A recent item in Bulletins jogged my memory of a long-forgotten and disgraceful thing I did at school. The item read:
“If you try to fail and succeed, which have you done?”
Our headmistress observed what she called “Fourth Form Mentality” in a number of 14-year-old girls, including myself. She figured that the third formers were all right, because it was their first year at boarding school and they were becoming adjusted. The fifth formers were all right because it was their School Certificate year and they needed to study. But fourth formers were at that intermediate time, no longer new and not yet required to study hard, so many of them exhibited this “fourth form mentality” which consisted of carelessness, pranks, and a general devil-may-care attitude.
True to label, I took a dislike to our English teacher and resolved to do nothing at all in her classes and to make no effort whatever. I was always top in English anyway, and I cared more about failing than succeeding that particular term.
So, the girl who always came top of the class in English came second to last. I really don’t know how anyone managed to do worse than I did, but one girl must have.
I had failed, so I had succeeded in my objective.
The result of this totally unnecessary and disgraceful situation was a wake-up call that was long overdue.
I hated being almost bottom of the class.
The actual marks out of 100, for every subject and every class, were read out in assembly as each exam result came to hand, and everyone heard them.
It shook me up so much that never, for the rest of my high school education, did I occupy any place other than top of the class in English.
We were not required to be top in anything at that school, we were only expected to do our best. What I did was stupid, shallow and childish. However, it taught me a lesson that stayed with me for life. That was 60 years ago, and the memory is still fresh.