One of the big worries for parents comes about if their child is struggling at school. Our school system often favours the more academic children, the ones who are unfazed by exams, or perhaps just better able to cope with the stress they are under.
We try to help with extra tuition or coaching, but beyond the stereotype of the ‘pushy parent’, what can you do to help your child? And how can we parents learn to celebrate the road that our children take, even it’s not the one we’d hoped they’d chose. We spoke to Emily, whose unconventional choices led her to march to a different drummer.
I found some old school reports of mine and was immediately propelled back into a much-hated time at secondary school. I’d won a scholarship to an independent school in town, because my parents didn’t earn very much, but there was one condition – if I left the school before I’d completed my A’ levels, my parents would have to repay all the fees.
I was trapped.
Emily’s work has been variable, sometimes good.
Everything was a struggle; the teachers were mostly frustrated with me and thought I could do better than I was. Most of what they were saying went over my head and all I wanted to do was be at home messing about outside, reading books or making things instead. As soon as the school day was over, I’d kick off my uniform, climb into my jeans and either bike furiously to the horses down the road, make something, or curl up with some books. I always dreaded the next day and I had the most awful Sunday blues.
Homework took me absolutely ages to do because I just couldn’t get my head around most of the questions, or decipher what they wanted me to do. I was banned from doing several subjects, including Art because I was so poor at them. (Read here about how I recently discovered my artistic side!).
I tried hard but I had a complete mental block going on and to this day I have absolutely no idea why. They could have been teaching in Zoggabogger language for all the sense it made to me. This all really knocked my confidence and for all the effort I put in, my view of myself became ‘I’m no good, I just can’t do it.’
‘She is slow to start and needs a strong group leader to push her into action.’
I finally left with a handful of shaky exam results and an ‘ungraded’. I was absolutely delighted however, because I’d passed enough (just) to escape re-sits and move on!
Relieved that my academic career was finally over, I got a job. After three years of hopping from one job to the next, it soon became apparent I’d need to do something about it if I wanted to do something I actually found interesting! So, I braced myself and nervously dipped back into the education system.
What happened thereafter was absolutely not what I was expecting at all: I went on to complete two Honors degrees in just over half the usual time (and almost a third one), set up the Human Heart Valve Bank in Bristol, qualified as a Registered Osteopath and set up the International Elf Service.
Something had clicked. Maybe it was seeing how knowledge is applied in the work place, or being taught in a different way, I’m not sure. I do know my view of myself has totally changed…
‘I might not be able to do this yet, but with persistence and time I will.’
The reason for writing this is to say there’s more than one way to skin a cat and we all come into our own when the time is right. There are far more careers out there than any of us know about. Going to University isn’t the only ticket to a good career either, as several people I know can well attest to. We all develop at different rates and we all have different needs to reach our maximum potential.
Life really is full of lots of different opportunities. More and more people are going down unconventional pathways and often with very exciting results. Encourage your child to hang on in there, work hard, do their best, take all the advice they can, ask for help when they need it and look for things that interest them.
Be curious, be persistent and make your life happen…