know where I was heading at all. Having swam with the tide for so long without looking ahead, I felt I had suddenly come to the edge of the world. It was definitely a shock.

Is the preparation that students get now that makes them more confident and eager to move on? The guidance gained from websites and apps can often render the advice from well-meaning parents and teachers quite obsolete, as we realise we are becoming more out-dated, more quickly. When there are day trips to universities and intern blogs available, why would our experience from fifteen years ago be relevant or useful?

Most of the time I have no desire to re-wind back to the late 80's - I'm a content post40 mama on the whole - yet I do wish the options and path choices offered now were offered to me back then. Aging has enlightened me to a plethora of careers that I never even knew existed, jobs that with my post40 head perched on my 18 year old shoulders I may have chosen to study for. Unfortunately history was not so much of a passion with me then as it is now. How I would have loved to enter the world of genealogy or anthropology or the history of accents and dialects (I have recently discovered the role of a sociolinguist and it sounds fascinating). But what was offered at my moment on the crossroads? Well for one, I wasn't allowed to attend the careers fair so instead my mum went and brought back a mountain of leaflets on how clever I had to be to do teaching or journalism (my 14 year old career choices because I loved all of my teachers and I loved writing). I saw the word "university", had no idea about what university was or entailed, got scared, did mediocre in my exams, took ages to finally get to university once I realised what it was. How an open day to allow a first generation university hopeful may have changed the course of my history? Or even a list of where my strengths and passions could lead.

Hey ho. This is the wonderful thing about the future. It should improve on the past, right? After nearly two decades of wishing school leavers well, people will always vocalise about the hardships of the youngsters today; but they are so well equipped and armed with the many paths they could travel. Rather than focus on the murk and mire of adult life, we should be shoving the wonders of life in front of them. Discover vocations we have never heard of together. Bring the world to them before they go looking for it. 

Now someone just needs to create careers advice for the over 40s looking for a new direction.
This post first appeared on Post40bloggers : Education

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