Dyslexia and Me: X is for Xanadu

University College Cork

University College Cork

Xanadu! What a great word! And you didn’t think I could come up with a word for ‘X’ 😉

My favourite place(s) that represent great beauty and that have provided me with contentment was university. With my negative experiences of school, my time at university was far more positive and a generally happy experience. And though this contentment within an educational environment may have been surprising to me, the beauty in both the universities I studied at during my undergraduate degree really cannot be denied (though both had the odd really ugly building too!!!!). 

Being at university had other things of great beauty besides the architecture. Many of my friends were either in their late teens or early twenties. Over the 4 years studying, I watched as these kids that had fallen out of one educational institution into another develop and shine! I saw the best gleaming out of the people around me (and sometimes the worst). It really was like watching butterflies emerging from cocoons!

Some friends with SEN issues really flourished. With the right support they did extremely well in their chosen degrees! (SO PROUD OF THEM!!!) Some were only diagnosed with a specific SEN while at university and had varying issues through school, much like I had. It really upset me that almost 10 years after I quit school people were still slipping through the net. I wonder how many other kids wrote themselves off from university like I once had. How many other perfectly capable young people have been failed by the education system?

When I was at school the teachers kept pushing the idea of university down our throats! Not because it would be beneficial to all the students, but because it would make them look good on the league tables! That was all my school seemed to be concerned with, rather than with the needs of their students. I knew a girl who was desperate to stay at school to do Intermediate courses in 5th year and Higher courses in 6th year. She was told to go to college because her grades weren’t ‘good enough’ for the school!!! How they could justify turning away a student from the school when she WANTED to learn! I still to this day do not understand! Ok, she was going to study Intermediate courses because she had done a lot of General/Foundation Standard Grades, but she WANTED TO LEARN! How can you deny that?! Surely she should have been encouraged! It was obvious it was more to do with the number of students being sent onto university. I really hope my going to university in later years doesn’t link back to my useless high school and their league tables!!!!

Have I said I HATED school enough in my other blog posts? I despised high school! I dreaded going in every single day. It was torture for me! I had a handful of lovely teachers, but on the whole, it was a hell hole! School and education were, in my mind, a way of stifling my creativity, turning me into a boring grown-up and I felt it really didn’t teach me what I wanted to know. I was glad to get out of there! When I heard they were knocking my old school down to rebuild it, I said several times that I’d be more than happy to give them a hand tearing the place down! I loathed the place and the memories it holds.

University of Aberdeen

University of Aberdeen

We had to see a careers advisor at one point. It was a waste of my time. She didn’t want to listen to what I wanted to do! She wanted to push me in the direction of university to study something I didn’t want to do! ‘Why don’t you apply to this university through in Glasgow who teach Jazz Music since you want to study contemporary music rather than Classical?’ Jazz?! I had as much enthusiasm for Jazz as I had for Classical! And if I was going to go on to study music any further, it was NOT going to be in something I didn’t enjoy. I had enough of studying subjects I didn’t like already!!! I have no idea why I decided to study two sciences for Standard Grade! I should have taken Drama and Art instead rather than as a shared module that no one cares about! Plus I didn’t want to go to university! Why did they have to keep pushing that idea upon us?! I’m a student not a statistic!

So what changed? Well, after going into the big bad world, I realised that the qualifications I had weren’t really helping me on the career ladder. Plus, it wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy learning! I was always glued to television documentaries and debating topics with people I knew. Once I found a university that taught subjects I thought I’d actually be interested in learning about, I thought it was about time I went back and picked up some more qualifications.

Much like school, there were plenty of subjects I hated! Subjects I wouldn’t have chosen if I’d actually been given the choice (rather than being told it was the only option for my degree). There were many courses I did love and was very enthusiastic about. Anything with Vikings in was right up my street! I had brilliant lecturers at both universities in this specific field, in the areas of history, literature and archaeological. No longer did I feel like I was being looked down upon like I had at school! Finally I felt like I could discuss and debate the topics I had once talked about with friends but at a more advanced level. Not only that, but I was getting a piece of paper with a qualification on it for learning about the things I loved.

From despising school and dismissing the education system as a teenager to feeling content at university, there was a key turning point. That was being diagnosed with dyslexia and being given the support I had desperately needed from the beginning. Both college and university no longer saw me as merely a statistic in their league table, but as a student and a person! Perhaps it was to do with me choosing their institutions to study at, though I think there is far more to it.

My school(s) completely failed to support me by refusing to have me assessed for dyslexia. I wasn’t treated as a person, I was a statistic. And though my mum had flagged up for years that there was an issue (and so had I when I started my final year and a half of high school) no one from either of my schools were prepared to look further into the reasons why a bright student with good grades was struggling with school. When I returned to education as an adult, both college and university were more willing to support me in achieving my goals. I didn’t have to be there, I wanted to be there! They had me diagnosed and made sure support was in place for me. Perhaps if schools thought less about league tables and more about getting the best out of their students, children would actually enjoy and flourish in an educational environment.

This post is part of a series trying to help me to raise money for Dyslexia Action. You can donate as little as £1! To find out more, head over to: https://www.justgiving.com/DyslexiaAndMe

P.S. If you got the Rush song stuck in your head, good for you! It’s stuck in my head too 😀

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Posted on September 4, 2014, in Awareness, Education, Personal Experience and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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