Q&A: Were you a good student in school?

I was a good student in the sense that I generally did my homework and did not disrupt classes. I was also that one student who would sit at the front of the class because I’ve always learnt best by hearing something explained to me rather than reading about it (I get distracted way too easily when reading, even today).

In terms of grades, it was hit and miss. Depending on the subject, the teacher and the difficulty of the class, I could be getting top marks or be failing. Because I had to learn a new language and a whole new alphabet around the age of 6, I remember having some issues with reading I was kept back a grade so that I could catch up with reading but then I skipped a grade because I did manage to catch up and then some. I went through good and bad phases as a teenager, phases where school was a priority and phases where I showed up to class but my mind was elsewhere.

Overall I was average, going with the flow – the French secondary education system made it rather easy, if you’re going for a “general” baccalauréat, you can pick to specialise in science, humanities or economics. Once you choose that, you have a specific set of classes to attend (usually with more-or-less the same 30 people) and eventually you can add a third foreign language and some extracurricular like dance or theatre or music for some extra points. As I was much better in scientific subjects than in literature/humanities (I loved those classes but I just wasn’t that good at them), I picked the scientific “path”, with an emphasis on maths. This allowed me to be in the top half in terms of grades and I even somehow managed to a get a “mention très bien” (= above 16/20, you need a 10/20 to pass) on my baccalauréat (to almost everyone’s surprise, including mine and my parents’). I got a perfect score in physics/chemistry and an almost perfect one in maths but a 4 out of 20 (or maybe even a 2/20) in philosophy even though I absolutely loved philosophy class! I personally thought my essay was rather good but I guess the teacher grading it hailed from another philosophy school – sometimes it takes years for genius ideas to be recognised. At least that’s what I like to think… I mean it’s either that or I’m terrible at writing anything longer than a paragraph.

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