I was raised poor and grew up feeling that education was not for me, in fact my English teacher told me not to write stuff down because I had no idea how to write! I left school at 16 with no expectations from my family or myself to go on to further education, because that is not what working class girls did – you went out to work until you got married and had children.
I also discovered later on in life that I had dyslexia and this was not picked up in school as there was little, if any, understanding of it at that time. There was also, among working class people, a cultural understanding that writing was not a working class skill, the way we communicated was orally, and this is how I learnt, through listening to the people around me and having conversations with them. In fact I remember many a time in school being put outside the class for disruptive behaviour because I wanted to have dialogue with the teacher when they were explaining things, this was my way of learning, but it did not fit the model of schooling.
So imagine when, some 30 years later the organisation I work for (Diversity Hub) had funding to release a staff member to go to university to complete a degree and yes, you’ve guessed – yes it was me. Did I want to do it? No – because I believed I was not capable of learning in that way “I was not academic enough” but I had the full support of a wonderful team and they made a huge difference to me in thinking it was possible I could do this?
I am not going to tell you I suddenly found the whole process easy, it was a massive challenge, not only academically, but my internal recordings telling me I am not good enough to do this. There was tears, anger, frustration, self-doubt all the way on this journey, but I worked my way through it. Today I opened the letter for my results, it was a 1st Class (Hons) degree and I’ve not stopped crying, It’s such a massive contradiction to all the messages I received growing up.