It was up to me
by Alison Ritter
I have more than favourable memories of my school life. Not surprising that I opted to become a teacher…! Why did I enjoy my secondary school days so much? It was a couple of decades before I even asked myself this question. And another few years before I hit upon the answer. The main thing I learnt at school was: it was up to me.
In my early years at the grammar school I got good marks for subjects such as Physics and Chemistry, simply because I learnt by heart. A couple of years later our English teacher gave us a reading list with the “suggestion” we choose a couple of titles and read them, adding: “And if you especially enjoy a novel, find something else by that author and read that too”. I pursued her advice and developed an interest for historical novels, socio-critical novels and, indeed, specific authors.
The school I attended allowed / required pupils to define their own way forward by opting for arts or sciences. I followed the language path (German, Latin, French), but was also required to take English, maths, basic geography and history, art or music, and some philosophical and political-sounding subjects which inspired debate. Apart from the obligatory timetable, we were encouraged to attend extracurricular activities, such as orchestra, photo club, drama society, film club, and different sports.
My main subjects for my final school exam were German, English and French. I went on to study Foreign Languages and took a postgrad year to acquire my Certificate of Education, which entitles me to teach.
Why am I telling you all this? Not only so you can imagine what I looked like as a schoolgirl, believe me! It is what is inside me that has changed. Through my schooling and by being encouraged and guided to develop my personal interests and talents, to recognise my strengths and weaknesses, define my goals and objectives, and find my place in the world I wanted to inhabit.
My education, my process of learning, has shaped my life. Although I no longer teach classes of awkward teenagers or tired, distracted managers and now focus more on translation work, I know that learning is a part of me. I will never stop. I am open for new input.
Many of the lighting designers on the market today have no academic qualification in Lighting. This is not because they failed their exams, but because Bachelor and Master programmes in Lighting Design only started to develop in earnest about 20 years ago. A graduate with a Lighting Design degree in his/her pocket has a certain amount of knowledge about light and lighting, and has maybe had the chance to gather some practical experience. If this person opts to embark on a career as a Lighting Designer, he/she will serve an internship in a design practice and slowly but surely become acquainted with what is required to become a fully fledged professional.
Learning from colleagues, learning through mistakes, learning by attending seminars and conferences or participating in practical workshops, debates, moderated discussions … The choice of seminar, workshop or debate depends on what you need to focus on: technical know-how, practical skills, presentation techniques, time management, designer-client relationships. By expanding your know-how and skills you shape your career, yes. You discover new opportunities. You pinpoint new goals …
It’s up to you.