School Daze: Peter Cosgrove

School Daze: Peter Cosgrove

Up to the age of seven, I went to Muckross College, which is a girl's only school after that age. As my Dad used to say, past the age of seven, boys understood sins, so you had to move to an all-boy's school. Then, I moved to Stillorgan, and I was at Oaklands for all of primary school and three years of secondary school. For my last three years, I moved to Gonzaga.

I was outgoing and relatively sporty. That's to say that I wasn't always on the good teams, but I enjoyed sport to a good level. Unfortunately, I was a bit of a messer in school. The problem was, that I was smart enough to catch on to what was being taught, despite messing around and this made me a dangerous combination.

I'm not proud of it, in that sense because there were probably other people who joined in with me who couldn't catch up with the work as a result of it. I always feel a little bit of guilt about that. A teacher actually said it to me, and it was only then that I understood that my actions had consequences for other people and cut it out for the most part.

I had some bad experiences with teachers that have all turned into hilarious stories that my children now adore. We had one teacher who threw myself and another boy out of their class every day, just for talking. One day - we were only about twelve at the time - we stood outside his class after it had begun.

He came out to us and asked us what we were doing and we told him that we were doing him a favour by preempting what he was going to do anyway. He made us get into the classroom and sure enough, ten minutes later, we were giving him the knowing look as he three us out of his class again.

My friends and I were a little rebellious, trying to push the envelope as far as we could. This must have made us awful kids to teach, I'm sure. My daughter Emily who is sixteen nearly seventeen really reminds me of myself. She pushes the envelope a lot, and I would like to think a lot more than I used to do.

My wife was also very strong-minded growing up. They say that you reap what you sow, and this is the revenge for my wife and I.

Every bit of advice that I was given as a child was correct. I ignored it all and I wish I hadn't. The rub is, now I'm living this life as a parent, knowing that in all likelihood, my children are going to ignore all the fantastic advice I bestow upon them and there is nothing that I can do about it. That is the karma of being a parent.

My parents were both teachers, so they gave us a very strong rooting in education. When I look back now, we were quite privileged in the way that they focused us, by asking how we were doing, and taking a huge interest in our learning. I thought it was the norm, because of course, it was normal for me, but now I realise how very lucky I was. I'm one of nine, so the fact that they were even able to give me time is incredible, but they somehow were able to do it.

My mother is from Northern Ireland and she came down to attend UCD, so she had seen the other side where you don't know anyone and it can be very hard. One thing that she reiterated constantly from a very young age, was to remember that not everybody knows other people. So for instance, when I went from Oaklands primary to secondary school, she said 'now Peter, going into this school, you'll know 80% of the people going in. There will be lots of people coming from other schools, so make sure you say hello, make sure you are kind to them.'

To be fair, the schools I attended were very good at making sure that when you were young, you did 'bob-a-jobs' for people and visited nursing homes and this definitely got us to see that not everyone had it not so well, and I think that was a really good thing for us. Probably, some of the stuff that we did in this way wouldn't be allowed today with new regulations, but the sentiment can be repeated. It's about connecting with other people. There are so many people who are lonely in the world, and I think that children should be aware of how important it is to say hello to people on the street, because it might be the only connection they get that day.

I think that one thing that strikes me when I think about my school days is that the connection that children have with other children is so important. As parents we have to put aside our tendencies to be lawnmower or helicopter parents. We have to let them get out and make a few mistakes. I'm not saying let them go and play in the abandoned mine, as we did, but there is something in the middle ground that will teach our children the resilience and the ability to make decisions that they are lacking today.

Family Fun Unplugged by Peter Cosgrove is published by Penguin Ireland and is out now

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