At break time I’d meet up with some of the other kids I knew from junior school. I got into quite a lot of trouble in that first year. I managed to avoid being suspended or expelled by the skin of my teeth. I wasn’t a bad kid. Most of the trouble I got into was as a result of my stubbornness, not doing my homework on time, or playing the class clown. I was an annoyance to the teachers, rather than someone who was burning down the school. I was an itch, rather than a gaping wound.
We had exams at the end of the first year and I ended up in the second to top French class because I cheated. I found that by writing the French words with the English translation down my arm enhanced my grade immeasurably. I never told anyone what I’d done, but I should think they found it pretty strange that when I got into the second to top class, a few months later I knew absolutely nothing. After a few weeks of struggling, I got moved down a couple of classes once it became quite evident that I was completely out of my depth. I descended to my true level some weeks later.
I never had any interest in speaking French. No one had ever really explained to me why it’s important to learn such things. Back then I just thought that I’d never go to France and when I later went to France as an adult I got by perfectly by speaking English.
With a lot of learning, you don’t necessarily need to know the things that are entering your head through your eyes and ears, but it’s important to exercise your brain. It’s just like the muscles in your body. Exercising your brain makes it bigger and stronger. If throughout my schooling someone had taken a bit of time to point this out to me, I am sure that I would have tried harder at school.
We used to ask teachers at school, “Why do we have to learn this? What is the point in knowing this?” Things like math and Pythagoras; what’s the point in me learning that? When was I ever going to use it? I’ve never used Pythagoras in my adult life and don’t know anyone who has. The teachers didn’t ever know what to tell us to make us try. If they’d just said to us that we were building up our brains like muscles, I would have shown more of an interest.