One of my most memorable school reports came from a geography teacher whose name escapes me. It read ‘Tom produces some excellently presented and very creative work, however it is often not what I had asked him to do.’
Sixteen years later I still consider this to be one of the crowning comments received during my school-years. The truth behind the teacher’s observation was simple; crappy photocopied worksheets and dog-eared black-and-white textbooks bored the shit out of me. I read the questions, I knew the answers that were required, yet providing them wasn’t of any interest to me. So, I’d conjour up some alternate questions I felt I would better like to answer and would concentrate my efforts on those instead. My methodology worked better in some subjects than others.
Going off at a creative tangent in English lessons worked in my favour, and my abilities with the written-word managed to tame a teacher whom others found intimidating. Miss. Fairhall’s words (shouted very loudly) to the class stuck with me, “If you can’t spell, or use correct grammar, then people who read your words will just assume you’re a bloody idiot!”
Busking-it didn’t work for all my GCSEs, Religious Education was a write-off. A question in my final exam probed for a personal insight into some form of moral dilemma. The question was a load of shit and I figured it needed ‘sexing-up’ a bit; so I wrote a frenzied story about a guilt-ridden hired assassin gunning down his target from the window of a stolen car. I don’t think it was well-received. Although, I do consider the achievement of a grade D in a GCSE exam where I ignored the questions entirely to be somewhat amusing. I then went on to piss-away two years of my life at college doing a crap Media Studies course (please, never consider taking Media Studies, it’s a hopeless waste of time and it won’t qualify you for jack shit). During most of my lectures I was in McDonald’s. I failed my A-Levels with two Ds and an E. I was also twenty-eight pounds overweight. It was a bad time.
I digress. Back to GCSEs – English and Art were the only subjects that managed to hold my attention for the duration of the lessons. They both provided me somewhat more open briefs, there arguably wasn’t a right or a wrong solution. This suited me fine. I could choose the avenue I found most intriguing, and the ‘answers’ I gave were exactly what I wanted them to be. The way that my view of education differed from that provided was summed up perfectly by Sir Ken Robinson. Robinson is internationally famed for his books and lectures that condemn the outdated ‘fast-food’ model of education. Amongst many superb observations he said this, “Creativity is now as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.”