School’s Out – and Education’s In

People confuse school with education, as if they were synonymous. School lasts for a relatively short period; education never stops. It should be like the universe, constantly expanding, abhorring vacuums (and most other household appliances – ho ho). I have a number of friends who are or have been teachers. For some it has been something of a battleground, for others a constant privilege and its own education. One moan, often expressed, is around those carers – parents etc – who see the school as the sole and exclusive educator and so, if there is a hole in said education, the school is to blame.

05 BOX-021

Maple Road Primary for me

02- BOX - 026

Caterham School for him

People don’t want responsibilities; they love black and white demarcation lines, hating shades of grey in their lives. Why that is so is easy to understand. If it clear you don’t have responsibility you aren’t to blame. It appears to be part of a culture that accepts rights and abjures responsibilities.

Teachers don’t always help themselves; one of the latest tyrannies in the UK is the refusal to allow flexibility for time off school. You can say it is a Government diktat, taking from head teachers the option of deciding between the meritorious cases and the egregious ones. But as I understand it, the requirement stems from teacher pressure, hating the grey area, hating to be responsible. They too like black and white.

There are times when it can be a foul job, more crowd control than anything else. And, the medical professions apart, it is probably the most important profession, leading the education of the next generation.

But it can’t be done alone; everyone is, or should be, involved in the education of everyone else. Subtly, or overtly it doesn’t really matter. We can learn from everyone and they can learn from us. But to do so, support is needed. From everywhere and everyone. Parents, carers must help teachers and visa versa. When the Lawyer and the Vet were going through school (and by the way, school is wasted on the young – I would have loved to have been able to go back and understand about geography or biology, subjects I ‘gave up’ at 13) I was mostly in awe at the competence, thoughtfulness and empathy of their teachers, young and old. But there were a couple (at primary school) – both teaching the Lawyer (a rumbustious boy) – who pigeon-holed him and I think, did his educational advancement no favours.  They made up their minds early about how difficult he might be and that coloured the help he had in their classes. The reports and parents’ evenings set my blood bubbling and, consequently, did exactly what they couldn’t have wanted – they lost my support.

Fortunately for both them and the Lawyer, the Textiliste is a far subtler operator than me; while I was shunted into a siding to let off steam she adroitly manoeuvred the chess pieces to ensure the best result was achieved.

In a way I’m glad we went through that frustration when we did because I realised that a lot of angst could have been avoided by an early discussion around any issues – the first term had nearly gone before the first real contact between us and the teacher with the inevitable pfizz of hot air. With children, when they are at their most sponge-like, ensuring the principal educators (teachers and carers) are on the same wavelength is critical. And that, of course is true in all walks of life and why education is a constant, not a time limited schooling experience – the cliché has school days as ‘the best days of your life’; nope, wrong. Education, every time you learn something new, or relearn something you have forgotten it the joy – together, the agglomeration of all those days and bits of days when learning occurs make up the best days of your life.

How did I get here? Oh yes, Charli Mills latest prompt.

August 20, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about school. The setting can be a school, involve students and teachers or can be about schooling in general. How has school influenced a place or a character?

Ok, so accepting my story of Mary and Peter, Penny and Angela and Rupert, must continue, here we go:

Accidental kidnap

‘Mrs North? This is Penny’s form teacher, Miss Marks.’

‘Yes?’ Mary turned away so not as to be overheard.

‘Penny says her uncle is collecting her from school today. As we have never met him we like to check…’

‘What? Now, listen to me…’

Mary wished the solicitor wasn’t listening. When she finished, he asked, ‘Sorted?’

‘Far from it.’

‘Were you talking about Rupert?’

‘Yes, my bloody half-brother. I have to go.’ She stood and said, ‘He said Penny had asked to see his mother. Can you believe that?’

To Mary’s surprise he said, ‘Yes, I think I can.’

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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15 Responses to School’s Out – and Education’s In

  1. Archaeologist says:

    Oh yes, how I agree with you (and remember I have teacher training and a teacher son), but personally I believe you should keep on learning.
    I personally keep on reading, and my advice is always, if you come across something that sounds unusual – read it, you never know what you might learn. The ‘History of Sussex Bus services’ and ‘The Romance of Soil’ were surprisingly interesting, however I cannot recommend ‘Rubbish Vans of the Isle of Wight – In Colour’ unless you are seriously interested in colour images of rubbish vans (that is vans that collect domestic refuse and not useless vans – that would probably have been more interesting.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Im not sure many would have bothered – partly of course you have a distinct advantage with the speed at which you read. As I plod through the pages and you glide across the top like some lexicological Usain Bolt have a thought for the more human of us! And yes, you should start capturing ‘rubbish vans of…’ and make a collection of crap small scale industrial transport.


  2. Charli Mills says:

    School does not always imbue a love of learning. My town had these old-timers that I suppose we’d call “shut ins” today. People too old to leave their homes. A few had no family and I delivered groceries (or beer) as a youngster. That meant getting to sit and listen to their stories. I loved it and that’s where I got the interest to learn. School was a vehicle for that but it was never the actual education. I was not happy with my children’s schooling and yet we supposedly lived in one of the best states for education (Minnesota). But it was all test-focused. And they did more to discourage true learning and did a poor job of teaching critical thinking. Until SES…that was the alternative high school that my daughters went to. It was called the “Zoo School” because it was on the MN Zoo campus. It was a brilliant way to instill a love of learning and students came to life there. It was focused on the environment and they had outdoor winter survival and studied biology in hip waders out in ponds. One class was surrounded with snakes in aquariums! Very thoughtful discussion you introduce in your post!

    The stakes got higher in your flash fiction! I can see a mother flipping out over the situation but somehow I feel that Penny is going to bring an interesting entanglement to the tug-of-war going on with Mary and her coping. Well done! High marks!


    • TanGental says:

      I think a lot of schools are like zoos in truth. I’ve always believed the notion that you just need one teacher to inspire you and the blue touch paper is lit. Me it was my history master.


  3. Annecdotist says:

    You’re quite right to flag up the distinction between school and education. Mr A, who didn’t do particularly well at school, has a much broader knowledge than I have, and is therefore a great resource to draw on for my writing.
    Regarding the tendency to black-and-white thinking, I’ll try not to ramble on about it too much, but the theory goes that this is our default position because, as you say, it makes life simpler, even if it’s wrong. It’s a basic survival mechanism; there is no room for grey areas when we need to decide if something is safe to eat or not.
    I love how you’ve continued Mary’s story with each flash prompt – it’s a bit like those shows that tend to be a great hit at the Edinburgh Festival where the audience supplies the theme for the next joke – but I do think Rupert is being rather naughty in assuming he can meet Penny from school without Mary’s approval. If he has any sensitivity should realise this isn’t likely to help matters. I’m intrigued to see what happens next.


  4. Wonderful!

    You could put in dialogues and still deliver it crisp and crunchy in 99 words!


  5. Pingback: The best of days | Norah Colvin

  6. I wish I could return to school now, I mean primary school and high school. Most of my primary school lessons I remember but I’m sure I could have got that much more and certainly in high school apart from the subjects that I loved then I would have got even more. So much to learn (now that I want to) and running out of time. Schools these day seem to me to be fun places to be with different teaching techniques and perhaps just a small allowance for individuality.
    I look forward to Rupert’s motives.


  7. Jenni says:

    I really enjoyed this piece and I too sometimes feel that something has been lost when it comes to education vs going to school. There are fewer and fewer teachers who are there because of the love of learning and the deep desire to share that with the next generation. I think a lot of it is that as a society we don’t treat the teaching profession as it should be. They are a huge part in building the next generation but we no longer have the brightest coming through the ranks as there is little money or even simple respect anymore. We are left with an overabundance of people who teach because it was all they could get into at a tertiary level and they like the idea of lots of holidays. As for those who would make a vocation of teaching we seem to treat them with aversion and suspicion whey they demonstrate a passionate interest in encouraging freedom of thought and ideas. It is a shame as we are leaving the next generation in the hands of those who are merely filling in time and that does seep into the attitudes of those they teach. Getting by rather than encouraging commitment and determination to be the best person that a child can be. Needless to say it is something I feel strongly about, you probably noticed my soapbox. 😀


    • TanGental says:

      Very good point you make about respect for teachers being lost. In the UK we’ve lost that sense that they are up there with doctors and nurses and as you say people of quality are left behind. And I’m on your shoulders when it’s a case of instilling a questioning mind. As a teenager growing up with an arch Tory father I became very frustrated until I realised his greatest strength which was he queried everything even if I thought he came to the wrong conclusions. Couple that with one teacher who taught me to structure an argument and also to keep asking awkward question. For those who don’t have that inculcated it is a great worry that we have a generation of sheep. In fact, having two youngsters just into tertiary education I have some hopes that the next generation of the curmudgeonly opinionated awkward squad is alive and well but we mustn’t be complacent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jenni says:

        Yes my son is at uni too and appears to be more than happy to stand up and fight against unfair legislation and laws as do his friends. So like you I do have some hope.

        Liked by 1 person

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