Heady times for students stirs dusty Leaving Cert memories

By david looby

Tens of thousands of Leaving Certs are facing into papers this week.
Tens of thousands of Leaving Certs are facing into papers this week.

SUDDENLY we're at the halfway mark of year 2017 Anno Domini - an extraordinary year to date!

The cyclical nature of the journalists' job never ceases to amaze me. Every year flies by and every season has its stories and in this, our summer season, the story of Leaving Certs starting into their exams is always one which jogs vivid memories of people sitting their exams. Some think back with dread upon those heady days, and for others, they look back on their Leaving Cert as a time when the seeds of their future endeavours, careers, even marriages, were sewn. Doing the rounds at local schools, interviewing students last week, it was great to see the fresh faced enthusiasm, the student collegiality and the buzz outside the exam halls.

Outside, beforehand, teenagers were wished the best of luck in their exams by their mother or father, for whom the Leaving Cert is as big an ordeal, if not moreso.

This country still hasn't got it right when it comes to our State exams. More continual assessment is the way to go, as for some students, the stress and pressure associated with sitting exams, some coming one after the other, can affect their concentration and cause them to make poor decisions on exam day.

When I sat the Leaving Cert in 1995 and again in 1996, (I really loved school!), it was the same story.

My Leaving Cert year was one of haphazard studying, in between playing soccer, attending gigs and drinking dodgy spirits on weekends. News that my family was moving to America that summer shook my focus and like any major life event, my thoughts turned elsewhere and my studies suffered.

Looking at some of the students, as they made their way into exam halls last week, it reminded me once again that we never know what pressures and strains people are going through. Heaven knows teenage years are difficult anyway and I didn't envy the students their exams, even if I did envy them their youth.

School years are when we make friends for life and going through the fire of the Leaving Cert only strengthens these bonds.

My first Leaving Cert didn't go so well. I got around 350 points. As I was going to a different country where getting a B in Honours Irish was about as useful as getting a similar mark in Swahili. I wasn't too bothered.

The results landed in August and quickly thereafter the news that most of my friends were off to Cork studying. More interestingly, to me, was that some of my friends were repeating their Leaving Cert.

I moved with my family to America, but didn't settle and returned in late October and repeated my Leaving Cert, staying with neighbours.

That year was one of the best I ever had, high on the fresh air of independence as I was 18, legally able to attend discos and bars without fear of being booted out by some ill tempered bouncer, wired on a power buzz.

Now, as I face into my fortieth birthday, having been told by my five-year-old daughter that I'm 'old' far too many times, you realise that the Leaving Cert was never the be-all-and-end-all you were kinda told in school. The lessons you learned about being a decent, hard working person, a good friend and to listen, laugh, live, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and have consideration for others, was far more important. The future is important, but living in the now and doing your best is really all that matters.

Wexford People