In 1986, I left primary school and entered into the world of The Teenager. I rebelled, I hated the world and I fell in love with A-ha, Bros and other embarrassing pop groups from that ridiculous era. I found solace in The Outsiders by S.E Hinton when all didn’t go as well as it had been and my love of books and reading grew from there. I had found my route of escape from what can be a cruel world.

Last week, I found myself back in that hormonal angst-ridden and ‘too short’ skirted world once again. I was invited to spend ‘a day in the life of a S1 pupil’ at my son’s possible high school. Try before you buy has never felt so right before. That’s what I was doing, I was seeking out the baddies before he heads there next year.

I arrived promptly in ‘comfortable clothes’ (recommended by the deputy head) and we were placed in our classes for the day. Our timetable was handed out and we were allocated a very smartly dressed 6th year who was about twice the size of me. That’s not particularly difficult but I dread to think how tall he’ll be when he finally stops growing.

Maths was our first port of call and on the way through the school’s one-way system I just couldn’t help feel betrayed that we were not going to get a cup of tea. It was going to be a long time before my brain woke up if it wasn’t given its usual caffeine intake. 9am and not a cup in sight.

The Maths teacher made us feel very welcome and we were given her undivided attention. I had thought we would be put into actual S1 classes but no. Maybe they thought we wouldn’t behave? No idea where they might’ve gotten that from.

Promises of a treat if we completed all the tasks given gave us the oomph to get started. In our sets of 6 we tackled puzzles, fractions (remember those?), decimals and percentages. 50 minutes later we were high-fiving each other on the way out the room. Bosh. One down. Many tea-less subjects to go.

Scurrying through the corridors, we followed our helpers like sheep and found ourselves in the belly of the school. We had entered the home economics department or FCT as it’s now called – Food and Consumer Technology.

We promptly found out that we were making lunch for everyone. I’m not going to lie, there were audible sighs, gasps and some rolling of eyes. And still no tea. But we were made of strong stuff and we accepted the challenge with red aprons and an iron will.

I chose the ‘filled roll’ table as I didn’t want to poison anyone with my horrific attempts at making scones, shortbread and the like. It was good fun actually but our wee group of three were a little bit inexperienced at making rolls for 40 strangers. Mayo? Salad Cream? Salt, pepper and mustard? Should we put these on the rolls? What if they don’t like tomatoes or ham or cheese? What if salad leaves bring them out in hives? Allergies? Someone please tell us what to do!

After spending too long discussing our task, we found ourselves with not much time left and a tap on the watch that belonged to our teacher meant only one thing – we were behind schedule coupled with the added possibility of detention if we didn’t get a move on. Oh yes, there would be consequences.

And still not a teabag in sight.

Lunch was made. Cling film was applied within an inch of the rolls’ lives and we were good to go. Onwards and yes, upwards we went. Through the late 19th century parts of the building with the original tiling and dark secrets and onto plastic coated steps and smooth banisters of the 80’s add ons. This is 20th century architecture at its best. This is how I remember my high school.

Acronyms seem to be the order of the day so we are off to PSE. At first I thought we would be pulling the ‘horse’ out the gym cupboard and the climbing frames from within their home attached to the gym hall’s walls. Alas, we were not going to be doing that. Instead we entered the world of Personal and Social Education. A subject that was spent discussing feelings, hormones, peer pressure and everything else that comes along with growing up and starting high school. It was interesting, but I would have preferred to have seen it with actual  S1’s rather than sheepish looking adults who were hoping the ground would swallow them up because we weren’t allowed to leave the room without ‘sharing’.

Finally, there was tea. And biscuits too. Magic.

Now that we had been snacked and watered, we were herded off to English. My favourite subject. We were to discuss the world of film advertising. The posters from Casablanca and Braveheart were handed out and we had to dissect the info given on the A4 pages with a view to discussing the genre, type and possible plot with the rest of the ‘class’. Great fun, although I doubt many teenagers had seen either of the films but we got to colour in. Which is always great.

Lunch. Our splendid rolls were scoffed and cups of tea were consumed with reckless abandon. The shortbread was lovely and I may or may not have taken a couple to get me through the rest of the day…

Science was next. Not my best subject it has to be said but it is one of wee N’s favourites so I put a happy smile on as I donned my safety specs and got to work. Chemistry wasn’t on my radar at school so I have no idea about any of it. It was great to do some experiments and pretend for a while that I knew a mouldy orange and a rusty nail are in fact examples of physical and chemical reactions.  Phew. Exhausted. Lie down required.

That was the end of my day. It was a fantastic idea to get to see how it all works after so many years but I was glad to go home and leave it all up to those who know what they are doing.

Entering S1 will be a huge milestone in my son’s life. A part of me doesn’t want him to go, to grow up and become a young adult but the other part of me can’t wait to see how he flourishes – if that’s really the word I’m looking for. Although I can’t wait to see what happens next in his life, which path he chooses and how he deals with everything that will come his way and hopefully come out the other end relatively unscathed.

I will, however, remind him that even though he will be taller than me by August next year, I can still give him a row and embarrass him with a kiss and a hug in-front of his pals.

That’s what mums are for. A-ha loving mums that is.


  1. What a great read! Certainly made me pause and reminisce on the good old days! Well done x

  2. Oh heck Sarah, I’m glad it was you going and not me.I remember words like fractions but not what they mean or what impact they have on us today-if any. If I remember rightly, they’re people that come from Fractio and were probably the illegal immigrants of the day.
    I note you’may’ have had a couple of pieces of shortbread, I hope that doesn’t mean you were eating in class Missy, you won’t be allowed to play your A-Ha when you get home if you did.
    I’m sure your son will do well there, I guess he’ll have friends going with him from the old school which makes all the difference.You can threaten it, but don’t embarrass him on the first day or he’ll never live it down.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    1. Author

      I ate in between classes so as not to disturb the equilibrium of learning!