How a chance encounter changed my learning path

As a youngster I didn’t have a love of learning, in fact, learning was the last thing on my mind. I was a shocking speller and even worse with my written grammar. My biggest claim to fame was being one of the few who mastered the art of swapping tenses mid-sentence without a whiff of awareness!

At the age of ten my teacher snatched my well-worn, cigarette smelling book from my rickety old wooden desk and use it to demonstrate to the class where not to use the words ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re’. And, as if that wasn’t enough of an ego bashing, she moved on to the face-reddening ‘to’, ‘two’ and ‘too’ scenarios.

I took it! Felt it was my idiocy to blame! I braved the embarrassment as afterall it was my fault. Rather than playing out in the streets like an urchin I should have read more, practiced writing more, treasured my school work more act more like the smart kids.

You don’t get points for popularity but it’s more fun!

Despite this I loved school and I was popular and funny. My classmates honoured me by voting for me to be May Queen, the top award given to girls at their primary school back in the day. Oh yes, I was Queen of the May and delighted in advising my three older siblings.

Having segued to secondary school and started at the lower end of the pile school remained a happy place for me. I found myself at the top of the classes and was entered for my maths ‘O’ level a year early.

Would you believe it these posh girls know a thing or two

It was here that I chanced to sit near one of the ‘posh’ girls. She clearly had a different upbringing to me, bathed every day, smelt clean, had an immaculate uniform and a proper leather tan satchel. She asked me why I didn’t keep my book neat, and I was a bit burned by this. Never had I considered the merits of a neat book. Proceeding to showing me her perfectly manicured book I felt a bit stupid!

Well it got me thinking, what would it feel like if I kept my book like that? Damn right it would feel amazing and so I did. To this day my books are neat and I’m an organisation freak. But I was changed. From this day on I started to enjoy making neat notes and taking more pride in my work. This led me to engage more with the teachers and learning.

This lesson wasn’t really about my book, it was about how I made a change. It taught me about the capacity to change with just a slight change in mindset. I believe, as teachers, the most powerful tool in our arsenals is to change a students self belief.

So the point of these idle rantings is that we can teach our youngsters futures. Small changes can have a great impact on their lives.

I am passionate to help students take control of their learning and understand that just because they haven’t always known how to engage it doesn’t mean they can’t. To be a successful learner takes motivation, resilience, self-belief and some simple strategies.

It only takes one step to start this change.


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