I had a conversation recently about how I felt about school. Gosh that brought back memories and not many were happy ones. The system is fairly straightforward in Ireland, Primary, Secondary Schools then University. My memories of primary school centre on two elements, a militant Head Mistress, imagine a Thatcheresque teacher who stuffed religion and the Irish language down your throat in equal measures. All of which culminated in the monthly 09:30 mass in Irish where I was the chosen one to sing the psalm. Deep joy. I absolutely hated every minute of it, but month after month I was the chosen one and I had no choice but to stand in front of the mostly empty church hoping that the moment would just pass and I’d not make a mistake. The crowd was mostly parents anyway who’d dragged themselves out of bed to bring us to the church. My Dad struggled to stay awake most of the time, and he loves a good sermon! 🙂
By secondary school any escape to a more balanced environment evaporated because now there were the cliques, the gangs as well as the teachers who couldn’t maintain control and so once again we were back to power struggles. Not one of them inspired, no one thought about much more than spoon feeding us the material we had to regurgitate at state exams. I wasn’t one of the high performers, I did enough to get by and get what I needed for University but I had no interest in the pandering that went on, especially from the 4 “popular” girls who sat in the front row preening constantly, on with her go to phrase “that’s cruel”. Which she said often and loudly.
From the moment I arrived, I sat on my own and was quite thankful for that. Mention anything that was even slightly different and you were instantly the butt of many jokes. I remember once saying that I liked Irish Traditional music (I still do) and almost immediately the name calling started. When people started to know that I was doing karate OMG, you’d think that would stem them but no, one particular girl took to provoking me to strike her day after day. I never did, but I took more than one blow from her, often with the cowardly approach, when my back was turned.
University was something that was just “expected” at home and so I did’t go with a full heart. However, one week in and I was totally sold. Here were people who “got it”. Lecturers were openminded, debate was encouraged and experimentation expected. I loved every minute. I have a big issue with the way that religion is managed in Irish schools and it was only in University that I found my true voice. Actually, that’s not true, it was in University that I was listened to, debate started and was fun, with students, lecturers and friends. Now don’t think that I had no friends, I was involved in martial arts so had loads of friends, school was just not suited to someone who like to ask questions, understand why things were the way they were and well, be different. Also, I was pretty critical of the system that we were being indoctrinated within. Years later when the Irish Catholic Church fell from grace… I didn’t say I told you so, but the evidence was there for years. None of that existed in University and in fact I took a year out and worked for a priest as a student counsellor so I have nothing against those of faith, just don’t try and sheep dip me with everyone else.
But this is about my current studies is it not? I’m a firm believer in studying what you are interested in WITH a view to where that study will take you career wise. In the course of my career as a Human Resource Professional I’ve come across countless individuals who study one subject at University, often with great cost, only to finish and have no discernible direction (which is fine, loads of people start out like that) and a degree that will not help them move forward with their careers. So my decision to complete a Masters was purely out of self interest and self indulgence.
But it is years in coming…why? Because I was told, yes told outright, that my life paths would be limited in comparison to those in my class. My English teacher told me that I couldn’t write “English that was legible”. I answered that I thought my writing was “pretty readable actually”, but my smartness, ironically, didn’t go down well. Nope the same people were chosen to read out their essays after every exam and I was given a lecture about how bad my life was going to be. I’m not exaggerating. It was also the way it was phrased… “Do you not want to do well in life?”. Even more ironically, I set my mind to figuring out what these teachers earned and I swore to myself (at 15) that I was going to do better. I also took up writing. For me.
So going back to studying… not an easy decision. However, on joining the course I was blown away by the calibre of my fellow students. I’ll be honest and say that the lecturers have either been exceptional or a bit meh. I’ve more or less put that down to the newness of the course and the fact that we are studying at the frontier of the cyber and psychological worlds.
Semester 1 was a roller coaster of exam papers and frantic reading with ever looming deadlines, but here’s the thing. I find myself starting with one subject finding loads of references to different related and unrelated articles and boom, the time is gone. I’ve been massively confused at times and have had to ask stupid questions but I’ve never been belittled or ignored. What’s more, we’re all in the same boat. All the participants have other careers, are working and so in order to get papers submitted on time, are not afraid to ask for help, to be vulnerable and to share when they find information that we all might also need. For that I am incredibly thankful.
The latest stresses came with the process for naming our Thesis, now I’ve known from very early on where I wanted to focus my efforts. What was missing though was a clear process for getting the thing signed off. I can’t help but think that some of the confusion by the part of the University is on purpose…like we are supposed to find our way through the quagmire and some how figure out the missing steps in their “processes”. Anyway, I decided to do a mind map to get to the point where I kinda of had my idea in focus. It sort of worked, but then, on the Sunday when the window where we could speak to our supervisors was opening I decided to unleash my creativity, spurred on with a wee glass of wine and in 20 minutes I had a title and the bones of my Main Research Question (MRQ). I’m not sure that this is the right methodology for defining a Thesis name and I’m sure not suggesting it to anyone, but it worked for me.
Now as we summit one activity we find we are straight into another term paper and from there we now have the pull to Christmas to work on our Exposé. Another as yet unclear process but hey, we have a good bunch of people working together, if nothing else, we have many hands on our back pushing us all along and for that I am grateful. A little bit more clarity wouldn’t go astray but well, that might just be asking too much.
All that said, I’ve never been so engrossed in my studies (apart from Karate) and I’m doing this for me, not for anyone else or to get anywhere with the qualification. No, for now, regardless of anything else, I’m happy, although I may complain about a lack of clarity. I should remind myself to reread this when I am stuck in the depths of my Thesis composition and corrections…