The Legitimacy of Literacy

Ever since starting this blog on GLOW, I have been fortunate to have a few people tell me that they enjoy the content I post and the way I write. It hasn’t always been this way. If anything, my writing skills came very late into my academic journey. Truth is, up until the age of fifteen, my grammar has to be considered quite poor.

So why was it so bad and what brought on the change of fortune? Especially as a self confessed “grammarista“. well with the benefit of hindsight, I believe it originates from moving primary so often during my early years in education. Maths always came naturally to me, writing never did. I struggled with punctuation. As a child I once asked an adult how to properly use full stops; I was met with an answer of, “about every two lines.” I started putting full stops every two lines regardless of flow… You already know how my teacher took that.

In addition to the struggles in my childhood, I also under-performed at English in high school. Looking back now, I’m quite embarrassed by my lack of assimilation but back then I didn’t really care. I would confuse British English with American English by spelling words without the wonderful vowel of ‘u’ or being a bit grungy by replacing a nice consonant in ‘s’ with an ugly ‘z’. Comma splicing was very common. VERY common. ‘Their, there and they’re’ was as confusing as Pygathoras’ theorem. Basically – I wasn’t very good. But come the end of 4th year, with the tremendous help of one of my biggest academic influences in my English teacher, I managed to scrap a 3 in my Standard Grades. That should have been enough to allow me entry into Intermediate 2 for 5th year, right? Wrong.

Despite receiving an adequate result to study Int 2 English, the head for the department of English prevented me from being allowed to do so. A stray mark during one of the papers — later amended via an appeal — “disqualified” me from progressing. I was subsequently place into Intermediate 1. A relegation that both hurt and humiliated me. What followed is something that I still regret to this day: I did not entertain putting any effort into doing well in the subject during the course of the next academic year. I believed this benefit me as a means to fight back against the machine that oppressed my wishes. In hindsight, I genuinely do regret this action as I now realise that the only party that was greatly affected was myself. Still, my English teacher from the year prior stood in my corner and fought my case fairly hard, a sentiment that was not lost on myself all these years later.

For my troubles, I was rewarded a C after my 5th year exams. A C in Int 1 English. Not my finest moment. A grade that only twisted the knife in my side. With a lot of pent-up frustration, I totally ditched English for 6th year. Years later, I would only put English at a level 3 standard grade on my CV when applying for jobs. The intermediate 1 result still embarrassed me. My relationship with English was far from over. Naturally. I still required to read, write and communicate on a daily basis. My newly found maturity upon leaving school got me to realise the importance of what I had previously disregarded. My skills developed as I began to avidly read and my writing skills benefited greatly as I slowly became a grammarista. An incorrect use of “you’re” would get me nearly as annoyed as someone intentionally littering.  Unfortunately, as my level of literacy got to a decently high standard, I had nothing to reflect this growth other than a severely out-of-date grade from high school. This glitch was frustrating as it did not actively portray the hard work that I had since put in to get to where I was at. That all changed upon entering the SWAP course at college that I had previously mentioned in my first blog post. Here I managed to secure a B in Higher English, being a total of one percent away from an A grade. A little detail that will frustrate me to my deathbed.

Although not getting an ‘A’ frustrated me, I can now take satisfaction of overseeing the growth in my academic skills outside of school. Although the classroom is a great thing, not every student will truly “find themselves”  in there. Sometimes you have to realise what you don’t have, to find what you truly do possess. My bad result from school actually let me find more about myself upon leaving that I might have found had I remained in school.

So what will I take forward from this? Firstly, I like to think that I now have an appreciation that not everything will fall into place at the first, second or even third instance. Sometimes  things just need to click. Secondly, and arguably more importantly, it’s the age old cliché; Rome wasn’t built in a day. However, they were laying bricks every hour. Patience. Patience is vital in every walk of life. Friends now regard me as someone with a good grasp of the English language, regularly being asked to proofread others’ work. I wouldn’t have got here without patience.

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