Tag Archives: studying

Don’t Need No Education

examsOnce again our little cottage is in a state of uproar.

The Teenager is sitting some GCSE exams, with the rest to follow next year.

I have bought him the Lett’s guides, replenished his pen-pot, explained how to write up mind maps and supplied him with a steady stream of juice to refresh his brain.

To no avail.

In the middle of cooking dinner yesterday (a home-made curry he refused to eat – tough), the phone rang.

‘Mrs Stumbling?’

‘Yeeeeees?’

‘Well,’ and sounding relieved to reach a real, live parent on the phone, regaled me with a tale of woe and lost opportunities. The Teenager could easily reach an A in this subject, but is cruising close to an F, if he’s lucky. The usual – not concentrating, joking around, no proper presentation of coursework.

It was a good conversation in some ways. I explained that he has all the support he needs here. Apart from anything else, I’ve been studying something or other for ten out of his fourteen years. It simply boils down to him being a Teenager who is somewhat lazy. And rude. And…(I could go on and on).

When he came home from school, I summoned him to the kitchen as I was juggling naan bread, a hot grill and a large pot of curry. He saw my face and scarpered, slamming his bedroom door extra loud. He really should have taken GCSE drama. He’s quite superb. I counted the seconds, and sure enough, within 15, loud music was blasting out. The angsty type.

I yelled up the stairs – handily, his name has three syllables, so the effect can be quite stern. ‘Wha?’ ‘Come down……..NOW.’

After a stand-off worthy of a spaghetti western, he sloped into the kitchen, refused dinner (a recent recurring theme), told me his version of events – ‘teacher hates me, wasn’t doing nuffink wrong, s’not fair.’ Stage direction – exit left.

A while later his door opened and his school tie floated downstairs, followed by the door slamming shut again.  Not the most rigorous form of protest, but it made me laugh. Which annoyed him.

I can only do so much. Nothing to do with MS. I have just returned from a visit to Staples as his pencil case was stolen and he needs the stuff for exams. He has an exam today. He told me this last night, around 10pm.

Stage direction – curtains.

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I Did It. *faints*

fainting with shockI check my emails most mornings while I wait for the kettle to boil.

Nestled among the offers to give me £100,000 if only I hand over my bank details to a very polite and sincere gentleman in The Gambia, lay the email I had been waiting for.

‘Degree classification notice – please accept and confirm’.

My finger hovered over the email. The moment of truth, the culmination of six years study. I took a deep breath and clicked.

Then I laughed. And hiccuped. Rushing to the printer to see actual proof before the email magically disappeared, I did a high five (ok, a very low two, but you know what I mean).

I am now the proud owner of a Bachelor of Science degree (with Honours, yay). An upper Second Class. A 2:1. Still can’t believe it. Thinking about it, I have studied for the last 10 years out of 11, my first qualification being a degree equivalent in Homeopathy (long story). My Glaswegian auntie, on seeing the letters I was eligible to use for that course (RSHom), said, ‘oh dear, if you say that out loud with a Scottish accent, it sounds a wee bit rude, doesn’t it?).

Well, now I’m a Bachelor(ette), which is rather fitting, given my present singledom. I’m supposed to attend a graduation ceremony next May, donning a cap and gown and walking up to a stage to accept a bit of paper tied nicely with a ribbon. I’ll sign up, but the logistics of doing this in front of hundreds of people will be left for another time.

It sounds weird, but this achievement is the positive culmination of a terrible couple of years. The last two years of the degree were excruciating. My brain died a slow death, slinking out of the room without a backwards glance or apology. I struggled with every single aspect of the course. I came so, so close to giving it all up. What was once fairly easy for me (I’m an unabashed girly swot), became unintelligible nonsense. Essays were torture. In tutorials, I sat with a slightly astonished look on my face.

But I didn’t give up and I’m proud of myself. I didn’t give up during the diagnostic process, during the legal proceedings against my ex-employer who sacked me for the heinous crime of having MS, during two lots of Campath treatment and their after effects. I did it. I actually did it.

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Blood, Sweat And No Ideas

exam stressIn a little over two weeks, I’ll be sitting what I hope will be my final ever exam. A three hour written paper.

Having the attention span of a gnat is proving problematic though.

I’ve spent hours (days, weeks) creating the most fabulous study notes. Colour-coded, bullet-pointed, succinct. They really are quite lovely. I settle myself down, ready to commit some facts to memory. And that’s the problem. My memory has taken a long sabbatical and I’ve got no idea when it’s coming back.

I read a few study points and my brain is full. Maybe I’ll just rest my eyes for five minutes. An hour later, I wake up with a start, study notes still clutched in my hands. All hope of absorbing essential nuggets of knowledge by osmosis fades. I look over past exam papers with a growing sense of horror. What hope do I have of writing dazzling answers when I can’t even understand the questions?

I had such high hopes when I started the university course six years ago. I whizzed through the first four years, feeling smug when I achieved pretty decent essay and exam scores. This was part of my Plan – a new career path which would grow alongside The Teenager, so come graduation, I would be ready for the next stage, an MA. Then, when The Teenager reached 16, I would step in to a wonderful new job.

Thanks to MS, those dreams now lie in tatters, and my so-called career path has become overgrown and inaccessible. But, hey, I’ve never been one to give up that easily. I’ll do something completely different. Just not quite sure what yet. A non-stressful job that utilises all my talents? I’m thinking cake tester (nah, not enough chocolate in that one, I’ll try the other one, ta very much) or a flat shoe expert, where I can try out the very latest styles and give them a thumbs up or down and keep the ones I like.

In the meantime, exam day is fast approaching and my brain is melting under the pressure. I daydream about what life will be like after 1pm on October 9th. I will be free! I will ceremoniously burn all my study notes and raise a toast to the last six years. Despite everything, I will have made it through.

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That Was The Decade That Was

happy 40thOn the eve of my foray into my forties, I’m indulging myself by looking back on the last decade.

This time ten years ago, I had no real idea which direction my life was taking. My twenties had been a whirlwind of travelling, angsty, late-night discussions in dark cellar bars, falling in and out of love and The Teenager (The Baby?) who made a late, messy and noisy arrival eight days after I turned 26.

I swapped crisp white shirts and hours spent lingering over black coffee and Gitanes for years of finger-painting, wet wipes and traipsing round the local parks. At 32, after four years of study, I qualified as a homeopath (or psychopath, as The Child proudly told his school teacher and anyone else who would listen). My clinic took off and I adored my work until the recession brought it to a sudden halt. I switched my attention to a degree course in health and social care, laying careful plans for the future.

The years passed. Endless sleepovers, fish fingers, day trips, gold star stickers, football magazines and scooters. Rugby kits and shoes got bigger and dirtier each year, those tiny baby slippers a ‘was he ever that small?’ distant memory. As he got older, I could even have friends over for girlie nights in without the fear of a near-naked child hurtling at top speed down the stairs, entirely decorated in felt-tip pen and a Superman cape. And now he’s suddenly a full-blown Teenager. All six foot of him. I adore him, even when he grunts, raids the fridge and holds his hand out for yet more money.

MS dominated my late thirties, turned everything upside down and we’re still picking our way through the aftermath. Career plans have changed as have priorities. I was unceremoniously sacked from my job, I fought back, I moved on.

MS certainly isn’t the best method for working out what’s important in life, but it’s helped. Everything is more in focus now and I take nothing for granted. So how were my thirties? Probably the decade where life shifted on its axis. The dreams and expectations I had at the start of them are long-gone. In its place is the realisation is that anything is possible. I just need to get out there and make it happen….

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The Plugholes Are Now Sparkling….

….I have also done three loads of laundry, washed all the cushion covers, baked a banana and walnut loaf, cleaned the fridge, shredded a huge pile of paperwork and sorted out my kitchen cupboards.

Domestic diva? I wish. It appears I would rather pluck a bunch of yucky hairs from the plugholes with a wooden barbecue skewer than sit down and study.

I have one year left of a six-year part time degree course. I could have graduated last year, without honours, but I’m awkward like that. Or a masochist. University officially started on Saturday, but I didn’t. I tried. I laid out all the books, printed off loads of information, stocked up on post-it notes, new pens, a brand new folder.

I sit at my desk, scrolling through the online learning guides, thinking, ‘oh, how interesting’ for about 15 seconds, then click on to my Twitter feed instead. Yesterday I sat down to read the newspaper for five minutes and an hour later I had read it from cover to cover. Who knew the letters page and obituaries could be so fascinating?

I can blame MS for this, but only partly. At the end of the last academic year I was in the middle of a pretty major relapse, the steroids were keeping me up all night and my brain was in meltdown. It refused to remember one single fact, one theory. I struggled through and gleefully chucked the notes in the bin after the exam. Last July. Now, 7 months later, it’s hard to pick up the thread again.

The thought of planning and writing an essay fills me with dread. Researching, indexing, referencing all seem like scientific impossibilities. I have printed off our official Harvard reference guide (all 35 pages of it) and have only read up to page 8.

To prove I could do it, I pulled out all my essays from last year. Bad move. Who wrote these? They were pretty good and I was impressed until I realised I had written them. My standards were obviously a lot higher back then.

I will muddle through. I will play with the post-it notes and highlight noteworthy points in my books. I am hoping that if I read the same pages over and over again I will absorb the facts by osmosis. Until then, I have the vacuum cleaner filter to wash and lightbulbs to polish….

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