Rebecca's Leaving Cert Diary: Waterford exam students 'victims of unwanted advice'

Leaving Cert Diary: Waterford student's problem with unwanted advice

From parents to teachers to random extended family members, we Leaving Cert students are very (and I mean very!) often the victims of one of the most irritating legal crimes of all - unwanted advice!

With so many other stresses associated with Leaving Cert, this issue seems to have slipped under the radar. It may be a relatively minor problem in the grand scheme of the Leaving Cert, but it’s also one of the most common and frustrating ones. In fact, I find it surprising that it’s rarely addressed.

So, what do I even mean by unwanted advice? What about is unwanted, and why is it a problem?

Unwanted advice is when someone just can’t help but share with you what they think is a mind-boggling, life-changing insight into your life and your future, as if you can’t be trusted to figure that much out for yourself.

I’ve had uncles and aunts, who don’t know me from Adam, approach me at family gatherings to tell me what college course I should be looking into or what career path I should take in the future, each person contradicting the last.

“You should take a gap year! Travel the world!”

“Gap years are a waste – better to get stuck into third level.”

I don’t see how nursing, IT, business, accounting, teaching and engineering can all be the “best way to go”. With all due respect, how are my distant relatives supposed to know what’s best for me? They don’t know my strengths, weaknesses and interests. They barely know my age! Why in the world do they insist on having a say in what I should and shouldn’t do with my future?

It comes across as condescending. I understand they’re only looking out for me, but they need to understand that comments like those are frustrating and tiring to listen to, and it can feel disheartening when you inevitably can’t please everyone. The only person who can decide the “best way to go” for me is myself, and I would appreciate it if more people took confidence in that fact.

Unwanted advice can also be unrealistic and unreasonable advice

Teachers are often the guilty party of this. Of course, teachers are supposed to give us advice. It’s their jobs to advise us on how best to reach our academic potential. But, with that disclaimer out of the way, let me address the real teachers in question here – those teachers (and we all have them, unfortunately) who seem to forget that their subject is one of seven (in my case). That there are only 24 hours in a day and that students are only human. There’s nothing worse than an ill-informed teacher who tries to advise unreasonable study time.

“You should be spending at least an hour a night revising.” What?! An hour?! I couldn’t believe the teacher who once said that to me. Going by her logic, I should be studying an hour a night for every subject, right? That’s only fair. It would only take seven hours a day once I returned home from school. Then I could get the mountain of homework done afterwards before going to bed at a reasonable time so said teachers won’t complain about me nodding off the following day during their lesson. That’s certainly possible!

In all seriousness, this advice is so frustrating and stressful to receive. It hangs over me when I’m at home. I feel guilty for every minute I’m not studying and often I’ll try to reach certain teachers’ impossible standards by following their advice, feeling like a complete failure then when I can’t do it.

Certainly, not all advice is unwanted. None of us claim to be experts, and sometimes various inputs can be helpful and constructive when given appropriately. A bit of patience, sympathy and a degree of delicacy is sometimes enough to turn condescending, unwanted advice into something much more worthwhile. It’s not that difficult. In fact, this is a very manageable problem, so it’s about damn time we managed it.

Rebecca Troy is a Leaving Cert student at Waterford's Presentation Secondary School

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