Tuesday 25 October 2016

Exam Diary - The final lesson from the Leaving Cert: how to let it go

Dearbháil Clarke

Published 20/06/2015 | 02:30

Leaving Cert diairist Dearbháil Clarke
Leaving Cert diairist Dearbháil Clarke

People argue that the Leaving Cert is a poor, uneven foundation of knowledge. Perhaps that's true. I don't have very many good things to say about the system, but it has taught me an awful lot: inside and outside the curriculum.

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Now, for example, it's teaching me how to let go.

We inevitably become dependent on things we have for a long time. It doesn't matter how deeply you hated being in the classroom day after day, or how much you insisted that it didn't form part of you. It did.

It's jarring, the end of an era. We're left suddenly alone, with some simulacrum of independence. No teachers to nag us and herd us hither and thither. No confinement in muggy classrooms.

The books that we pored over so religiously, the sheaves of study notes, they're all piled up sadly.

And even though you're celebrating - drinking yourself silly in Ibiza perhaps, or heading off on an art tour around Florence if you're mentally 30 years old, like I am - you're going to feel that pang of loss too. You're going to miss that routine and order in your life.

A micro-example of this is when I left my digital watch at home on the day of my last exams. Timekeeping was always my biggest flaw when it came to exams, so this silly little purple watch became my most prized and oft-consulted possession over the two school years.

I relied on it. Even when I didn't need it, I relied on it to be there. So when it was a few minutes before my Spanish exam and I pulled my sleeve up to consult a bare wrist, every muscle in my body constricted in panic.

There's an analogue clock in the room, I told myself. You've practised your timing down to muscle memory. You don't need it. I didn't need it, but I desperately wanted it, if only to console me.

To grow as people, and to learn how to cope, we must be able to adapt to change.

I'm apprehensive, and worried about any number of things, but we can't wallow in that either. The summer holds countless opportunities and I'm getting excited just writing about it.

So thank you, Leaving Cert, for furthering me on my journey. Thanks to my teachers and colleagues and friends. Here's hoping I can do you all proud.

Dearbháil Clarke was a pupil at Meán Scoil Mhuire in Longford

Irish Independent

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