Monday, 12 October 2015

Why Educating Cardiff Is Important To Me

Hello lovelies! I touched upon my absolute fascination and admiration for the show Education Cardiff in my Recent TV Loves post, and also mentioned that I might well open up about it a little bit more. About why I think it's important for young viewers, for the students in the school, and also for young adults like myself. I also want to point out that I am, in no way, drawing negativity on my school or the teachers I had. Many of them were fantastic.

*I may touch upon issues that some might find triggering. Be aware.

You may or may not have recently read my post where I briefly talked about my mental health issues, and the ways in which that affected my education, and as I saw it for a very long time my future (you can read that here if not). I talked about how the anxiety disorder I'm fighting now originally manifested itself as school phobia, which forced me to leave school for a while. I went from a relatively bright kid to a kid who'd took a lot of time out of education. Even before I left school, I wasn't attending the way I should have been. Looking back, I feel like a lot of my education level was stalled at around the Year 7 mark for a very long time. I want to make it very, very clear that my teachers did the very best that they could for me. I didn't do poorly in school. I received average GCSE results - 10.5 passes, mostly C's. All things considered, they were fantastic results and I absolutely want to stress that I'm not ashamed of them. But, when you've had a career in medicine in mind your entire life and you're suddenly told by everyone - before and after my GCSE results, or even my GCSE choices - that you're not clever enough anymore, that they aren't good enough, to pick another career, that "you won't even be clever enough to be a nurse". Well, where do you go from that?

So, how does all of this relate to Educating Cardiff, you ask? I do want to briefly talk about the way that the teachers in this school - and I'm sure hundreds of schools up and down the UK that haven't been given prime time tv shows - go above and beyond. We see teachers and staff really giving the kids a second chance, giving them the time and the tools to really dig themselves out of holes. Giving kids who are always late responsibilities before school that are fun, that they'll get out of bed for. Giving kids who struggle with issues outside of school a safe place to let that out. Giving kids safety and time and tools to actually appreciate their education.

However, that's not the main reason that I felt compelled to write this post. The reason I needed to write this is simply the staff and their own education pathway. So often in school, in my experience and in others' experience, you're told that the GCSE's you get are the GCSE's you get, and you either get your career or you don't. It's black and it's white. But, where do you go if you do your best but it's just not good enough? Where do you go if you're suddenly in your 20's or 30's or 40's and you're looking back and thinking "wow, 16 year old me really didn't take that seriously". The last year of school I put more effort in and I did my best and I got results that I'm proud of. That doesn't make them good enough though. If an employer or a university or whatever wants x amount of results and you haven't got them, what do you do then?

The representation of life after not good enough results needs to be there. I needed teachers to be open and honest about the fact that they got their first GCSE at 27, or that they spent their first year after school resitting their GCSE's. I needed teachers to say to me "look, what happened, happened but this isn't black and white". You can resit. You can look into access courses. There's a way out of this. I spent years going from one college course to another, and none of them fit. They weren't what I really wanted from my life. Had I have had teachers who could be a physical representation that there's a massive grey area of longer ways to your education, things might well have turned out differently. Maybe they wouldn't have. I had - and still do have - more issues beyond this. That said, there are kids sitting in classes right now, trying their best and just not getting the results they need. There's kids not taking things seriously who will regret that however many years later. Those kids need teachers who can say "I was where you are, and I did it. It was hard work and it was the long way around but I did it".

I don't want anyone, especially those still in school, to take away from this post that I think it's okay to slack off. That's not what I'm saying. But, life happens and young people need to have that representation there. I spent a long time resenting myself and my illness for the fact that I wasn't good enough because that's what I was told. You need teachers - and nurses and doctors and scientists and any other career - to be that representation that life after bad results happens. That life actually is one grey area, it's not good GCSE's = career, bad GCSE = life over. You can get GCSE's that initially rule you out of your career and you can just keep going. It's hard work and it's the long way around but there is another way if you want it.

Educating Cardiff is important to me because the staff give hope to an underrepresented group of children and young people. Life after bad results isn't talked about. Life after bad results certainly isn't talked about in school. I understand the temptation to not talk about it - what if they take away from it that they can slack off because there's another way later on? I do understand that. I understand why it's important to talk about doing your best the first time. I just don't think it's right. From a student who tried her best and still didn't do good enough, and from a student who is currently taking the long way to her career path, that conversation needs to be opened up. We need to start having that conversation, and what better way than with the people who have already been there and done it?

Bad results happen, but life after bad results also happens.

Much love, Maxine xo
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