I was always relatively bright at school. I was never top of the class, and I didn’t get the highest grades, but I also wasn’t bottom, and I was made very aware of that. I was a comfortable middle ground cruzer, and I was happy there. However, that is not to say that I didn’t get in trouble, because I did. A lot. Through my teenage years, I wasn’t quite sure who I was, how I was meant to be behave, or how to deal with adult situations that were occasionally thrust upon me, and I had above everything else, an absolute urge to fit in and be just like everyone else. Unfortunately for my parents, this meant not doing my homework, using safety pins to make my school jumper tighter (which in hindsight must have looked horrendous!), and being incredibly rude to all of my teachers and anyone who disagreed with me. Whilst none of these things are huge crimes, they made some of my teenage years quite difficult, with a clash between what I wanted to be, and what I thought I should be.
And then it all changed, almost overnight.
I did alright in my GCSE’s, nothing to shout about, and knew that I hadn’t tried anywhere near as hard as I could have done. But I suddenly decided that I wanted to learn, and that the education that I had been so privileged to receive was only going to last another 2 years, and that I would make myself happier, and my parents happier in turn, by doing my hardest to grasp every bit of knowledge that I could. And I did. I was a self proclaimed teachers pet and the same teachers that the year before had changed their timetables purposefully so that they didn’t need to teach me, now commended me. I did extra work that I wasn’t set (the other pupils didn’t like this very much!) and said yes every time a teacher asked me to do something, not because I was trying to make the other pupils look bad, just because I thought it might benefit me in the long run. And, before long, I was made a prefect, then asked to write and direct the school pantomime, then made a senior prefect and given additional responsibilities in the school in my final year. At the same time, I managed to find myself a new friendship group, who weren’t the “cool” kids, but were lovely people, and who I had a fantastic 2 years of sixth form with. None of this was coincidence, the minute I decided to embrace my education and to stop looking at the world like it was constantly out to get me, my positively sky rocketed, and I was a happier person, which in turn led to my success.
This continued into my university life. I was lucky enough to gain a place at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts; something that I had never dreamed would be a possibility. I embraced every single task with both arms, and sometimes fell flat on my face, and I cried a lot through those three years. But I have always worked very hard and really pride myself on that now. Gone were the days of being rude to teachers and throwing notes across the classroom, but university brought with it a new set of challenges. Suddenly I wasn’t that bright anymore. Where I could have got away with spending an hour on a piece of work in high school, I was having to spend double that in order to achieve the ridiculous limits that I had set myself. And there lay the problem. My lecturers were never worried about my performance but the high school mentality of numbers and grades was so deeply rooted inside me, that I constantly felt that I was underachieving. I remember getting 68% in my first essay and being devastated; it was the lowest mark I had achieved in years. Little did I know at the time, 68% is fantastic! And I would soon get used to seeing much lower numbers on my piece of paper. But I trundled through my three years at LIPA, lived in three different houses, moving through various friends, having a fair deal of drama along the way, but as a whole, loveing every second of it! I worked very hard, didn’t have much of a social life, and I got a 1st class degree: one of my biggest achievements and the pride that my parents felt when I told them was one of the best feelings I have ever felt.
And then it stopped.
Up until this point, my life had moved very quickly. I moved from one thing to another, there was always a next step and I progressed in life just as they tell you in the books that you should. I loved my education and felt ready to seize the adult world with everything that it had to offer. I spent my last year of university exploring all of the possibilities that were out there for me, and felt fully qualified, with a packed CV under my belt and what I felt at the time, was a world of experience. So I ran out into the world like a rabbit into the road, and suddenly was greeted with those dreaded big bright headlights.
I had moved to Manchester, with two fantastic friends, who are a constant support network and whom I am so grateful for, and expected the world to greet me with open arms. But it didn’t. Everything just stopped. I was applying for amazing jobs every day, and not even getting interviews. So then decided I needed a ‘just for now’ job that paid my rent, so I walked into Manchester Arndale and walked out as the new supervisor in an American sweet shop. I am still the supervisor in an American sweet shop. At the same time, I company that I worked for whilst at university, asked me to work on a project with them, which is absolutely amazing. To get paid to do something you love is a brilliant feeling.
It is only 2 months since I graduated, and the fact that I haven’t yet landed my ‘dream job’ is unimportant. The sweet shop pays my bills, and I am still on the lookout for someone that will see something in me and I will start to fly. But when I moved to Manchester, I felt lost. And I couldn’t work out why. I can now, I think.
I started school at the age of 4, and then went to high school, and then to university. I have been in education for as long as I can remember and it’s safe. It gives me something to do everyday, it makes me feel good about myself, and call me strange, but I love being stressed out. I love it when I can’t quite work out how to do something and I have to work really hard to crack it, which is when I am work at my best. My school life was far from perfect, but was better than a lot of children that were not given the privileges that I was, and I will always be grateful to my parents for making sacrifices of their own in order to give me the education that they did.
But, no one ever prepared me for how it would feel when my education stopped. I knew how to do long division, but not how to register as self employed, or pay my council tax. These things aren’t difficult, and I soon learnt how to do them, but it left me thinking about the role of education in my life, and how without realising, when I graduated, my safety net was totally taken away and I couldn’t handle it. Perhaps if I had spent less time trying to get a higher mark, and more time getting drunk and making mistakes, I would have been better equipped for adulthood. But that’s all if’s and but’s and I don’t know the answer to any of these questions.
For now, I am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and I don’t need to know the answer yet. I am sure I will have various jobs in the next ten years and might never land the “dream job” that I am currently working towards. But it will all work out in the end, and as my friend often tells me, if it doesn’t, it’s not yet the end. I also know that the role of education to me, is more than a textbook, and that is something I want to explore.
A positive education should be a right for every child, not a privilege, and I know that I have lots left to learn, and you know what? I can’t wait.