I felt I would leave this post slightly later than I had originally thought; back at the end of November I posted “Writing my thesis and co-fighting cancer”. At the beginning of fourth year, I made the decision, with the support of my 6 best friends and my year convenor to continue with university despite the circumstances my Mum was unfortunately put under. Today, we have both finally achieved our goals for the year which is why I left this post until now! This is my mum ringing the bell in radiotherapy ward after her final active treatment. This is me handing in my thesis in January and over the last two weeks I’ve found out my degree classification, my school and my class. It is all over, cancer treatment and fourth year. We are heading for graduation, the one goal the two of us set, 9 long months ago.
Now do not get me wrong, it was the hardest year of both our lives. In September when I decided to stay on at university, I knew it would be hard, but I could never have imagined just how hard it would be. The work level, the commuting back and forth to be home to see my mum and how horrible chemotherapy is. However, the last few weeks has shown me with hard work and dedication to a goal, anything is possible.
The hard work was not from me alone. There were countless people who helped us both along the way. From the fantastic staff at the University of Dundee, an unforgettable final placement school and a great mentor to get me through my final year of university to the staff at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy wards and the countless charities; Clan, Maggies, Anchor and Look Good Feel Better who have supported my mum in her fight. I wanted to take this time to reflect on the year and thank some very special people for their support.
Last month, I wrote a letter to the external examination board about my experience at the University of Dundee and I was genuinely teary eyed my time at university was over. I was teary eyed because of the fantastic staff who created a wonderful experience over the four years. In the letter I wrote “Whether the staff be newer to the team, such as Linda Lapere, Nikki Doig or Liz Larkin, staff who have left us during the four years, such as William Berry our MA 1-2 year convenor or Erika Cunningham or staff who have been by our side throughout the four years: Carrie McLennan; Mary Knight; Richard Holmes; Anna Robb; Derek Robertson; Patricia Thomson; Caroline Cottrell; and I think, as a year group, we would highlight Brenda Keatch in particular, for their full support over the four years to name a few. All the members of staff on the undergraduate course have supported and challenged us to no measure. The teachers we will become will be down their support and the support of the fantastic placements we have been given over the four years.” However, Anne Marie Moran, my interviewer in 2014, my first assignment marker and my first placement tutor; I wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to attempt this course without her belief in me four years ago.
Whenever anyone speaks to me about considering primary teacher undergraduate or university in general, I can never speak highly enough of University of Dundee. The content has challenged me academically and I cannot wait to put the content of the four years to action with my own class next year. The four years has shaped me as a teacher and as a person, it has developed my professional and personal interests; pointing me into the direction of my future to hopefully studying for my Masters in Outdoor Learning at Moray House in Edinburgh someday, thanks to the Learning from Life placement in second year at Adventure Aberdeen.
There are two teachers in particular who have shaped me as a teacher; Diana Mitchell and Paul Gordon my third and fourth year placement mentors. I could not have imagined how lucky I would have been when I was placed in their classes for the continued support and encouragement they always gave me. I was blessed to observe their wonderful practice with their classes but also with me. They have shown me how to be a great teacher, left me with lots of ideas to think of and lesson quality to aspire to. The two of them also showed me how to be a great mentor one day to a student. I feel ready for the next chapter with my own class thanks to both of them!
With over 100 appointments in nine months, my whole family received comfort and support from numerous charities and staff at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. However, for myself I think the biggest comfort possible was one of my best friends Annah being one of my mum’s radiotherapists. I knew for a fact my mum would be in fantastic, caring hands. Annah and Findlay have both been there checking in with me throughout the whole nine months. I knew coming towards the end of a long nine months of treatment and hard work for my mum radiotherapy would be the light at the end of the tunnel but the staff in the ward and the Anchor charity ladies has made this experience a lot easier for her. I look forward to carrying the Anchor badge with me throughout my NQT year to remember how fantastic they have been!
Finally, I cannot thank five people in particular enough who were there from start to finish emotionally and academically throughout the year; Stephanie, Shannon, Marcus, Katie and Jenny. Stephanie has lived with me for three of the four years at university and always been one of my biggest support systems and cheerleaders throughout. I could not have expected the amount of times I would end up in her room with a story to tell, she always listened and was always there with a hug! Shannon, Shannon is simply my best friend whenever I need her she is a phone call away and never fails to cheer me up no end. Marcus for the endless chats, tea and keeping me with the motivation to stay at university. Marcus has been the one person who never failed to make me smile, make me a cup of tea and give me a hug! Katie has cooked me countless dinners when coming back from Aberdeen and I have had no energy to do anything and alongside Jenny has kept me on track with any deadlines throughout the year. Jenny and I handed in our first assignment together and our thesis at the end, much to her shock we have been together since day one and we have supported one another through every piece of work we’ve ever submitted.
However, without ‘Vanilla’ as a whole, the degree wouldn’t have been half as memorable! Poor Ruairidh, stuck with me for next year and the start of the next chapter as a Newly Qualified Teachers!