my sixth year personal essay

Following an input on attribution theory i was reminded of my personal essay that I  wrote for my advanced higher English portfolio. The essay was completely my own and i did not allow for any of my teachers to see it until the day before it was meant to be turned in. I wanted it to be completely my own.  I hope you enjoy reading it.

 

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“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
Nelson Mandela

 

School life has not always been easy for me; I guess you could describe me as a “late bloomer”. Personally, I do not believe this to be representative as I feel that no-one should define which stage a child should be, or indeed when, in their development. We are all individuals who mature, learn and process information at different rates. From an early age, it was apparent that I struggled with English, especially reading, and as a result of this I was stuck into the euphemistically named “Red Group” which even my slightly naïve eight year old self could work out was the dreaded…bottom group. Even though I coped with the demands of working out the three bold words on the page using the pictures as clues, simply being in the bottom group shattered my confidence, leading me to believe, that I was one of the “dunces”.

 

Never making it out of the Red Group throughout my entire seven years of primary school left me believing that I was less intelligent than the other children in my class. Due to this internal belief, the consequences were demonstrated externally. The mere thought of having to answer a simple question in front of the class would result in the feeling that my heart would leap out of my chest. The endless silence followed by a sea of little eager faces awaiting a response was too much to bare. I developed extreme anxiety about answering questions in class – not because I wasn’t willing to offer a response but simply because I feared getting the answer wrong and confirming my class mates’ beliefs that I was vacuous.

 

High School; a fresh start. An opportunity to shrug off the label that had been assigned to me in primary school. An opportunity to rise above the mediocre expectations that had been set for me. Unfortunately, I was terrified of my own shadow back then so the thought of shrugging off and rising above anything was going to be quite the task. I was intimidated by the stature of the school and those around me, thankfully I had someone, other than my really embarrassing older sister, to look out for me. I was firstly introduced to my Guidance Teacher, Miss Duncan. I did not know it at the time, but later on in my school career, she would become the most influential factor in my decision to become a teacher.

 

I found it difficult at first to acclimatise to my new school environment. I was not used to travelling from class to class, and as a result of this I found organising my school work to be a challenge. I was placed in a small class with another twenty pupils. It became apparent to me that we had an extra teacher in the room. At the start, this did not bother me as I really enjoyed having someone else to talk to and having someone who would help me with my organisational skills, whilst also aiding me in attempting to conjure up a Victoria sponge cake in Home Economics; which, to this day, I still require assistance to make. It soon became apparent to me that this teacher was in class specifically to see if I was coping with the demands of the school work, specifically in English.

 

Shortly after my arrival at high school, I was tested for Dyslexia. The results came back positive. Word soon spread through my English class, as I began to arrive to class with the dreaded “Alpha Smart” which was basically a glorified calculator but for words instead of numbers. I did not mind people knowing I was dyslexic but what I did mind was the constant questions. Can you spell this? Can you read this? And the worst of all – it’s not fair, why does Cameron get to use the computer? I decided that the best way to stop these questions was simply not to use my Alpha Smart anymore. I viewed the Alpha Dumb as an opportunity for my peers to re-label me as the class “dunce” rather than a way to aid me in my studies. I decided that the best way to get people to stop speaking to me as if I was inferior to them was to beat them at their own game. I set myself the goal of being the best English student in my year. No mean feat for a boy who needed a sheet of yellow film to stop the words from jumping off the page. Aspirational, huh?

 

At the start of third year, I was placed in a new English class and, for the first time ever, the top set. I had finally reached the pinnacle of my school career. I dreams and aspirations had finally been fulfilled. I was still rather shy, so I sat at the back of the class in order to avoid drawing attention to my presence. I had a severe case of Imposter Syndrome: an inability to internalise my accomplishments; and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. I kept waiting for the Head of English to come and drag me, literally and metaphorically, back down to the bottom class. The teacher arrived; silence fell. We all knew Miss Duncan was someone that you did not wish to get on the wrong side of but I had always had a good relationship with her. She noticed immediately that I was sat at the back of the class in the left hand corner, and she offered me a re-assuring smile. Her belief in me sparked my love for the subject. Despite the protestations of the class, we studied Shakespeare, more specifically we studied the Scottish play “Macbeth”. I instantly fell in love with the play, not just for its storyline but for the way we were taught it. Miss Duncan showed me that words have a deeper meaning than what is first presented. Miss Duncan and I became close and I aspired to be like her, as she presented herself to me not only as a teacher but also as a friend. We shared many similar interests not only our love for English but we are both also “die hard” Manchester United and Dundee Football Club supporters. I would hang back and speak to Miss Duncan at the end of every English period. This was five minutes where I could have a conversation with someone without feeling like my views and opinions were invalid. This helped me grow in confidence and enhanced my academic abilities, as I had finally found someone who had faith in my abilities.

 

In order to repay Miss Duncan for the support and guidance she had given me for all of third year. I began to make essay plans for my upcoming third year exams and studied two hours a night for two weeks. I sat the exam and got full marks on my “Macbeth” essay. Whilst many believe it is simply third year tests that do not count towards anything. I believe the opposite these tests that “ meant nothing”, meant everything to me as it was the first time I had seen myself progress and it also gave me an opportunity to prove to Miss Duncan that all the time and dedication she had spent on me had paid off.

 

Due to the result I got in my third year exams, and also the guidance given to me by Miss Duncan, I began to become more confident in my work and also within myself. I became more sociable and now had the confidence to put up my hand in class without fear of being subjected to ridicule by my fellow classmates. Luckily for me, Miss Duncan was my teacher in both fourth and fifth year. During my fifth year at school, I ensured that my love and enthusiasm for English did not fade, even though my peers had become increasingly distracted by other aspects of their lives. I continued to work extremely hard and pushed myself to the limits, something that previously I would not have done. My prelim results were a testament to my hard work as I was later presented with the English Dux medal as I had received the highest mark in the year; ninety per cent to be exact. And whilst many people have attributed “Dyslexia” as the reason they did not succeed in school, I have found the complete opposite to be true. I have used the diagnosis of Dyslexia as a catalyst for my success. I refused to be defined by my disability. Having a learning disability, only too often, can lead to a lack of faith in them to do well. This contributes to the self-fulfilling prophecy. Most people are unaware that Dyslexia is not solely about having difficulty with spelling and reading but it also affects time management skills, brain processing and organisational skills. Whilst these seem like negatives, people with dyslexia are actually more inclined to being able to see the bigger picture and allow them to think outside the box. I believe this enhanced my abilities and allowed me to progress further in English.

 

As I matured and began to consider my options for the future, I looked at those around me for inspiration. I was unsure about my future aspirations, I had previously desired to be an accountant; I probably only wanted to be an accountant as the lavish lifestyle and extraordinary high annual salary seemed appealing. But life as an accountant was harder than I first believed. I acquired work experience at Murray Taylor accountancy firm in Arbroath. What can I say? The dry lifeless office environment is not for everyone, and is certainly not me. After endless months of procrastination, I finally set my goal of being a primary school teacher. However, in order to do this I knew that I would require valuable work experience at a primary school. I arranged to do this experience at Longhaugh Primary School at Whitfield in Dundee. This is one of Dundee’s most deprived districts and at first I was hesitant to go as I feared the pupils would be too challenging and would put me off wanting to be a teacher. However, they did the complete opposite. I learnt valuable lessons whilst at Longhaugh; the kids there were inspirational, the level of poverty was incredible, yet these children would still continue to come to school and do their very best to ensure that, when they are older, they will not have to continue to live like this. I formed many strong friendships and relationships with the children whilst at Longhaugh. During my time there, I had learnt the true meaning of being a teacher, it wasn’t about the pay cheque at the end of the month or ensuring a child was a straight ‘A’ student. It was about making a child feel needed and wanted and to instil in them the belief that they can be whoever they want to be regardless of their background and certainly regardless of any learning difficulty that they may have. Due to my experience at Longhaugh, my desire to have a “monumental” impact on someone’s life has become my new goal.

 

Counting down to my last few weeks of school, I occasionally imagine what life will be like out with the constraints of the school gates. A life where I no longer need to follow the “one way system” as I am now free to determine my own journey. A life where I no longer have to utter the question “Please Sir, may I go to the toilet?” A life where I am free to be whoever I want to be, without fear of being judged by others. I also wonder what will become of me and my friends. Will we still remain in contact even though we are no longer available cell mates, confined within the breeze blocks of the classroom walls? Whilst the future may be unclear and frightening, I am without doubt excited to see what the future holds for me. Will I be someone Miss Duncan’s? I strongly believe that being a teacher is about more than ensuring your pupils get the results required to go to university but it is more about ensuring each and every pupil meets their full potential. Despite a rocky start, my overall experience of education has been positive. Even though there have been many obstacles to overcome, I know that without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. And now those same pupils no longer ask can you spell this? or can you read this? They now ask me did you get the English Dux medal? or can I have your essay plans, please? How ironic, I say. “what’s that?”  they ask. And I laugh.

 

3 thoughts on “my sixth year personal essay

  1. Alex Barrable

    This is just such a touching story. It exemplifies the power that a teacher has, and your own power in being resilient! Thank you for sharing this: it’s a powerful piece of writing that may inspire others. It is also a testament to the person you are and the teacher you are going to be!

    Reply
  2. Carrie McLennan

    This is a very inspiring story, Cameron, with multiple messages about the teaching and learning process and what one teacher’s impact can achieve – although much of your success is no doubt due to your intrinsic motivation to succeed. I hope Miss Duncan got a chance to read this! It is very emotive and I really enjoyed reading this. I hope your journey to becoming a primary teacher is meeting your expectations.

    Reply

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