Friday, 30 September 2016

We must not allow school to define us - Triumph over adversity

One afternoon last May, I was not only amazed, but also found a tear in my eye, when I received an e-mail from my old school. A school I attended in the 50s & 60s, but left with little to show for my education, other than numerous detentions and English and Geography 'O' levels that took me three attempts. Although, with a term and half to go before I left, someone had the bright idea of making me a sub-prefect. Poacher turned gamekeeper with alacrity.

Through social networking, the regular York Press column had reached school and I was asked to contribute to their  #mondaymotivation page. 

I wrote the following *1, though I was not surprised when it was edited to reflect my education in a better light. Their actual entry is posted afterwards *2. I then re-wrote it for the York Press column this month *3.

I attended PHS from1954 to 1966. It was not a glorious time either domestically or scholastically. The former, no doubt, having some effect on the latter, but life behind closed doors was not discussed and certainly not taken into account in school. There was no pastoral care in those days. The bonus was some wonderful life-long friends. 
I was a chatty, naughty girl, who like helping others rather than getting down to my own work. After hanging on to my place due to my mother’s pleading, I met the Headmistress, Miss Lockley, at a PHS reunion in my twenties. “I made good in the end’, I told her. “I knew you would”, she said with a smile, “you had spirit!”. Not particularly helpful, I thought. But she was right, and that ‘spirit’ has been my saviour. I was fortunate, I wobbled on the rails, but never fell off. 
My ‘spirited’ rebellion set in very early and while challenging authority led to years of problems at school, it also led me question authority all through my life. This has been invaluable. 
I only completed one year in the sixth form doing retakes fairly unsuccessfully. In the 1960s, the non academic were sent off to be secretaries or nurses. Lower down the scale was childcare and it was suggested that nanny training might suit me. It did and the NNEB qualification has been invaluable to me at various times through life, in a variety of workplaces, including at present, doing voluntary work on a Children’s ward. 
A spell in the 1980s led to up, down and up again, the retail management ladder with Waitrose. A staff appraisal revealed positive managerial skills. I was astonished. They were just behaviours that I did naturally, and were not anything in which I could have taken an exam. I also created a matrix for meal breaks, still used to this day, because “it can’t be improved on by modern technology.” I wasn't good enough to take Maths ‘O’ level. 
A move to Yorkshire in the 1990s and a return to nursery nursing led me to an acute psychiatric ward to help a mother with her baby. I worked on the ward for six years, but questioning, as always, I decided to retrain. There had to be something better in mental health care. Five years later I opened a psychotherapy practice in York, which I ran for ten years. I have also been a chocolate taster for Nestle for twenty years. I wish there had been an ‘O’ level in sensory perception. 
For the last ten years I’ve enjoyed writing and speaking on emotional health.The precis exercises in English lessons have proved invaluable. 
In 2013 I published a self-help book, using life experiences, using a pen name, Alison R Russell, ‘Are you Chasing Rainbows - a practical insight into emotional maturity and why adults sometimes behave like children’. £3000 has been raised for ChildLine from sales. 
Some life lessons. 
1. Life never turns out how you imagine it might. Be adaptable.
2. Choose degrees and courses that you want to do, not what you feel you should
do, which often leads to unhappiness.
3. Managing failure is important. Without it, we cannot learn.
4. You have skills which you may not be aware of yet.
5. Emotional intelligence is as important as academic intelligence.
6. School friendships can last a lifetime. Value them.

7. Between 50 and 70 can be the most productive times of life.