9 Topics I Wish I'd Been Taught In
It's been over a decade since I left high school and honestly - I don't miss it one single bit. I was blessed enough to cement some lifelong friendships, with people who have loved me and supported me over the years but the day to day experience, left me feeling unfulfilled and wishing it away faster than you can say graduation. Yes it was a chapter that remains unbelievably important in my life but that doesn't mean there's a lot to look back on with fondness.
Despite the negativity I am reluctantly opening with here, I promise you I'm not the least bit bitter about my education. The time I spent in school helped to create the person that I am today and has allowed me to look back and strive for more. Not only for me but for anyone else that reads my words or feels the pull to do more for the next generations.
From feeling like I needed to 'fit in', to realising I infact didn't need to 'fit in' at all, every moment led me here and allowed me to grow into the person that I am. No matter how many things I learned about myself in school though, there are undeniably a lot more topics I wish I'd had the chance to delve into. Sexual health, career advice and money tips are just a few of the things I so wish I'd had help with and from that comes my top 9 life lessons I wish I'd encountered in high school.
A broad topic but one of the most important things that when I moved to University in Manchester I found I knew very little about. Thanks to wonderful parents I was always taught the worth of money, taught to budget, to save and to spend only what I had, but when it came to any life lessons regarding taxes, debt, student loans (and now that I'm 29 and looking to buy my first home mortgages too), I was completely blind. It's a given that school and college can't cover all bases when it comes to preparing us for the future, but any basic fundamentals would have given me far more confidence and independence in tackling what really are basic lessons. I remember vividly looking at my first self employed tax return and wanting the ground to swallow me up surrounded by complex words I didn't understand and the fear of making a huge, financial mistake. I would have loved to have had just a small idea of how to tackle my finances, before I was thrown in at the deep end and left to save myself.
You know what a huge advocate I am for education if it's the right step for you, but I would have loved to have had more choices even if my path would have taken the same route in the end. From the age of 12/13, University was the goal and that was just it. Yes I thrived at University, found a career path I loved and stepped further into education than I ever dreamed I would, but to have had all my alternatives, traditional or not, laid out in front of me would have been huge. I have not a single regret in the educational path I took, but I have friends, my very best included, that rode the wave to University because they felt they had to. Had they been offered an apprenticeship, on the job training, further alternative education or even just realistic timelines, they may have taken different paths and been aware far sooner that University isn't a must, it's just one of many amazing options out there.
Admittedly I think this topic has moved on leaps and bounds since my days at school, but there is always so much more to be spoken about, to be informed of and to normalise. I recall the very real embarrassment of one of our teachers haphazardly shoving a condom on a banana and hoping that that was all we needed, as we began our first forays into the dating world. It blatantly wasn't anywhere near enough and if I recall rightly, we barely even scratched the surface of sexual health. We didn't touch on STI's, on HPV, on contraceptives, on both parties taking responsibility for sex or just respecting our bodies as a whole. There were so many missed opportunities to be educated, to push through the embarrassment, (for them and for us) and to ensure we were heading out into the world as teenagers who had all the tools they needed to make the right, safe decisions.
It's 2018 and we all know we can love whoever we choose to love, but growing up I wish I'd seen more examples of this and more support offered to those who needed it. I wish I'd seen it more in the mainstream media, I wish I'd seen it more in life and I wish it would have been an open topic of conversation at school. School can be hard enough to navigate and deal with, without feeling like not a single person understands you or supports something as basic as who you choose to love. I can't even imagine trying to grow and express your true self when we never openly spoke about the fact that love is simply love. The topics covered in high school should be inclusive of every way to be, to live and to love and my hope is that going forward the next generation feels supported in whatever journey they're on.
The brief foray I experienced into sexual health education in school, touched minimally on our physical health but never far enough to impress the importance of self awareness. The importance of knowing your body, of being aware of changes and of how to discover the not so obvious lumps, bumps and everything inbetween. It's all too easy, especially in our younger years to be embarrassed about our bodies and anything that doesn't seem to be the 'norm'. I so wish that in school we had broken through that barrier and learned how to check for lumps, how to know what was considered worthy of a Dr visit and why knowing your own body is so important. Thank the lord for organisations like Girl vs Cancer, Coppafeel and Movember working to bring the topic of cancer into the mainstream and being self aware. I'll be honest, it's the fact that I still don't fully know what a lump may or not feel like, that spurred this blog post. I wish I had been taught so much more.
A topic I could write a hundred paragraphs on and it would never be enough, but one that was sadly ignored and stigmatised growing up. We were told nothing of how to get help, how okay it is to open up and how normal it is to not feel okay all the time. It's a topic I've touched on often on the blog and one that's incredibly close to my heart. We must do better for the next generations and allow them to know early on, that looking after your mental health is just as important as your physical health. I've had family members who have and are struggling with their mental health, but I've been very fortunate to grow up with family and friends who have always been supportive and open regarding how they feel. But what about those who don't have that type of home environment? Knowing that the support they may need is available at school would open up so many chances to be there during what can be such a difficult time in people's lives. If you or someone you know need any support check out this post with some helpful resources.
From a very young age we're constantly asked what we'd like to be when we grow up. Whether they are dreams to be a prima ballerina or whether they are goals to simply be successful, it's a popular topic throughout our time at school. What I would have loved to have known, was that not knowing what you wanted to be for potentially the rest of your life, was okay. The pressure we feel to suddenly know at the age of sixteen what our career should be, is so unrealistic but none of us seem privy to this information. To have had a support network that told me that I didn't need to know going into College, what the rest of my life would look like, would have been so refreshing. It worries me that it still may be the case in 2018 that the only pathways we are advised on are the stereotypical careers. There are so many options out there now and so many pathways to reach them, explore outside the box and find something you truly would love to aim for.
I remember walking into the 'Careers area' at School - I say this lightly - and the ladies in there couldn't answer me regarding what I could potentially do. I felt like they didn't even know what was out there for young ladies to do as a career. But there is so so much, and I wish someone could compile a booklet or a computer system that allows the user to go through it answering questions on their interests and skills, and it can then offer some actual career options. How useful that would be to so many, to have their horizons broadened potentially. Even at University, I didn't have any idea what other jobs were out there apart from 'buying' 'marketing' or 'management.' And yet the fashion world is so so huge, there are so so many careers intertwined within it. Maybe I need to do a few School talks in future... (now I'm thinking).
Something I would love to have spoken about more with the adults in school, was simply life and relationship advice. There is so much to contend with growing up such as working out who you are, who you love, what you want to study and the million things inbetween, that some more life support would have been a welcome addition. To have spent time learning about how to respect yourself, how to recognise unhealthy relationships and domestic violence, how to believe in and stand up for yourself and how to know which paths to decide on would have given me such a strong basis moving into my adult years. Thinking about all the things I wish I'd known and been aware of leaves me feeling like we all deserved more from our time at school. More support, more advice and more time to work out what we want in our lives.
And to bring things full circle to 2018, the need for us to talk about social media and how significantly it impacts our lives - both positively and negatively. The internet and social media were such huge parts of our teen years that now, even more so, we should be teaching school age children just how to use platforms respectfully and safely. There are so many dangers to recognise online from trolls, to predators, to addiction affecting our mental health that it's never been more important for the next generation to use social media wisely. Yes it's opened up so many more creative careers and opportunities to follow and seek, but reliance and comparison can be so damaging to young minds that schools need to take on the task of moderation and education. Let's not let the negatives outweigh the incredible positives.
If you have any amazing people, charities or organisations to share below, I would LOVE to hear about them! Any people and places that support young people in their growth and education deserve to be celebrated and encouraged and I for one would enjoy discovering more of them x