I pass prison cells. A single beam of light glows from each cell, each beam of light symbolising a life, a mind, and a willingness to learn. I can’t help but think about the wasted opportunities, gifts and talents that are unable to blossom.
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire" — WB Yeats.
Until transition year, my experience of education has been the process of rote learning a ton of information in a short space of time, and regurgitating it in an exam. Filling a pail, filling your mind with information, and pouring it back out for an exam. To me, real education is the fanning of a flame that is already present. Our visit to Limerick prison as part of TY lit a fire within me. Every emotion held behind their bars was tangible. This wasn’t a classroom, yet in some ways I learned more than I did in the first three years of secondary school.
This year we get the opportunity to try out the Leaving Cert subjects as well as extra subjects. Philosophy is one of my favourite subjects this year. In our last class we discussed ‘freedom’ and our philosophical novel, Man’s Search For Meaning. This is very relevant to TY, our trip to Limerick Prison, and our upcoming trip to Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Krakow. The author, Viktor Frankl, was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust. He chronicles his ordeal as a concentration camp inmate and shares his interesting observations of survival. He says: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." At the beginning of TY, all of the students in my year were given the same tools. At the end of the year, our growth will reflect on our response to every experience, challenge, and opportunity.
Overall, I am delighted that I decided to do TY and am looking forward to the upcoming experiences. I feel a lot more confident going into the Leaving Cert and that I have a good foundation for life. In contrast, I have friends who decided to skip TY and have no regrets. My friend Rachael Dalmeny says that after the Junior Cert, she wanted to ‘keep momentum going in her studies’ and that she enjoys feeling ‘much more focused on the end goal’, referring to the Leaving Cert itself. This seems to be the case with most of my friends who skipped TY.
Some people assume that TY is a ‘doss year’, in our school that’s not the case. We are always kept busy with projects and activities. It definitely is a break from the exam pressures of school, but at the same time, we have to keep on top of our core subjects.
In my opinion, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we are lucky to have. You get the opportunity to explore. You choose your work placements based on your interests, talents, and your aspirations. Suddenly, your learning is in your hands. You begin to understand that in life, you cannot depend on others to care more about your learning than you do. In TY you reap what you sow.