Seventh letter

Dear Brenda,

I first met you when I was feeling very low. I was half way through my A’ levels and I was struggling. Retrospectively I don’t know if I was struggling because I felt low or whether or not I would have struggled anyway. But that aside, you tutored me, and I am truly grateful.

To me, you came across as a literary giant. I had never before had the opportunity to speak to someone with such an incredible knowledge of literature. And politics. And art. And theatre. You were (and very much still are) a legend in my eyes.

You gave me hours and hours of your time. You gifted me the first educational environment where I felt my voice mattered. At school, I felt too scared to talk, too scared to voice my opinion for fear of ridicule. I also speak too fast, too quiet and if I get either stressed or excited, I sometimes skip words. You were patient with me, and with time, I started to feel a confidence that I had not previously felt with regard to my work. I felt passionate.

I loved hearing about your past, working as a teacher on the ‘Old Kent Road’ in London. Working in a place that required teachers to be of an extra level of resilience. I love how, even now, students that you taught from years ago, are still in touch, such was the impression that you had on them. I count myself among these fortunate people. You naturally inspire and gently encourage, whilst always having a level of forthrightness that is so often absent in people. You spoke directly to me, never down to me. You made me feel as if I had potential to grow, rather than someone simply marking time. You are magic.

Hearing about all of your travels, your amazing lump of iron pyrite on your shelf, your experiences during evacuation. All of these were always shared with an honesty that was not coloured by emotion but told through your illuminated wit and wryness that makes you such a phenomenal story teller. Spending time with you feels like an adventure.

And thank you for all the amazing people that you have introduced me too. You bring people who love you together.

All my love.xx

Map Point. Which people have I carried with me since childhood?

 

 

Intrinsic passions

Today I have been for my interview at a university to study my masters. I am planning to study ‘the narrative of protest in new media’. And after the next two years, with the university’s acceptance, I will be able to tell everyone precisely what that is. It feels exciting to be able to go back to studying, such a massive privilege.

I have worked with a lot of young people who have not had a positive experience of education. It is an incredible experience for me to watch them really shine when I have explained a concept or taught them a skill. I think it is part of the human experience to want to acquire new skills, but for a lot of people, education can be perceived as something that is ‘not for their thing’.

At my own secondary school, the most engaging, most charismatic, most skilled teachers went to all the higher classes, and anyone who didn’t fit this criteria, got teachers who were marking time and largely disinterested. I varied in my skill levels across subjects so in some subjects I had an advantage, others not so much. I understand why it happens, but it doesn’t help many of the students who need help most.

I find out in two weeks time whether or not I have a place on the course, but at this point, I know that I have done all I can with the most amazing support from my friends, tutors and family, which I appreciate that not everyone has access to. I know that I am utterly blessed.

Being able to learn new things I believe comes from different places. Intrinsic motivation, simply knowing that you want to pursue something is a very lucky place to be. For me, some of what I now love so much comes from seeing that exact same thing through the eyes of another. Aged seventeen I met the most amazing group of people, including two of my favourite people on earth, Brenda and Roy. They took me to galleries, theatre and concerts, and through their most wonderful gift of invitation, I was shown something that I could pursue. I learnt a new way of seeing.

Map Point. Who in my friendship groups inspires me?

 

Fourth letter

Dear Spidey,

I can’t remember how old you were when I first met you, but think you were possibly fourteen. You are eighteen now, and the transformation that I have seen in you has been nothing short of miraculous. In some ways, your journey felt comparable to my own.

When I started tutoring you as you were unable to get to school because of anxiety, you were nervous, hesitant, but had a massive passion for learning which radiated through you. It was remarkable to be able to see the such massive leaps forward that despite everything else, you tackled astonishingly.

I left school a few months before my A Level exams as my anxiety became crushing, I was simply happier not to be there, and for me too, it was never about the work that I had to complete. I love learning too. I remember saying to you once that if you turned up or not to tutoring did not affect me, it would only affect you. You countered this by saying that I would miss out on what I loved doing, and you were utterly right.

Reading ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ and ‘The Merchant of Venice’ with you was an experience that will stay with me for a long time. Seeing you grasp new ideas, evolve within the language and develop your own style utterly inspired me. From someone who was coping with a great deal, and learning so much about yourself at the time, the leaps that you made educationally is something that can never be taken away from you. And you shone.

So this is a thank you for the privilege of being able to watch you grow as a student (and also in height.. I sense that the day will come pretty soon when you will overtake me.. bleak times!) and for how much you prompted me to take my own learning further than I could have imagined. You taught me too.

Love always

Sally

P.S. ‘The Vegetarian’ is still waiting!

 

 

 

Map Points

Map Points. I like the idea of thinking about life as a journey, never staying in one place for too long. This doesn’t necessarily relate to physical places, it could do, but I was thinking more about the spiritual and emotional paths that we follow. People often joke about how life doesn’t come with a map, but I think that it does if you can learn to look for the waypoints.

Every situation that we find ourselves in, we can learn from. Even the really harsh ones. Sad things happen to everyone, but having a questioning outlook, and having growth as the prominent mindset can make the difference between moving on and being stuck in the past.

A few sad things happened to me during my teenage years, the predominant one was being bullied. This never took a physical form, but instead took on a verbal one, of teasing, sarcasm and social exclusion. I felt isolated and wanted to be anywhere but school. The stress levels that this produced I guess contributed to the amount of respiratory infections and poorly stomachs that I experienced. I remember vividly one morning of getting ready for school, uniform on, lunch made, bag packed, all was well and then suddenly it wasn’t. I had got to my hallway, shoes were on, and I found myself uncontrollably sobbing, clinging onto the bannister, unable to let go. Even after my mum, who clearly must have been distressed at the sight of her daughter so distraught said I didn’t have to go to school, I still cried and couldn’t let go. It was all that was connecting me to the rest of the world.

I always enjoyed the learning bit of school, and as an adult, I relish learning new things, but my experience of school was quite terrible in many ways. I was always a quiet child, but that didn’t bother me as I was always happy in my own company. I had good friends, but being bullied was a mass invasion into my head space. It was unprovoked, unkind and deeply unfair.

However whilst recognising that it was a horrible thing, I am deeply grateful for these experiences, and for the knowledge that they gave me. Much of my time as an adult has been spent working with children in varying circumstances of hardship. I connect easily and readily to young people, I am not dismissive nor judgemental. I also help to increase their aspirations through my love of education. My passion facilitates others.

I think it would be easy to think about all the negatives only, but unless I can take the positives too, it will always be a resentment, always a burden. For me, understanding this has been critical to my growth. There is so much possibility ahead. And that is exciting.

Map Point. What events from the past do I still think about?