Saturday, 7 May 2016

I Revise For GCSEs

It must be exam season - the sun came out on Wednesday coinciding with my son's first written GCSE paper.  It brought back memories of O levels and light evenings spent chanting lines from Keats: My heart aches and a drowsy numbness ...; muttering the order of the C19th British Prime Ministers: ... Wellington, Grey, Melbourne, Wellington(2), Peel ...; declining Latin nouns: servus, serve, servum ... and trying to memorise the elements of the Periodic Table: hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium ... 

I've been helping my son revise by asking him questions from cards he's made.  Fortunately, the answers are written on the other side.  This evening, we were mainly revising Chemistry.

I enjoy the sense of prowess which comes with committing facts to memory.  In the week before my university finals I remember feeling that my brain was more agile and alert than it had ever been before.  It was alive with Anglo-Norman French, and information and theoretical  understandings about the quality of the reigns of British Medieval monarchs, about the reasons for and consequences of the Bruce invasion of Ireland, about the differences between the Cluniac and Cistercian ways of life.  None of this knowledge shaped what I went on to do in life (just as well, as it's almost entirely escaped me), but back then, I loved it for its own sake.

These days, it feels like I have forgotten more than I ever knew.  I like to think this is because my brain is now full of all the practicalities of life - the best recipe for brownies, how to change a washer, the required tyre pressures for my car when carrying  a heavy load -  and not because my memory is in decline. 

My son has a different explanation:  "It's not surprising you find the Chemistry hard, Mum," he remarked, twinkling.  "In your day, they'd only discovered four elements - earth, wind, fire and water!"

No comments:

Post a Comment