Laying Ghosts To Rest

I left Kendrick, my all girls grammar school, 23 years ago when I was 18 and I hadn’t been back since.  I left with rubbish A levels results and broken confidence.  This started a trajectory of just not doing very well in life in my late teens and throughout my twenties (although things are good now), a lot of which I can trace back to the belief I developed at school that I was stupid and not good enough. And let’s not even go into how going to an all girls school impacted me with men.  I can laugh about it now, but it brutally affected my ability to even talk to the opposite sex as an adult, let alone have relationships.

So why on earth would I go to Kendrick’s 140th birthday party when I had such unpleasant associations with my experience? Because I wanted to make peace with it all and find out if my perspective would be different after seeing the school and some of the teachers in the flesh.  A couple of my best friends from Kendrick wanted to go along too – they hadn’t had the best time there either, but we thought we needed to do it and that we would have fun.

We arrived at the school on Sunday at 1.30pm and discovered ourselves to be nervous wrecks.  I hadn’t realised it would affect me this much.  I was shaking.   We walked into register and I could barely write my name on my name badge because my hands were shaking so much. Very quickly the memories came flooding back, looking at the shabby buildings and the tennis courts that hadn’t changed much at all. But what really struck me, was that the memories popping into my head were good and funny. I always had a lot of friends at Kendrick, most of whom I’m in touch with and still really like.  Yes, the school was suffocatingly dull and old fashioned, the teachers weren’t particularly inspiring, but we were kids with energy and imagination (and a lot of hormones) and we had fun.

school My friend Katie and I when we wre about 15
My friend Katie and I at school when we were about 15
Walking through the dreary classrooms, I remembered how bored I was in classes. I’ve no idea how I got through 7 years of them. At primary school I had been a confident kid, specialising in writing wacky stories and making crazy artwork and doing bits of drama.  I wasn’t a brilliant high achiever, but I knew I was clever and that I was really good at my creative things.  Suddenly at this new school, from the age of eleven you needed to be a self disciplined exam machine, ready to nerdily crack on with hours of homework every night. And there was no patience, no curiousity and no warmth from the teachers if you couldn’t deliver.  Your sense of worth came from scoring the highest test results, not from writing the coolest story about super hero pigs.

I am still bitter that I was a nice, bright child and that I was cast aside for being lazy because I wasn’t a nerd.   It just seems a terrible shame that in my teen years when I should have absorbed learning like a sponge, I was camatosed with boredom and labelled a trouble maker for being disengaged rather than disobedient.

However, I took my chip on my shoulder back to the school on Sunday and discovered that despite everything, I am grateful for my time at school.  I had been in a protective environment full of high achieving girls – it wasn’t the right place for me, but it planted the seed of ambition in me to strive for the best and push myself.  I didn’t excel, but school was a safe, consistent home to me for all those years, and I may not have fitted in academically, but socially I was confident and had lots of laughs.  And even though my A level results were crap, I made it to university.  And when I compare all those happy outcomes of my school years to a lot of other people’s teenage experiences, well actually, I know I’m lucky.

The opening photo is of myself and my friends from school, posing in our old biology lab at Kendrick’s 140th birthday celebration.


8 thoughts on “Laying Ghosts To Rest

  1. I really appreciated reading your honest account of how you felt about Kendrick. The vast majority of ex-students I’ve talked to describe similarly bad experiences and effects on their self-esteem and it was defo pretty toxic for me too! But it’s great to be reminded of good memories and firm friendships too. Thanks so much for sharing, I’m so glad to hear things have worked out well for you. ❤️

    1. Ah it’s so lovely to hear from you Lucy! Sorry to hear it was a toxic experience for you too! Well done us for turning out so well despite our experience there! 👍😊xxx

  2. I love how honest this is. It’s great to reminded of the past, even if some of the memories aren’t so positive, but it’s great to see you venture back to your old school and find some positivity through it all.

    Yasmin x

  3. Its crazy the things we remember looking back at our school days. I always looks back with a bit of a negative view too so will be interesting to see if that alters should I ever return. Time will tell I guess.

  4. Katya, I hear you! It was very much the same for me, the pressure to do well, taking on too many heavy subjects (and other factors) left me a nervous wreck in 6th form; but, oh we did have a giggle – especially after school when popping into town!
    I was left totally confused and didn’t even fill out my UCAS form that year as I had NO CLUE and NO CONFIDENCE in what to study at uni. I took a “year out” and did a fast-track art and 3D design course at Henley college (OMG, *why* did I not choose Art for my A-levels in the first place?!) this helped with me choosing my Architecture degree but HOW MY LIFE CHANGED in such a different environment! A whole bunch of friends with no scholarly hang-ups, BOYS (some of whom are still my best friends today) and a new social life, moving out… I cannot lie, it felt life a re-birth!
    Kendrick did teach me to persevere, do my research and (underneath all that pressure) there was that little seed of “I can do this”. I have a respect for the system in that it did make us WANT to to well at school rather than muck around, the consequences, alas, being the “feeling like rubbish” bit when we did not achieve the expected 100%.
    So happy for you that life is now going well and that you have this great blog!
    Sam xx

    1. Hiya! I’m so glad things worked out for you with you finding your groove with art and architecture after leaving Kendrick. Creativity definitely wasn’t cherished there! And that’s great you ended up having a good time. And yes I’m still kind of grateful for the standards and discipline Kendrick instilled in me x

  5. Oh wow, Katya, I could’ve written almost the same thing myself after my return visit a couple of years ago. So many people said the same thing… (thank you Lucy for telling me about this blog!) xxx

    1. Hi Vicky! I’ve been amazed by the response to this blog post. I thought it was just me that left Kendrick feeling crushed. I’m sad that so many people went through the same thing, but also comforted that I wasn’t alone xx

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