Hannah Firth

School: West Kilbride

Imagination and misunderstandings


Imagination and misunderstandings:
why not every school has to be a building.

          For over six years I was at a mainstream school.  It was horrible.  In primary six I left for a few weeks, and I was homeschooled.  In primary seven I left mid-year, and I just followed my interests and did no “work” at all.  Then I returned to a mainstream secondary school.  I left after a week, and I now go to an online school.

          Home-schooling and online schooling are not the same thing.  They are not even similar, with subtle differences.  They are separate, different types of education.

          A definition of home-school is ‘educate [one’s child] at home instead of sending them to a school’.  A definition of online school is ‘a school that teaches entirely through online methods.’  Online schools are proper schools; they have trained teachers, prepared lessons, regular homework and a set timetable.

          This difference is not difficult for the average human to grasp. However, those in charge of my local mainstream schools find it an incredibly difficult concept.  They don’t understand that there are actual school fees to pay, instead of ‘clicking on links’.  They seem almost suspicious of having a school online.  Perhaps they think it is a game.  Certainly I never got taught any coding at my primary school, and I remember thinking that the talks about “social media safety” we had were very ineffective.  Apparently they actually know nothing about the internet.


          Both mainstream schools and online schools have disadvantages.  A disadvantage shared by both of them is misjudgement.

          For example, we sometimes have to create presentations as homework pieces.  I have an Apple Mac and make these in Keynote, and then export to Powerpoint.  I thought it would be worth asking a teacher who has both an OS X and a Windows computer if she could mark my homework as a Keynote I emailed to her.

          She replies explaining that Keynotes can only be viewed on OS X and that they can easily be exported to ppt.

          Well, yes.  I know that.  I was actually asking whether we had to export them to power-points, or whether this is just because all the teachers have Windows computers. 


          This however, seems a trivial misunderstanding compared to the incomprehension of some of the people in my old mainstream school…

          As I remember, it was a normal school day, full of noise and loneliness and patronising comic sans posters with (probably copyright) images of colourful children wearing sexist clothing.

          Someone who was meant to talk to me about school issues and help fix them or something took me to a primary one classroom.  Why, I don’t know.

          The first baffling statement she made was after I looked at some pictures of dragons on the wall.  Obviously they had been found on the internet (again, probably copyright), printed out and given to the P1 children.

          I thought they were stupid pictures.  One of the reasons for this was that the dragons were very fat and their wings were very small.  There was no way they could fly.  Now, if she had been awesome she would have suggested some natural disaster reason for this.  She did not.  She said, “It is good for little children to use their imagination.”

          I asked what was so imaginative about describing something that was shoved under your nose.  I said I would agree if they were told to write a story about the dragon.

          She said, “Little ones find it hard to make up stories.  Remember you are a big girl.”

          I said that yes, my stories had improved, but the reason that they were good was because I had practised.

          After a few minutes of this tedious conversation I decided to tell her a story about dragons that I had made up.

          It was about a war that left the world devastated and most of the mating couples destroyed.  A council-like group of dragons that had worked with the empress decided to start a sort of orphanage-school type place where ‘hatchlings’ were raised.  It would be revealed that the protagonist was actually the daughter of an antagonist.

          I thought it was a pretty good story considering it was devised by an 11-year-old when she was wandering wearily around in a horrible concrete playground (which was full of crisp packets that had that sort of faded ‘colourful, happy’ look that had a rather creepy and sad affect.).

          Of course she did not recognise this.  Instead she said, sounding transparent and sticky and generally irritating, “Dragons are noisy.  There! I can use my imagination too.”

          Yes, she actually said this.

          Another disadvantage of mainstream schooling is the ‘school uniform’.  They are painfully, constantly uncomfortable; they send scratchy prickles of irritation down your limbs.  Even ‘alternatives’ are uncomfortable.  Such as replacing a tie with a little plastic card that has your name on it.  You might as well wear a (stereotypical) pet collar!

          It has been proven that school uniforms have no effect on learning at all.  The argument made for school uniform is all about ‘fitting in’ and ‘not being judged on how rich you are’ and such like.  Even if this were true, which I do doubt somewhat, then you exclude everything else you need for school, which makes this pointless.

          Online schooling and mainstream schooling also both have their advantages.  The advantages of online schooling outnumber those of mainstream schooling by far, in my opinion anyway.  The sole advantage of mainstream schooling that I can think of is friends.  If you are social and friendly and are fond of the human race (unlike myself), then you may enjoy the opportunity to spend time with them, I suppose.

          An obvious advantage of online schooling is, for example, the shortness of the days.  This is because art, music, sport and such like are either completely non-existent or non-compulsory.  You are, however, encouraged to do these in your own time.  Short days make it easier to learn while you are at school and write, read and code when you are not.

          A less obvious advantage is communication.  Some would think that having to type everything would be disadvantageous.  But, actually, the fact that you can talk to teachers completely privately and be separated into groups where no one else will distract you means that it is easier, especially for children who do go to online schools, if you consider the reasons why they may.

          Online schooling is a type of education completely separate from mainstream schooling and home schooling.  As I have tried them both, I believe that mainstream and online education have advantages and disadvantages, but the advantages of online schools far outnumber those of mainstream schools, and often the people there are more open minded.  While my online school is far from perfect, it suits me as much as being in a class of children ever could.



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