Nobody really discusses educational associated anxiety. This is separate from my more general anxiety. My mother would ask or try to ask me how was school today and just did not want to talk about it. There were no school counsellors when I went to school. The secondary school I attended was academically very strict. We were there to open our books face the front of the class and shut up.
One teacher wielded a lot of power as she was the first female principal of the school and she taught at the school until she retired in the early millennium. My first encounter with this teacher was upstairs in the upper classes in the old school building. She very subtly made sure that my face was facing the front of the class just like everyone else. She commanded the room of every year she taught, which was first year, second, third, fifth and sixth year! She verbally shredded all of the students, but oddly she could be fair if there were students who were good at the English language, this writer included.
With these teachers in this school, it was all about the standard of the work and we were all expected to deliver work to the same standard of excellence.
There was a point in secondary school where I could not take the stress anymore, one day after basketball coaching where I was told to practice on my own. I arrived home via the school bus and I sat in an empty bath and I told my mother about the basketball episode and that I could not take the school stress anymore. I was given a note to excuse me from basketball and that meant I was going back to school.
School stress started back in primary school, when so as not to be late, my mother would rush me into my school uniform, rush breakfast, pick up my classmates deposit us at the school and go home.
We pulled up two days after I arrived at my secondary school and I told her I hated going there and I was told to get out of the car and go to school.
Secondary school was a rigid experience, we were there to learn. Ok, fine…but we were not allowed to ask any questions nor were we allowed to give any opinions about anything. I was given an ultimatum; I could listen to the Aer Lingus man spout stuff about how airlines do not contribute to global warming or leave the class. God forbid you fell asleep you might get a thumb in the back of the head for falling asleep.
Or told that you were slowing down the rest of the class and had been told to leave.
When I was in third level VEC there was no support at all for students who found college life stressful. These courses were about the world of work, so we had to pretend that we were at work, up to and including a sick note if we could not attend classes. We had to put up our hands to leave the room if we wanted to go the bathroom. Any criticism was met with if you don’t like it here then you are always free to go somewhere else.
The same teacher that I encountered in First-year became our year head in Fourth-year and we went on a couple of school trips, one was to Cork to a sailing school.
Very little was known then about Motor coordination and this teacher told me to hurry up when putting on my wetsuit which is not an easy thing to do when you have motor apraxia or dyspraxia. She threatened to fail me If I didn’t hand in a school report by Monday despite being out of the country with my family in the USA. And the school knew I was out of the country.
When I ended further education with FAS there was no support for the participants who went on those schemes. There was no coaching for mock interviews to explain gaps like why you didn’t have to take maths for the leaving certificate and employers did not understand Dyscalculia at all.
There was little support for me when I was going to school and no one ever asked me how I was doing, parent-teacher meetings were strictly between my mother and the teachers.
This teacher stressed me out so badly that would not take part in the 4th year musical.
I remember we had to do a team-building event on a school trip down in Cork and there was no discussion that anyone should help me even though I participated and there were comments when I refused to take part in canoe game or when I dug my heels in about not abseiling down a cliff.
I would get stressed when I saw a classmate being shouted at in secondary school or name called even up to 5th year, this even happened back in primary school.
Like a lot of children with learning differences, I found both the amount of homework I had to do stressful and frustrating the longer it went on. Plus my mother did not have the patience for Homeschooling, she tried that once and told me that I would be better off in school.
I also dreaded the end of summer because I was haunted by “going back to school” Dunnes stores and Clarks posters (shakes fist) in the middle of July.
I would also find it very stressful knowing that I would be called upon to give an answer in school knowing that I would have to retain information in my head or trying to find my place if I had to read something out in class. Sometimes the teacher would move on if I was taking too long to come with an answer, or not even bother to come to me at all.
There were no counsellors except guidance counsellors who would put leaflets into my hand when I was leaving school.
Unfortunately, there is post-school stress. You’re at home, life feels like it’s going nowhere and your parents begin to worry. Your dad does what he can do, in my case he got into his car and talked to people in legal companies and other people about helping to get me a summer job.
There was some stress when I went back into adult education having been out of further education for 17 years. There was stress recently too when trying to retain information about algebra as part of my course. Talking about all this has helped reflect on educational anxiety and putting it out there and sharing it will hopefully help others to share their own experiences.
Let Mark and us know how you’re experiences of education have been whether you have shared a similar experience to Mark or if you or your child is having the best time at school ever, we’d love to hear from you! 😊