Daughter's joy of leaving chemistry behind

As anyone with a 16 or 18 year old in the house can testify, exams are literally the stuff of nightmares.

Thursday, 1st September 2016, 9:07 am
Updated Thursday, 1st September 2016, 10:11 am

It seems like years ago that daughter #1 and her friends sat their GCSEs and, in our house at least, they’d more or less been forgotten about until results day loomed large last Thursday.

But it turned up, like a tax demand, and had to be faced down in the cold light of day. Two years of lessons and hours of revision boiled down to a single letter.

The best teacher I ever had taught A-level English literature.

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At first glance he was a rather starchy old gent but through his skill and enthusiasm, he got a bunch of teenage football hooligans fascinated by the poems of Thomas Hardy (death and regret), Death Of A Salesman by Arthur Miller (death and, er, regret) and Shakespeare’s Richard II (pilot episode of Game Of Thrones).

But just before we sat the exam he said something so cold it would’ve made Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules in Pulp Fiction shiver.

He said: “I hope you all get the grades you deserve.”

At the time I thought it was the meanest thing I’d ever heard.

Why didn’t he just say he hoped we all did well?

Because life isn’t like that. Basically you get out what you put in.

If you’ve worked hard then you deserve the rewards, but if you’ve winged it then you’re going to need to flip 10 heads in a row – and Lady Luck never hangs around for that long.

Daughter #1 has a work ethic she must have inherited from her mum.

A-level English literature aside, I was a coin flipper.

A bright kid who works hard, she’s just quit her first part-time job for another because the hourly rate is better and believes a driving licence is as important as any academic qualification – lessons start on her 17th birthday.

Are exams unfair?

Of course they are and if I had my way I’d scrap them all so teachers could teach the love of a subject rather than holding daily training camps from the age of 14 to pass an exam, the material of which is forgotten for good within hours of leaving the exam hall.

But daughter #1’s just thrilled she’ll never have to think about chemistry EVER again.