Come Back Fighting

For some reason when I was younger my English skills and hand-writing weren’t as good as they should have been, or at least I was led to believe that was the case. In the early years of Middle School I had an English Teacher called Mrs Hall. She was known for being fairly strict but I quite liked her no-nonsense approach to teaching.

I didn’t like the way she used to force a pen in to my right hand when I’ve always been left-handed. By force I mean quite literally, I was ‘stupid’ for being left-handed. I was told that my English skills were so bad that I would never amount to anything. I wasn’t the only one in the class who was treated that way, there was a small group of us who would be talked down to because of the way we were.

Thinking back, I can’t remember why I had a hard time with those skills in particular. I can remember from a young age that I used to write and draw. When it came to a point in our school year where we were being taught about poetry, again, I was told that I was stupid because I would never be able to do what the rest of the class were doing.

I was made in a certain way and being shunned was not ‘my way‘. Having been given some homework to write poetry during the school holidays I wrote something which came from within. I didn’t want to show anyone at first just in case their response was the same as Mrs Hall’s.

I was spending a couple of days with my Dad during the holidays and typed up the piece of poetry I’d written on his computer and printed it out on his HP Deskjet 500 (remember those?!). He asked to see it and quickly told me to print off a copy for him.

The holidays finished, I went back to school and handed in my piece of work. I was proud of what I’d done, it was just a few lines of poetry but those words on that piece of A4 came from my heart. It was graded mediocre at best. I wasn’t heartbroken, I’d come to expect the same every time I handed in something to be marked.

Months later, I found out that the paper copy which my Dad had asked for had actually been sent by him in to a poetry competition which I knew nothing about. The competition was ran by the Daily Mail and the competition winners and runner ups would have their poetry published in a book.

My piece of poetry got through for my age category to the final and came second. My words, which apparently I was too stupid to write, came second in a national competition and were published in a book called ‘Voices on the Wind’.

I couldn’t wait to go into school and tell Mrs Hall that it had happened and show her the letter of proof. I’d expected a happy reaction, and all I got was her telling me that her prize student in the class should have been the one entering into competitions. But, you know, that’s ok as my words are in a book on a shelf somewhere. I’ve never stopped having the same reaction when people say I can’t do something, I always come back fighting and so should you.

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Head of Interaction and Service Design at DigitalDWP.

One thought on “Come Back Fighting”

  1. A great story. It’s funny the things that drive us. I was told after failing my Higher Computing exam that I’d never make it in that arena. It did send me off the rails for a bit in the months after but I seem to be doing just fine.

    I often wonder if that teacher was the ‘hairdryer’ approach to student-management and that he hoped to ignite the belligerent Glaswegian to prove him wrong.

    Funnily enough my wife also had the same thing on failing Higher Art that she had no chance of making it into an architecture course. Not only did she make it but she graduated too – if not for the fact we decided to have a family, she’d be a damned fine Architect too.

    That said, while those teacher attitudes gave us the ‘I’ll show them’ mentality, you have to wonder what would have happened if you were properly coached to see how we could improve – rather than the ‘you won’t do xyz’ approach.

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