Let’s Talk: Back To School

I love summer, I love the weather, the clothes, the freedom. I start looking forward to summer almost as soon as I wake on St. Stephen’s Day. Yet I always find that about this time of year in late summer, I actually start looking forward to autumn and going back to school. I suppose the phrase “you can never have enough of a good thing,” isn’t true for me. Although I love structure and routine, a little variation always suits me as long as I am comfortable with it.

This year feels like a never-ending summer. In some ways I have enjoyed the time off, it has really allowed me to evaluate myself and where I am going in life, however the time feels like it has gone so slowly. I was delighted when it was announced last week that schools would be opening at the end of August as normal. Whilst school will definitely be different, the thought of some normality really gives me something to look forward to.

Going into Sixth Year means a lot to me. I went to three different primary schools. The first two were private old-fashioned schools, which feel like another world when I look back on them. I left the first one at the end of Senior Infants because my mum felt that a different school would be more suitable. The next school in some ways felt even more distant from the modern world. The building was a beautiful old mansion. I have fond memories of going there. Although I had always had an awareness that I was different, going to that school, I felt a deep sense of community and belonging. During the recession. the school was hit hard and it closed when I finished Fourth Class.

My last primary school was a local national school run by the Church of Ireland. I had recently moved to a new house and all the change was stressful. I had gone from a class of nine to a class of thirty. The community in this school was small and insular. I found it hard to find my way. Of course the result of this was the discovery that I was Autistic. I never made any friends in that school, I felt so miserable about my life. It was especially hard to have no shared memories with my classmates when we finished Sixth Class. I had lost any sense of belonging.

Secondary school was a new start for me. It has been hard, I would be lying to say otherwise. They were times that I struggled to fit in. But with support, I have found my place amongst my peers. In many ways I feel at home in my school, I love it for all its flaws and all its charm. After all the stress of primary school, I am so grateful to have so many wonderful memories with my friends and teachers as I finish my time there. I know that Sixth Year will be tough, there’s no escaping it. The Leaving Cert will be a massive mountain which I am just going to have to climb. But it will be worth it for all the wonderful memories I get to make.

There are many incoming Sixth Years who don’t want to go back to school just yet. They are worried about safety or the Leaving Cert or they simply don’t want to face the music. In my opinion we just have to trust that the government will keep us safe and make provisions for the Leaving Cert in time. Personally I can’t wait for structure, for routine, for a sense of normality. I can’t wait to make the most of this year and to move on to Third Level.

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