Have you ever contemplated going back to school? Not to sit behind a desk, but to see your teachers again, let them know how you've been since you left, or find out how they've been since you left? I've been reminiscing about school a lot lately, as it's been nearly 6 years since I finished my GCSEs and I'm close to graduating from university, but my experience of revisiting school was far from what I expected.
Two years ago, I transferred from an English degree to History, so I decided to revisit my secondary school and let my History teachers know I'd finally taken their advice to pursue historical studies further. Throughout my GCSEs, they were pressing me to continue studying history because I had a 'knack' for it, and I figured I should go back and thank them for all the help, support and inspiration to continue what I'm doing today.
I dragged along my somewhat reluctant boyfriend at the time, purely because I didn't relish the idea of pacing the corridors in non-uniform by myself, feeling the pupils' eyes burning into the back of my head. Me and him were at polar opposite ends of the education spectrum - he couldn't care less about school, whereas I valued academia above anything else in life. I spent my every lunch break with my teachers, talking to them about their careers, their interests and their lives. He had no intention of letting his teachers know what he'd done since school, because quite frankly, he wasn't interested in studying, so he just came along for the ride.
We walked down the corridors, escorted by our old headteacher just to ensure we weren't mistaken for overgrown misbehaving pupils. I pictured it in my head - my History teacher would be so proud of me, she'd even give me advice on where to go from here, whether I should pursue teaching in the same way she had. We got to her office and my heart suddenly raced - I was back where I belonged, the school that had given me the foundations for a dedicated academic career. She ran over to my ex as he paced behind me, shook his hand and asked him how he'd been. Had she recognised me? Not a jot. Looked at my visitors pass around my neck, repeated my name printed on the card, and returned to conversation with him, asking if he was still as much of a rebel as he had been in school.
Call it pathetic, but I was absolutely heartbroken. The teacher I'd once been on a very friendly basis with had completely forgotten me.
Sure, I appreciate that teachers see a million faces a day alone, nevermind in the 3 years that had passed, but given the time I devoted to learning, getting top grades and speaking to my teachers, I hoped I'd made a bit of a lasting impression, even if it was just my name that rang a distant bell. But instead nothing. Absolutely nothing. I felt sick, I couldn't breathe - had I done nothing to remember me by? Should I have misbehaved like my ex in order to leave a memory with them?
We went on to visit another teacher, and again, the same experience. Looking once at my visitors pass, then straight on to ask how he had been since his reign of terror at school.
I had nobody to tell how well I'd done for myself at university, nevermind ask them how they had been in the interim years. Had 5 years of my life meant nothing? Had I wasted all my hard work to show my teachers I had potential? What if I needed a reference from my school for a future application? There wouldn't be a single member of staff that recognised me, least of all remembered how good a student I'd been.
As you can tell, two years have passed since that day, and I've still not fully healed. I'm still questioning myself, perhaps even wishing to repeat those 5 years and make a negative name for myself, at least then I'd be remembered. A day I'd looked forward to since I left school turned into a nightmare. Because of this, I've not once contemplated returning to my college to let my tutors know how I've survived studying at a university mere minutes away from the college. If 5 years at school hadn't left even a scratch on the surface, my two years of A level work would stand for even less. I have no doubt the same will apply after university, not least because my university don't acknowledge me for the things I do for them and I'm still there.
What makes me so forgettable? Do teachers really value the students that put their heart and soul into their work? I'm not by any means trying to put you off revisiting school, but if you choose to and get the same response I did, just know you're not alone, and it's definitely not your fault.
Have you been back to school? I'd love to hear your experiences.