Things I wish we were taught at school – Amy F

Readers, I know it’s Monday.  But this post is worth getting out of bed for, I promise.  It’s Amy F, the magician behind Field and Fallow, and she is writing about the things she wishes we could have been taught at school.  The really useful lessons, as well as the algebra and the science experiments and the school trips and the subjunctive and the pluperfect.  The lessons, which, if we’d had a teacher tell us them for an hour a week, might have helped us navigate life a bit better, manage our money properly or stopped us curling up into the foetal position after Failed Boyfriend #4.  

I know you’ll all have your own lessons you wish you’d been taught.  Tell us them in the comments, and let’s change the national curriculum, AOW-style.  Over to you, Amy:


After Anna K’s recent stonker of an article about silencing your critical voice on Florence Finds and her excellent manifesto for all ten-year-old girls on Love My Dress’s body image week, I was making loud noises on the internet (if such a thing is possible) about how Anna should be in charge of all things taught to little girls ever. But having thought about it further, I think I also have my own wisdom to depart to the Any Other Women of the future, and I’m sure you all do. So here is my essential curriculum for the nation’s 12 year olds, the things I wish someone had told me as I entered teenagedom. Please add your own lessons in the comments.

Home Economics:

Just because you’ve always hated vegetables it doesn’t mean that you always will. Give new things a try. It might just be that your mum is a crap cook and once you start experimenting yourself all those things are actually really tasty.

A burnt cake is not a disaster. Just pile on the buttercream.

Sewing is a piece of cake but you will never have to make a quilted embroidered place mat in real life. Ignore the tedium of the random assignments and try to pick up on the basics, they’ll come in useful (even if it’s only to make the best fancy dress costumes).

As long as they’re not new (when the colours run) or delicate (so they’ll get caught) you can get away with chucking all your clothes in on one wash.

Flats and houses with wooden floors are way easier to keep clean than those with carpets.



Just because you’ve always been a straight A student doesn’t mean you don’t have to work hard for your exams. If you do, you won’t get A’s. Trust me.

Having said that, not getting A’s is not the end of the world. I still got into my choice of University with crap grades.

Take time to think about what interests you. Don’t just do the subjects you’re best at or those you think you should do. My whole life I’ve been obsessed with how things work, yet for some reason I convinced myself not to do any science A Levels thinking it would mean I wasn’t ‘creative’.

Work is hard. It’s why it’s called work, and why you get paid. It’s OK to not know what you want to do. Take time to work out what you enjoy and explore the options available. Lots of adults are still doing this.



Everything you learn in maths class will be really useful. Even if it’s just to work out the sale price on something. Except pi. You’ll probably never need to know pi again.

Debt is a bugger and will be causing headaches for a long time after you can remember what you even borrowed it for. Yes, even your student loan (which, incidentally, isn’t in any way low interest whatever you were told in sixth form). If you don’t need it don’t borrow it.  If you do, work out how you’re going to repay it as soon as possible.

Excel makes complicated calculations way easier.


Sex ed:

Don’t be defined by your relationship status. Whilst it might seem mortifying never to have had a boyfriend, or even a snog, at 16, don’t let this be a reason for saying yes to the first guy who asks.

And if you don’t listen to the previous point, learn to recognise if you’re dating a loser or sociopath.

Unless your other half is Harry Windsor you really don’t want someone to treat you like a princess, you want someone who respects, understands and fundamentally likes you as.a.person whilst also wanting to get into your pants. You should feel the same way about them. You shouldn’t EVER feel pressured into a relationship.

Despite what it says on the cover of every women’s magazine good relationships don’t have to be saved, or made to work. If it’s not working, there’s a reason, so get out. Similarly it is not your job to ‘satisfy your man’ – any good, healthy relationship will be satisfactory enough for the both of you.

No means no. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.


English literature

It’s OK to still read children’s books as a grown up.

Don’t let a bad teacher turn you off a great book. But accept that even the best will struggle to make you enjoy Julius Ceasar.


English language

For pity’s sake and the future of humanity please learn the correct usages for their/there/they’re, your/you’re, to/too/two etc, AND BLINKING WELL USE THEM.

Categories: Life Experience
44 interesting thoughts on this


  1. Becca
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Yes yes yes. We get interviewees at work and if they can’t use their there they’re (seeing as they all have 1000 A’s these days) I will actually get in a massive strop about it. Because its basic innit.

    Also the words innit, mint, boss, smiley face or lol are not words you are allowed to use past year 11.

    If a man does not call you, be confident enough to play him on his shit. He doesn’t deserve you.

    The girls that held you in the showers every day for seven years are probably going to get jobs in Tesco and you can make them get you stuff and they HAVE to go and get it. And then you can send it back with ‘oh no….the Waitrose one is just better’

    Another lesson….it’s Ok to be a bitch sometimes.

    If you eat seven Mars bars a day and are still a size 8 when you are at school it will not last. You will balloon.

    Some vegetables are still rank.

    When you get a job you have things to pay like rent and bills. You may not spend it all on new shoes.

    The clothes in Topshop will never fit anyone who has hips.

    It’s cool to shop at M & S for more than pants now.

  2. Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    What Becca said. Plus the following:

    You know how the only thing you ever want to do is fit in and look the same as everyone else and how being different in any way is mortifying? That won’t last. When you get older, you’ll love what makes you different to everyone else. Find what that is and learn to love it.

    You are really sodding lucky to be able to read and do maths – even basic maths. Stop whining about how there isn’t any point to graphs. One fifth of UK adults don’t have the literacy or numeracy skills of an eleven-year-old. Swallow it, learn it, use it – even if it’s only so you can spell properly and work out discounts in the sales.

    You know how it’s the end of the world when the boy you like doesn’t like you back? Believe me when I say that is not the biggest curveball life will throw at you.

    Learn to cook the basics – pasta/veg, eggs, You will need these skills the first time you live away from home. You will need them to eat a balanced diet. Toasties and takeaways do not a balanced diet make. If you eat well, you will be happy, healthy and productive and you will live better.

    Start trusting your gut, it will serve you well. Your gut is not your best friend’s gut, or the thing everyone else thinks you should do, it’s what YOU think you should do. It will do wonders for your self esteem.

    University is not the only option. If you don’t enjoy academia, there are a hundred other ways to get qualified. Just make sure you get qualified in something.

    Find out what you love, and do a lot of it. Nothing will make you happier.

  3. Mahj
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    What Becca and Anna said plus the following:

    Not ever being asked out by your all-time school crush is not the end of the world. You will meet a wonderful man in your mid-20s who will quite literally, change your life forever.

    Not having all the latest shoes/clothes/gadgets is not the social suicide you think it is.

    You WILL find your confidence later in life. You won’t always be this unsure of yourself.

    20/20, Hooch and White Lightning are not nice to drink. You will grow out of this and discover wine. And gin.

    Some boys will always be douchebags.


    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      And perhaps your all time school crush, who hooked up with all of your friends apart from you, who made you feel like you actually had a broken heart on New Year’s Eve 1999, will approach you at a party some years later and you won’t even recognise him. He will still be a sloppy drunk. You’ll respectfully decline.

    • Becca
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      It is not possible to “get drunk” on one sip of a bottle of hooch at the Year 9 Disco. They are faking.

  4. Zan
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    You’re really really not fat. Really. I promise you. Stop worrying about it, because one day you’ll look at pictures and think ‘god, I wasn’t fat AT ALL’.

    There will come a day when you don’t have to wear maroon knickers and a yellow t-shirt and go ‘long distance’ running around the local area. Promise.

    Pay attention to bills. They may be big and scary. You may want to put them in a drawer and forget them. But one day, they’ll come back and bite you on the bum.

    Most dishes you cook that don’t turn out as expected can be saved by one of the following – cheese or chorizo.

    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      Zan, this made me spit out my tea…oh long distance running! Maroon knickers! The memories!

      • Zan
        Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        They were awful. I’m scarred for life I tell you……!

  5. Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I love this post too much. Amy you are a genius.

    I would add… Don’t listen to your parents when they tell you you’re great at languages. You are just a good mimic. Don’t listen to your parents when they tell you you’re bad at science. THEY were bad at science, NOW TAKE THAT A LEVEL.

    PE is not a just a popularity contest you are failing at. Find your skill and develop it. It will do amazing things for your confidence.

    Self belief is even hotter than having perfectly straight hair.

    Pssst…one day someone will invent GHDs and you WILL have perfectly straight hair. SCREAM.


    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Ooh we posted about P.E. at same time. Good minds and all that.

      • Posted June 18, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        God I hated P.E.
        I haven’t found the thing I’m good at yet though.

        • Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

          I guess I’m not brilliant at anything exercise/sporty…ie. I wouldn’t win any races or anything… but I’m ok at long distance running – I’m slow and steady! – and because I have rhythm I’m alright at Zumba… Pilates is another matter, hahaha, deffo not good at that! But I just realised I’m not as crap as I thought I was at school and most of us are pretty much in the same boat ie. not super duper athletes x

          • Posted June 19, 2012 at 7:21 am | Permalink

            I’d say the same about Art. Just because you have a bad art teacher & aren’t very good with representational drawing doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it & find a part of it you do like & can do.

  6. Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Don’t be put off exercise based on bloody P.E. lessons where you are made to feel rubbish and stupid. Actually everyone is good at some kind of exercise or sport – you just need to find your thing.

    You should trust in your own sense of style – don’t listen to parents or peers about what look you should have or which clothes do or don’t go together. (although sometimes they are right) but what’s most important of all is that you are an individual and make your own choices.

    Stand up to bullies. Look them in the eye with the confidence that you are SO much cooler, more fun, more of a brilliant person than they are. Feel pity for them.

    Be really REALLY kind to other people. Teenage years are full of trying times but be the absolute nicest person you can be because it does get better. Honest.

  7. Posted June 18, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    All of the above plus…

    1) The way other people see you does not have to define the way you see yourself, you *can* leave the box they put you in and be whatever you truly are.

    And ABOVE ALL….

    2) Learn about your body now. Okay, so your immune system doesn’t sound fascinating when Mr Bald Science Teacher was describing antibodies but knowledge is power, you only have one body, you owe it to yourself to understand how it works, so that when it lets you down you aren’t scared and flailing in the dark.

    K x

    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      YAY! I was so hoping you’d chip in with some Biology!

      • Posted June 18, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

        Always! :-D A related note being, if you understand and respect your body, you’re less likely to damage it carelessly. Don’t take your health for granted.

        K x

        • Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

          YES. Not sure if this is controversial but I’d add in avoid junk food…have it sometimes but not often…eat for nutrition and don’t worry agonise over your weight.

  8. Posted June 18, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    1. Your ability to do something should never be defined by your gender. Ever. If someone tells you that you can’t do something because you’re a girl, fight back and prove them wrong. You can be whatever you want to be.

    2. It is better to be single and happy than it is to have a boyfriend that makes you miserable. You won’t believe that until you get a little bit older and then you’ll realise it’s true (some people never seem to learn though – don’t be too hard on them).

    3. Being nice costs nothing, but will get you far in life (being nice isn’t the same as being a doormat though).

    4. Spend some time finding out what clothes suit your body shape and stick to that style. Although you may be gutted that you can’t pull off high waisted shorts/mini skirts/skinny jeans/playsuits you will look a million miles better than if you tried. Some trends just aren’t for you.

    5. If it fits you better buy that bigger size. You will look much slimmer than if you squeeze into the smaller size just because you want to be a size ten. If it bothers you that much, cut out the label so no one but you knows.

  9. Posted June 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    All of the above and…. that red hair you hated and were picked on for at school is actually the envy of old ladies everywhere!

    However, I have to disagree with one of your points Amy. Carpet triumphs over the crappy laminate in our house every time. Cosy and no dust balls = win!

    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      I do kind of miss that cosiness of carpet but I’m lazy and I just find it so much easier and quicker to clean our hardwood that I did when we had carpet. I just wear comfy socks instead!

  10. Frances
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    That paper round/ Saturday job may not seem much fun at the time, but believe me it’ll be darned useful when you apply for ‘real’ jobs and have to explain how you manage your time/work in a team/ manage to be nice to people.

    Cooking is not always about being healthy – sure, that’s useful but it’s about self-sufficiency, fun, and your future parents-in-law thinking that you’re awesome. Learn to make cakes and the world will smile.

    Gardening is not as scary as it looks. Mowing a lawn is easy.

    Live abroad. Just for six months. It’ll change your life.

    You don’t always need to know how much is in your bank account, but it’s a good idea to check sometimes.

    • Posted June 18, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      Learn to make cakes but also learn not to eat the mixture (I haven’t learnt this yet)

      • Becca
        Posted June 18, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        Do not make cakes JUST so you can eat the mixture.

        And if you do…add the posh Vanilla Essence from Waitrose because it rocks

        New Look is not a luxury brand. Your clothes will go a funny shape and the heels will break. Buy less. Buy things that will LAST.

        Hareem pants are not a good look for anyone.

        • Frances
          Posted June 18, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

          Vanilla essence is underrated. I always add about half a bottle to cakes because one teaspoon just isn’t vanilla-y enough…

    • Posted June 19, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink


  11. Clare
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I am going to print this out and paste it to Emmi’s ceiling. And read it to her as her bed time story. Every night.

  12. Peridot
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Ohhhhh, yes, LOVE the English Language point. I should add: ration your exclamation marks past the age of 13. Or you will look as if you are, in fact, 13.

    Do not list number of twitter followers/Facebook friends as a key achievement on your CV. Nor any dubious recreational activities. Sometimes dull and safe is best.

    And I take your Julius Caesar and raise you a Coriolanus. Possibly the dullest play I’ve ever had the misfortune to have to read. I refuse to believe that Shakespeare wrote something simultaneously that hysterical and that mind-numbing.

  13. Posted June 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Great post Amy.

    Can I add a couple too?

    If someone really doesn’t like you – perhaps it’s not actually your fault. (Still learning this one and still not sure if it’s true!)

    and sign up with a GP, you may feel great right now but when you’re not A&E probably won’t care that you’ve been having too much fun to register if all you need is antibiotics.

    Oh and if you feel like you are alone and scared, talk to someone. Perhaps that friendly GP (you’ve just signed up with). Just know you are not alone.

  14. Posted June 18, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    Great post!!

    Your teachers aren’t ALWAYS right. But most of the time -like your parents -they are. Take a second sometimes to listen to them rather than cheeking them.

    And I’m afraid I’ve got to contradict the comment about not getting A’s not being the end of the world. If it means the end of the dream you’ve had since you were 4, it IS the end of the world (and the only time you’ve ever seen your mother cry). HOWEVER, there is always a plan B, and although it’ll be different it may not be worse.

    • Becca
      Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

      I think you can do it….it may just take longer I.e. you might have to do something else first.

  15. Carly
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    That those girls who you are trying desperately hard to fit in with are not that great if it’s that much work! Find a group who you feel comfortable with, who support each other and recognise each others good points – you will be friends forever.

  16. Cath
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Soooo true! All of it! I wish i’d been taught that being cool means being yourself and being good at what you’re good at… and everyone is good at something.

    But if I can turn this on its head for a minute; what I was taught at school was how to think, and how to learn, and that has served me better than any school subject. I know I know nothing, but what I do know is how and where to find things out, how to learn anything and how to figure something out. So I am lucky, I have had a good education, and I am thankful for it.

  17. Steff
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    So gutted to be late to the conversation – all sorts of awesomeness going on here. Sent the link to my 15 year old niece who has decided it’s her life mission to make sure girls know all this stuff :)

    My English Literature lesson has to be that “why” and “how” are not interchangeable, neither are “done” and “did”. Though I suspect that may just be a lesson required in bonnie Scotland.

    • Steff
      Posted June 19, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      Also “seen” and “saw”…

    • Posted June 19, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      You must be very proud of your niece if her head is that well screwed on at 15!

      • Steff
        Posted June 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        Unbelievably – she’s an absolute star! I wish my head had been half as screwed on as hers is when I was 15…

  18. Beth
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    Love this. Thanks Amy for sharing your wisdom. I recently found a number of emails I exchanged with my best friend when we were 17 and, through tears of embarrassed laughter, found myself wanting to scream: “Slow down. What’s the hurry?” And I don’t mean actually slow down so much as mentally slow down: stop trying to skip ahead to the bit where you get the awesome boyfriend/haircut and never have to worry about your hands freezing off in hockey ever again. (Trust me, Dawson’s Creek was fast paced in comparison to the real life events I was writing about. Three paragraphs, three, on the walk from the 6th form centre to maths!)

    Life, hopefully, is long, so you really shouldn’t be expected to live it all in the first third and certainly not before you’re 20! So, like others have said, focus on doing things you enjoy with people you like and stop measuring yourself against the little voice in your head telling you that everyone else is having a better time. All lies!

    I recently came across this site for teenage girls – – and instantly fell in love. Got a feeling some of you might enjoy it too if you haven’t found it already.

    Oh, and always keep scrupulous notes of any conversations with banks, utilities providers, etc. You’ll need them.

  19. Esme
    Posted June 19, 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    All of the above, and:
    1. Eat homemade food and learn to cook as much of it as possible. Know what goes in your food so that you can make healthy choices. But, above all, just try and live a healthy life and not get stressed over eating a piece of chocolate cake.
    2. There are a million jobs out there and a million ways to earn money. You don’t have to be a doctor or a lawyer to be successful.
    3. Family and friends are important, keep them close and let them know. Forget the people who don’t make you happy.
    4. Read and be interested in life, it will make you interesting.

  20. AK
    Posted June 30, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I disagree about Pi. It’s useful to calculate the surface area of pizzas.

3 Trackbacks

  • By Twilight on July 4, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    [...] Amy’s brilliant piece a few weeks ago on what we all should have been taught at school, she linked to a page entitled ‘Ten Ways to Know [...]

  • By Second Chances on December 11, 2012 at 7:01 am

    [...] love this post by Amy, the genius behind Field & Fallow.  I  love its eloquent anger.  Anger at how it’s [...]

  • By Any Other Hen Do! on January 21, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    [...] Amy and I plotted in the downstairs cells of the Southwark Tavern, fuelled by their sweet potato wedges. [...]

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