Lessons are a big part of life. Some we love, others we loathe. In this two-part series, I thought I’d take a look at how lessons are an ongoing thing. We’re just not always conscious of it. I’ve learned so much from writing which has helped directly not only with that but with life skills too.
So let’s start with the obvious then.
Which were your favourite lessons and why? I loved English (no surprises there!), especially when it was composition time and we had to write a story to the theme the teacher set. We usually had to write three or four pages in our exercise books. I loved this, could never understand it when my colleagues all groaned, and I should have twigged a lot earlier than I did writing was likely to be a big part of my life or should become so. It took me about fifteen years to get around to giving writing a serious go! Hmm…
I also liked the old SRA cards which were colour-coded. You went up to a different colour having completed so many of the previous colour. Each card had a story on one side and questions to answer on the other. I loved that too. Each colour had a different level of reading difficulty so the “early” ones in the series I could polish off quickly. The longer, more detailed stories had questions set which tested how much of the story you had taken in. You could not get away with skim reading here. Not that I wanted to do so. Any chance of a free read and all that and I was in my element.
The other big favourite was History, a love that has endured. I guess it is because history is all about stories from the past when all is said and done. Though discovering Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time much later was an object lesson in that history is written by the winners and things are not always as they seem. The case against Richard III is considerably weakened by this book and rightly so.
My least favourite lessons were the sciences though Biology was okay. I liked finding out about animals, their habitats etc. I still recall the ghastly poster on my classroom wall which showed in graphic detail exactly what a fly does to your food when it lands on it! The 1970s, when I was at school, were not a gentle time or a subtle one! Oh and I loathed Technical Drawing which I referred to as Technical Boring. I wasn’t the only one incidentally…
I was a member of the Girls’ Brigade for many years and learned to swim through them. We used to go to the pool in Shirley in Southampton and I recall my mother used to be one of the helpers for that. I did make the mistake of jumping in the deep end to greet a friend once even though I couldn’t swim at the time. I was hauled out quickly! Now I did learn from that mistake quickly, you’ll be glad to know. I didn’t go in the deep end again until I could swim confidently (and that is always a great idea!).
Learning to Project My Voice
This came about thanks to reading Bible lessons in church. I was shown a simple tip to ensure my voice would “reach” the back of the church and that tip has stood me in good stead ever since. I continue to read lessons in church (now we’re going back!) but I am also now taking part in Open Prose Mic Nights (when my writing events are on) and being able to project your voice for that kind of thing is useful.
You don’t want people straining to hear your stories. And there is something pleasurable in listening to a clear voice that carries well without being booming. It’s also why a well narrated audio book is such a joy to listen to and can stand repeating. (My favourite here? The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett but as read for audio by Tony Robinson).
I learned to drive comparatively late in life. I hadn’t felt the “itch” to drive as other members of my family did at 17 but, thanks to my late parents moving to Gosport, which is not an easy journey by public transport, learning to drive became a necessity. But it paid off and stood me in good stead. Indeed, when my parents needed more assistance in later life, being able to drive made all the difference as to what I could do. Mind you, I think what I have learned since passing my test is not to be surprised at the “antics” I see on the road at times. The important thing is not to be guilty of those things myself.
Dog Owning Lessons
I’ve owned three dogs now – the lovely Gracie, Mabel, and Lady. All three have had different personalities though with some things in common. Being collies/collie crosses, they love playing with their toys. They don’t like other dogs pinching their ball when out in the park (mind you, I can think of other breeds that also hate this).
As a dog owner, you learn to pick up on the “tells” which reveal to you your dog is getting tired and it is time to go home. These “tells” are not always obvious but you get to know the tipping point where your dog is having a fab time and the point where he/she is getting a little overtired and grumpy (exactly as any overtired toddler would basically!). You also tune in to when your dog is likely to need to relieve itself etc. All of that is good.
A good dog owner should be alert to their animal’s needs and foibles. And the ultimate animal with foibles is, of course, us! We’re not so easy to read!
Incidentally I’ve gone from owning two dogs that absolutely would not play with other dogs to one that will and that has been a learning experience too. We adopted Lady just before she turned one so we had the “tail end” (no apologies for the pun!) of puppyhood with her. So that meant getting used to puppy-like play, which our previous dogs would not have dreamed of doing, having long outgrown such things.
Is it easy being a dog owner? Not always. Dogs, like kids, can embarrass you!
Is it worth it? Oh absolutely. Your dog will always love you, which is why I find animal cruelty to dogs especially heartbreaking. That dog will still keep on loving unless you turn it enough and when that happens, it nearly always ends tragically for the dog. And there have been links proving animal cruelty will often lead on to cruelty to humans later. There are times when lessons like this (and people always talk about learning from lessons) really should have been learned a long time ago.
What all dogs need is love, the right levels of food, water, exercise, and security. Give them that and you will have the most loyal companion.
I’m going to talk more about what I’ve learned from writing next week as what I’ve learned here doesn’t just affect my professional development. Writing has been good for me in so many ways and the lessons I learn here are ongoing, as they are for all writers.
Writing keeps you on your toes, which is no bad thing. I don’t think you can ever get the point where you dare think you’ve cracked it. There is always something to improve. You find better ways of editing your work. You get better at working out which publisher is more likely to consider taking you on. You discover new forms of writing to try etc. You want to keep on improving.
Meanwhile over to you. Which lessons did you enjoy most at school and why? Which did you dread going to and why?
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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