things i wish i could tell my secondary school self

these are some of the things i wish i know when i was in secondary school. but i can’t tell possibly travel back in time to tell my younger self, so i am hoping that the students whom i have spent a month with can read this and learn something.

if you are only going to read one thing, here it is, the most important thing:

-if you never think about what you are doing, and just do what your parents and teachers tell you to do, you are going to look back to what happened a few years after graduation, and think to yourself, omg, I was so dumb. So start thinking and asking why you are doing certain things at school and figure out what you should be doing for the benefit of your whole life journey. then think about how you can do the things you actually need to do faster and better. ask for answers. ask “what questions should i ask?” even if you don’t know what you should ask. most people are willing to help (one of the things you can do is asking me. dm me on instagram: @thatshirleylee).

exam reports, and repeating

-tomorrow the school is going to give out exam reports. some students are going to be repeaters. if they happen to be one of your friends, just be there with them, and DON’T say things like “it’s going to be better” or “i know how you feel. my dog died last year”. instead, be with them, and bring them to one of those cool teachers that can fix things. you know who they are.

if you are a repeater, you may feel like the world is ending. things indeed look bad for you: you will feel useless, you will find it hard to face your family, and the friends you met this year are all going to move on to the next year.


this means you have the time to know another group of people and see if you can make even better friends. keep in touch with your previous friends if they are good people. at the end, only the kind people you know matter in your life.

being a repeater also means that the school recognises that you are not good at learning some essential things (like the easiest part of English), and is willing to give you one more year to help you turn things around. you can use the summer holiday and the next year to figure out what the problems are and fix them (one of the ways is to contact me and hire me as your personal English tutor) you can even try out more clubs and more teams, and more activities with this extra year!

You Matter. the school ranks students according to exam results, because the whole education system in hong kong is set to reward students with good exam results. but, in real life! there! are! no! exams! there may be tons of things you are actually good at doing and you just can’t show them in the exams. you may not even have found the things you are good at doing! you are NOT worthless.

if you feel all alone and feel like your world is crumbling down, what you need that moment is actually slow, deep breaths, a pat on the shoulder and someone more experienced to tell you everything is going to be okay. look for a teacher who cares (you know who they are) or the social worker if you feel really down. they will know what to tell you.

points and marks are actually not that important

-no employers and people in your future will read your s1 to s5 student report. only you and your family are going to read it. it shows some of your strengths and weaknesses as numbers, and there are so many important strengths that can’t be expressed as numbers. like the ability to say the right things at the right time. like being kind and respecting other people. like the ability to come up with a strategy in an online game. like the ability to build amazing buildings in Minecraft. like the ability to stick to sports team practices and win matches. perseverance and communication skills are two of the most important skills in the world, and your exam report and scores probably can’t show information like that. so if your score is low, it doesn’t matter; if you score is quite high, you may end up being the person i am now: high score, still have problems focusing and working independently, with tons of problems on communication. so, again, your points doesn’t matter.

but do answer the questions in class. just don’t do it only for points; it helps you focus on what the teachers are saying and helps you learn better and faster.

well, you are still reading, so you are probably not one of my teachers

-do you know how a company works? a handbag company hires people with sewing skills who can make handbags, or people with design skills who can design handbags. but there are people who are responsible for calling clients, dealing with legal documents, calculating the money usage (accounting), and even hiring people (Human Resources)

here’s the question: a school only has a general office with five employees and the teachers (the principal is a teacher as well). Who’s doing what?

answer: other than teaching students, marking exam papers and homework, talking with parents, and doing all the things you see them doing, the teachers are doing all those things: they need to apply for funds for all of your activities, go to joint school meetings, and they need to hire. people. that’s right. the new teacher who come around next year is hired by one of your teachers. (how could i have never thought of the part about hiring people when i was a student??)

they remember your names. they may remember what you have written in your essays. but with so many things they need to do, they probably can’t allocate time to look for you and care about you. it’s not that they don’t want to help you; they simply can’t.

here’s the thing you need to do: leave an impression in class. when you have questions, go look for your teachers and ask them. don’t be afraid that your questions are stupid, because you are just a little kid and no adults should laugh at a little kid.

the secret

a story: i was a kid with poker face and likes reading stuff that i thought was cool. so i borrowed this book called the 100 most disgusting thing in the world from the school library. inside the book were pictures of all the ugly insects and animal organs you can possibly name. imagine me, a girl with glasses and long hair, in my student uniform, reading through the book emotionlessly in between lessons.

the classmate sitting next to me was interesting and popular in class. she saw me reading the book, and said to me, “shirley, let’s show this book to our cool and logical Chinese teacher and see what will happen.

so after Chinese class, we showed the teacher the book. the teacher laughed, cringed, said no, and walked away. no special reaction even though she is a legendary teacher.

the point here is that teachers are also human beings like you. in the staff room, they nap, watch TV shows, play mobile phone games and chase around each other just like school kids. after work they buy fancy stuff and books to be happy.

nearly all the adults around the world are still children hiding behind an adult body. they happen to be on Earth long enough, so sometimes they know more than you do. most of the times no one knows what’s the right thing to do. (if you think your friends are stupid, that’s normal as well. they have been on Earth for an even shorter period of time. it is reasonable for them to do fun but stupid things)

so don’t be afraid of teachers. don’t be afraid of not being liked. if someone tells you to do something, think about why they tell you so.

school should be a place for you to learn about growing up, basic living skills and being a better person. being scared and worrying affect the learning process and generally just lead to bad memories in the future.

tl;dr: don’t be scared of “bad situations”. use the school’s resource, aka the computers, books. treasure the smart people around you. do meaningful things. avoid regrets.