Finding Damo

The story of a man, his job, two cats and the meaning of success.

Archive for the tag “university”

Friends

I’ve got the theme song going through my head right now. And now you do too. Ha! Ear worm.

friends logoMy lovely wife and I went to a wedding on the weekend. As I get older and more introverted, I find myself dreading weddings. You know the deal: turn up, hang about near the church making small talk, sit through a ceremony, hang around for ages until the reception and hope to God that you’ve been placed on a table with either someone you know or someone interesting.

This wedding was an absolute delight. The bride and bride were lovely, the rain miraculously held off for the outdoor ceremony. And we were there with a bunch of people who were incredibly easy and fun to chat with. These were friends of Shereen’s, through our daughter’s last school, so she doesn’t see them as often as she used to, and I rarely see them at all. But the conversation was easy and stimulating. We laughed a lot and chatted over a number of different topics.

Which is lovely, but not my point (when is my opening ramble ever on topic?).

Shereen met these people because her daughter went to the same school as their kids.

Now, there’s a bit of a cultural crossover here, in that they lived in a similar area and sent their kids to the same school, so they would have some common interests and values. And of course, Shereen isn’t friends with all of the parents at the school, so that limits it even further. But I found it interesting that they became and remained friends through that limited commonality.

And that probably says more about me than anything else.

I don’t make friends easily. I have lots of people that I like and hang out with. Lots of people that I call friends, and if you want to go by Facebook, hundreds of friends that I don’t even hang out with. But the people that really matter to me – those that are an extension of my family in a lot of ways – are few.

I have those that I met through family as a child. A few from high school. A few more from my first university degree. Some from my second stint at Latrobe. A small select group that I met through other friends. A tiny smidge of people that I am friends with because of my jobs. Oh, and some Pratchett people.

That’s actually not a bad number, once I go through it in my head.

I think I have eight people who would help me bury a body. One of those is my wife, and she’s only up for it under certain circumstances. One isn’t as good a friend but would just be up for burying a body. That leaves six friends in the body burying category. Of those, two wouldn’t judge and the other six might need a bit more explanation.

friends2

I’m not counting family here, because being family means being willing to drive out into the forest and bury a body. You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your psychopathic relatives.

Why are we friends? What happened that meant that we got to a point where I could show up in the middle of the night with a canvas wrap and a shovel? It’s not just because they like Red Dwarf and Star Trek. It can’t be just that we’ve spent x amount of time stuck in the same place together. I’m pretty sure it’s not just teachers and computer programmers.

I think that there are certain shared experiences that just cement a friendship.

chuckyBurning a Chucky doll is one of those. I have an event on Facebook at the moment for a reunion of The Five. 20 years ago, we sacrificed a Chucky to relieve exam stress and to save one of the Five from nightmares. This is a post in its own right. I can’t believe I haven’t done that one yet. Stay tuned. Anyway, we were all close friends before that point, but even if we hadn’t been, I’m pretty sure we would have cemented the friendship with that experience.

My friend Melanie is such a good friend because we were born within months of each other and then spent the next 20 years with our parents getting together regularly. Somewhere along the line we found a friendship that I didn’t maintain with the other two in our little ’74 babies club. We played tennis at New Years and Easter for decades. Her sister almost drowned me in their pool.

I think the intensity of university was the catalyst for a lot of friendships. You’re over 18, living out of home, pressured by the new life and all of the work you have to do. You have no idea what you want to do once you’re done, or you know exactly what you want to do and you’re not sure you’re going to manage it with the marks you’re getting. You’re trying all the new things and all of these people are trying them with you.

And 20 years later, most of them are still around and close friends and checking the Crimestoppers website for new information and hopefully not looking too hard at the reward section.

Who would help you bury a body? Hold on to them. It’s not as common a friendship trait as you might think.

Advertisements

Exams

One of the great things about being a teacher is the paperwork. Everything has to be documented. Every piece of work should be carefully covered in red scribble and returned to the student, for them to scrunch it up and stick it in the bottom of their bag. We need to write lesson plans and unit outlines and day-to-day summaries and meeting minutes and assignment sheets…

… and exams.

We have exams for all core subjects in Years 7-10 at our school. Twice a year, for one week and at least six subjects, the students traipse into the hall or the auditorium and sit in neat little rows with papers in front of them and write or doodle for two hours. We supervise them, wandering up and down the aisles, answering questions (“When it says ‘write your name here’ does that mean my full name, or just my first name?”) and handing out tissues.

Oh gods, the sniffing! It’s like a convention of cocaine addicts sitting in a hall. All is silent except for the rustling of paper and then a symphony of sniffs. Sometimes you can tell it’s deliberate. There’s a pattern. The ringleader will give a hearty snort, followed by the gleeful snuffles of his underlings. But mostly it’s just the disgusting habits of teenagers in a world where handkerchiefs are no longer a required item.

It isn’t my place to debate the usefulness of exams. Well, it is, but it is more than my job is worth to do so. But they are very stressful, both for teachers and students. And I don’t even teach VCE (for the overseas readers: the Victorian Certificate of Education is the endgame for high school education in Victoria – Years 11 and 12). So many times I want to grab a kid and say “You’re only in Year 7! It’s not that big a deal!” But it’s probably a good thing that they have four years of learning that you don’t talk in exams and, No, you cannot go and get a drink you doofus!

Speaking of stress, my favourite (?) story from my own VCE exam days might very well be an urban myth, but it freaked us out at the time. I was going into a Literature exam, when one of the other students told us this:

“So this girl was really unprepared for her Psych exam. And on the day she came into the exam, really calm. She sat down, got all her stuff out, and waited for the exam to start. She opened her exam paper, stared at it for a few minutes, and then, very calmly, picked up two pencils, inserted one in each nostril, sharp side up, and then, without warning, slammed her head down on the table. She was dead instantly!”

This, just before we went into an exam. And exams at that point meant everything. They were our entry into university. They were a status symbol. They took over every part of our lives for those final weeks of school. And they were unbelievably stressful.

But I can’t imagine being overly worried about them in Year 10. I don’t even think I was overly traumatised by them in Year 12, although that story didn’t help. I know I was, but that sense of terror isn’t lodged in my brain the way dealing with bullies and everyday school life is. I remember clearly a slick, feral kid promising he’d push my head through a wall as soon as the teacher wasn’t watching. I don’t remember sleepless nights awaiting exams in highschool.

By university, exams had taken on a malevolent evil force that allowed them to get under my skin and bring me to breaking point. Or maybe it was the booze and late nights that did that. But suddenly, exams meant something. Friends would come to my room in tears, sure that they were going to fail miserably. We would do week-long cram sessions. We would stay up all night before an exam, trying to get one tiny piece of information to stick. We would eat mountains of doughnuts and experiment to see whether studying drunk was better than studying sober. Nothing helped.

I hate exams. They aren’t a fantastic example of learning. They are a fantastic example of a certain type of student’s learning. But until universities realise that, we’re stuck with it.

And so the symphony of sniffing will continue.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: