I suppose my most vivid memory of school is of the regimented routine. Not just on a daily basis but the whole year seemed to take so long and of course I couldn’t wait to get to Christmas or the summer holidays. Your school life as a kid was really your whole life back then. Your days were ruled by the timetable, the classes, your teachers and your classmates. Looking back it seems like we spent a lot of time cooped up in the classroom.
I went to Pres primary and then went on to Pres secondary and while a lot us from the primary school of course went to the secondary but there were a lot of new fellas from other primary schools so I was struck by all the new faces. Same too with the teachers. Having several new teachers throughout the day was a big change initially from the same single teacher you had all year in primary.
I was a pretty shy kid and very reserved with my teachers so I think it took a while for my teachers to get to know me and to assess my potential. I think largely because of that I could have done a bit better academically.
I think I had quite a few friends and many remain very good mates to this day. Life has taken us in different directions but your shared school experiences are very formative and form the basis of discussions beginning with ‘remember the time in school when’.
Through the lens of time you can become very sentimental about your school days and I am not sure if the kid trudging through Fitzgerald’s Park to the Mardyke which I did every day to school would agree it was all fun and good memories.
I was a bit of an all-rounder — not necessarily brilliant at anything but not very bad at any of the subjects — except for Irish. I was pretty hopeless at that, much to my mother’s disgust as she loved the language.
My kids have now gone to a Gaelscoil which has made them very good at Irish and so they have an affinity for the language. In my time many people just hated it which was a great pity.
I wish I had pushed myself more to go outside my comfort zone both academically and sports-wise. I played a bit of rugby and really enjoyed the game but hated going training. None of my close mates had any interest so I gave up. Now I make an effort to try new things and keep developing, learning and gain new experiences. If nothing else it keeps you young(ish).
I find it funny when adults try to advise kids, especially myself with my own. When I am asked what I would say to my younger self, I think of the usual thing about these are the happiest days of your lives, enjoy things while you can.
If you do your study now it will benefit you later. But I still see the same glazed, distant look that I gave my parents. In many ways you have to grow up to appreciate the value of such advice. One piece of advice — pick a good football team to follow. I’ve been stuck with Leeds United for decades!
Pat Coffee was a great English teacher and after I submitted an essay I stood beside his desk as he finished marking it and he said, after a moment of considered reflection - ‘you can write’. I would like to show him my published books and other writings and ask if he would still agree.
Life is very different for kids today. In some ways there are more freedoms and in other ways more restrictions
Of course the phenomenon of social media now means that kids’ lives can be open to more scrutiny by their peers.
So of course I would advise to be careful in that regard. I would also advise them to enjoy their carefree days in school where your only responsibilities are to yourself but of course they won’t take any notice!