The day I went back to school

And yes I did learn something.
I left Portadown College in 1996 after completing my GCSE and A-levels there.  HE2 was the room I studied my beloved subject of Home Economics in.  My Home Economics teacher had moved to a new school, and her replacement Mrs Willis invited me to talk to the students.
It’s really interesting walking into school again.  I report to reception where I’m given a bright yellow visitors badge.  “It’s my school” I thought!  As I walked through the corridors to the room where I learnt all of my Home Economics prior to my degree nothing had changed, just the faces.  Memories came flooding back, you feel old (I’m only 35) and I’m thinking, what do I have in common with a sixth form?
I walk into the room, the layout had not changed, and there I saw my old seat, with someone new sitting on it.  I start to tell the students about my time post Portadown College and how Home Economics has brought me around the globe and to celebrity status in China.  I tell them about my books, my awards and my TV work not to mention the things I do in my freelance job role for AGA and other clients.
Who have you met that is famous” was one of the questions.  Well, few I could mention, discretion is key to my job, but I use this opportunity to teach about brands and marketing.  Consumer perception from the students is really interesting.  I ask who wants an iPhone, most hands go up, I then ask why.  The responses were simple “because its a trendy phone”.  That may be, but this bunch of digital Millennia’s were playing right into the hands of the fantastic global marketers that are Apple. And to think we are in a post-consumerist society now.
Marketing with its famous ‘Product, Place, Price, Promotion’ are globally accepted as the “Marketing Mix”, but when home economics teaches transferable life-skills and how to make considered consumer choices I thought I would delve a bit deeper into my audiences thoughts.  This is the generation that grew up in the credit crunch, this is the generation that above others since the 1950’s should be looking for value and financial stability.
One thing is sure about the consumer profiling of Millenials like I was talking to, they crave attention and role models, they look to celebrity and I was concerned at their over fascination of the Kardashians (I’m not being rude, but I don’t get the point).  But they have one thing I don’t, they learnt to learn from a screen rather than a page, they learnt to access information where I was taught to know it.  They see problems differently and have an insight into creativity solved on a screen not with the basic understanding that we used to have to learn at school.  They want to develop their own things, they don’t see boundaries.
But as I walked out of school the door opened, I was called into the Headmasters office, I have not been there in a long time.  I shook his hand, because Portadown College made me who I am, and I’m so proud to see the school full of students learning from one of the top grammar schools in N. Ireland.
And yes, that is a picture of myself at school in 1996 – I’m acne free now.  The year Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales got divorced, Mad Cow Disease (BSE) hit the UK, and DVD’s were launched in Japan.  Dolly the sheep was cloned, and E-bay was born all while listening to the Spice Girls launch Wannabe and Boyzone and Peter Andre in the charts too.  I think of the years that have passed since I sat in HE2 in the seat that girl was sitting in, and I realise how that class probably taught me more than I was able to deliver to them.  This generation may not have the life experience or maturity of myself and my peers, but they are born Digital where as I had to become digital. The needs of the Home Economist in this new age are now more relevant than ever.

9 thoughts on “The day I went back to school

  1. I too sent to Portadown college and studied Home Economics I was taught my the much loved Mrs Willis. I loved that class and its because of it that I love working in the food industry.

  2. Who taught you HE? I taught there briefly for a year in HE2 and then left to teach in England. I came back and am now teaching in NI again.

  3. Thanks for the ping James! It was great to read your reflections. Must have been strange to walk in the corridors and see the classroom where you spent so much time, not having changed at all (except for the faces). This point you made is pertinent to education today “They learnt to access information where I was taught to know it.” Students are empowered to develop life long learning skills that travel with them over time. An exciting time to learn for both students, educators and the community! @7mrsjames @foodatoakhill

  4. Mrs. Speedy (she was Miss Moire until she married the phys ed teacher) inspired me to be a home economist. Here I am retiring next year. 50 years after she taught me! I love the way you so accurately profiled the Millennials – teachers have to know this and teachers of my generation really have to know this!!

  5. Very good post James. Does take me back, that’s for sure. Oddly the first thought I had was, Fuck, I hated almost everyone and everything from that place! Good riddance, but your writing got me thinking about how we are that older generation now, that we as 6th formers probably looked up to, but equally scoffed too at their dated practices.
    Thank you for reminding me how old I am and also thank you for the wee trip down memory lane.

  6. Pingback: Confessions of a dyslexic (word award winning) food writer | James McIntosh's Blog

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