What will I do now?

When I left school, I literally had no idea what I was going to do. When I was growing up, I wanted to do everything, be a writer, a singer, an actress, an artist and for a while I wrote poems, but, the longest standing aspiration was a fashion designer.

I began school well, but soon, my difficulties crept in and I went from doing well, to near bottom of the class. I never really understood why and neither, it seemed did my teachers.

Now I am not work shy and I worked my @*£ off to try and be the best that I could be, but, I never got there. Often my reports said …. is a lovely child to have in class, but they always said the same thing, not trying hard enough, could do better etc etc, all I wanted to scream was ‘ I am, I try really hard’

By the time I got to standard grade I had something to prove, I wanted to show everyone that I was trying hard enough, so in my 3rd year mock exams, I studied really hard and actually got reasonable grades. However, by the time it got to my 4th year mocks my grades were shocking and the teachers began to write me off. This made me all the more determined to do well in the actual exams so I got my head down and did not too badly.

I was determined to stay until 6 year at school and attempt to get some highers, I loved art and wanted to go on to study to be a fashion designer but after missing out on higher art due to written work I began to give up on the idea. I tried again in 6th year to get some highers: English and Advanced Higher Art (I was able to take it even although I failed my higher, due to artistic ability). Nevertheless pressure from the school to leave because it would be beneficial to me and still having no support to address my issues I left school with no highers and a conclusion that I was not the academic type!!

I went to work in an office after school, I had no real idea what I wanted to do, but, I thought getting some administration skills under my belt could help. My first job proved fruitful and after a year of working as an office junior I moved up within the organisation to a position that offered career prospects. However, I was never really settled and wanted more.

After working for a while in a few different jobs, I made the decision to try and get back into education; I wanted to do something that I really enjoyed. I applied to college to do a foundation course in fashion design with a view to going on to study fashion Marketing.

Then, I found out I was pregnant and as fashion is a difficult industry to work in with no guarantee of jobs, I knew I needed to do something else. When my little one was 5 months old I applied to college to do a course in communications, I combined all of my passions and all the things I was good at and found something that fitted me really well.

College was like a breath of fresh air and I applied the same work ethic as I had always tried in school, the difference was, I had the support that I needed and the tutors took the time to explain the concepts and ideas in a way that suited your learning style. I found myself helping my classmates to understand, ensuring that no one fell behind and for the first time I was doing well, this was a fantastic feeling.

Don’t get me wrong it was hard; I was studying full time, with my difficulties and a baby to look after, there were tears, late nights and times when I wanted to give up, but I had a clear goal in mind and would do anything to achieve it. After 2 years and 2 good qualifications, I was given an unconditional offer to university.

I honestly thought I would never see the day, me at university…. there must be some mistake! I was so happy.

I went immediately to the learning support when I started, to see what help I could get. I knew that I could do better than I did at school and my grades at college proved that. As college did not require much essay writing and the course was continually assessed with a practical project at the end instead of exams, I knew that University was going to be a whole different ball game.

I was assessed and identified as dyslexic; I was given an education package which listed all the help I was going to get and University, while no walk in the park was a complete eye opener. I loved it and came out at the other side tireder, older and with a slightly different take on the world. However, I had some fantastic experiences; I was much smarter and more socially conscious. I now have a good understanding that I could do anything that I put my mind to and a really good mark in an amazing honours degree to prove it.

I am so glad that I didn’t listen to myself when I thought I was ‘not the academic type’, determination and a willingness to succeed was the most important thing for me, it was not that I couldn’t learn it was that I was not being taught right.

This is what I tell everyone one who needs to hear it. Don’t give up, whether it’s is educational, vocational or just in general the world is your oyster, it’s all about finding the thing that spurs you on.

There is no one size fits all approach to learning and because you don’t excel in one way doesn’t mean you will never get to where you want to be. Even if you don’t get everything you hoped for when you leave school, there are options available to you. It may take you a little longer than your peers to get there, but in the end it is the journey and what you learn along the way that really counts.

Let your inner star shine

Let your inner star shine

What’s your experience? Has your school experience made you think you can’t achieve something?

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Dreams, what are your dreams?

Another fantastic poem from our wonderful poet , can you find the hidden word?
Dreams, what are your dreams?
My dreams (which may be the dreams of all Dyslexics) are:
Younder; my true potential is younder!
I am forever reaching for that place where my true self shines out of me (its just beyond my reach)!
Surprise out pops the serpent, that is Dyslexia. This serpent always comes as such a surprise,
because my Dyslexic brain thinks such deep and profound thoughts.
However this print society disables me because it places such value on the written word!
Lies such lies my brain continually tells me.
My brain (and the serpent within) collects all the things others believe and say about me.
And it loves to remind me of them. My inner voice whispers other people’s words back to me.
Extremes: I lives in a world of extremes. A world where I manage to achieve such amazing awards (in the face of Dyslexia):
only to turn around (and try) to use my skills in the real world and suddenly the Dyslexia monster rears its ugly and awful head and I experience astonishing and devastating failures.
X should be one of the least used letters in the English language.
But X is a mark that most Dyslexics know only too well!
Intense is what many people call me.
Intense is what I often feel.
Intense is how the world (and especially that of employment) all too often feels.
A-1-OK is how I’d love to be and feel.
A-1-OK is what I am striving for.
A-1-OK are the marks I’d love to get (and to have achieved).
I believe we should all try to take the A-1-OK approach to life and its variance.
A-1-OK is how I’d like the world to think about learning and thinking differences.


If – poems about Dyslexia

We have been sent these wonderful poems by a very talented lady and we think they sum things up very well.

We hope that you enjoy them half as much as we have.

If you can cope with amazing talent coupled with absolute inability,

And face both with the same attitude;

If you can trust your talent when all around you want to focus on your disability,

But understand the world turns on the printed word;

Or listen to misguided authority figures claim you are rubbish, but never pass the hate on,

And don’t get too big for your boots, nor use your verbal talents too much:

Yours will be achievement and self esteem

And what’s more you’ll be a Dyslexic, my child!

Inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s “IF” poem 

If you can affect every brain cell, but make them work as one,

Or affect such a small part of life, but still be so disabling;

If you can be disarmed sometimes, but still resurge with such vigor,

If you allow for talent and ability to shine through, but never too easily;

If you can fill the everyday literate minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of stressed out panic,

Yours is my brain and most things in it,

And what’s more you are Dyslexia, my froe!

(froe; means friend/foe)

Life is like a hurdle race. If you fall, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and take the next one at a run

One of the things I have discovered about dyslexia is that it does not go away. When I was really young I used to think if I ignored it, it wouldn’t really matter, and I found that’s not the case. Then I used to think that if I just worked hard enough it wouldn’t matter, and found that’s not the case as well. I used to think that if I just sounded smart enough it wouldn’t matter, and found like the others that’s not the case.

I loved learning, and I still do, I’m a factual sponge if I’m on a topic that interests me, but I hated school. I hated the fact that I could never say on a page what I knew. I hated that fact that in exams I thought I was giving them what they wanted, but I was never right, and I hated the fact that I was never really able to reach my full potential.

When I left education I didn’t really think I would have to deal with my dyslexia again. Unfortunately that has not been the case. Job applications can be a nightmare; a regularly write out the wrong amount on cheques for my daughters school dinners; in many online mediums your arguments are immediately shut down by other people if your spelling or grammar are wrong, the implication being that if you can’t get that right you have not right to have your opinion respected; in one job I managed to not receive pay for a full month because I had written my bank account number down wrong, after checking it three times.

I sometimes find my dyslexia pretty hard to cope with. Normally it’s the challenge of a new situation which brings my dyslexia into focus for me again. I’m currently taking an MA in Creative Writing. At the beginning of my Masters I would sit looking at the set texts understanding every word in them, but having no idea what they all meant when they were put together in sentences. I felt like my brain was a large sandtimer through which the information was falling, but only a grain at a time – it was frustrating to hear classmates elegantly talk and unpack theories, while I was still waiting for the sand to fall. It’s under these new situations, and also under stress, that my coping mechanisms begin to fall apart, and I begin to lose confidence in myself. Suddenly, and still after all these years, my dyslexia again becomes a barriers which appears to define my interactions with the world and those about me. I began to start feeling that there is nothing I can do where my dyslexia will not make it more of a struggle than it is for other people. My confidence ebbs away and negative thinking started to take over.

The Local Authority I grew up in tended to dislike a diagnosis of dyslexia as it meant more money having to be spent. For this reason I got very little help at primary and a secondary school, which although excellent in many ways, wasn’t even willing to recognise the diagnosis, non-recognition being a standard get-out clause. So during my state education I was not helped as I believe I should have been. For my undergrad degree I have no idea what was motivating my tutors, but until I found a wonderful woman in the student support service in the final year, it was again pretty much ignored. I’ve found all these attitudes and situations serve to add more to the emotional element, which can so often be negative, of my dyslexia, and I often really struggle with the tangle of emotions which this brings up.

However it’s not all been complete doom. My Masters is being undertaken at Edinburgh Napier University, and I don’t think I have ever in my life encountered such an enlightened and supportive atmosphere. My tutors are routinely encouraging, and work with me in consultation to help circumvent some of the barriers I face. The student support services are also on hand to help in any way that they can and have gone as far as helping me with techniques to deal with the anxiety which can de such an accompanying factor for anyone who has dyslexia.

Although dyslexia has made parts of my life tough and other parts tougher I’d say than a nuro-typical person, I have also found that in general people and friends are massively supportive. Bad attitude comes through ignorance of what dyslexia is and what disabilities mean in reality, far too many people think disability is something they see, or a fear of having to spend money. I have also managed to have a lot of successes in my life. When I was first (and finally after lots of testing) diagnosed at the age of nine it was expected that I would never get to tertiary education. I recently dug out that old report and it made me cry to read how hopeless and how much of a struggle it was assumed learning would be for me, when it is something I love. But I try instead to take pride in the fact that I not only completed my undergrad but I am also now getting a MA in Creative Writing in one of the best CW courses in the country, where competition is stiff to get it.

Mairi Cover only.inddI also last year published my first book of poetry called This is a Poem with Burning Eye Books, this had been an ambition of mine for a long time, and I would say that although the book itself was written over in total a six month period, in reality it took all of my thirty four years to complete it. Just now I’m currently working on my first novel as part of my MA. I have a publisher looking at a second book of poems which have been illustrated by a talented artist, and I’m currently working on an idea for an anthology.

I’m someone who is naturally ambitious and driven in the work I do. I like to achieve and I bristle when other people try to limit me. These characteristic don’t make dyslexia easy, it would be easy if I was more mild, more happy to stay where I was, and spent less time wanting to push further. But this is me for better or worse, and to get the achievements I have achieved I had to develop characteristics to take me there. I’m quite determined, one person close to me has called me bloody-minded and some people I work with say I am stubborn, but stubborn refusal to accept the limits others want to put on me has got me where I am, and made sure I got to tertiary education, twice, and got me published.

What also helped get me there is tenacity. Imagine your life like a hurdles race, where you have to leap again and again and again. The dyslexic people in the lane have somehow landed with more hurdles, so they have more opportunities to fall and are more likely to lag behind. The two most important things you need to know to get to the ribbon at the end is that the only person who’s performance matters is your own, take your eyes off how others are doing, and the ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and take the next hurdle at a run.

Failing that when I get really down, and feel dispirited I go to bed and read my book, which makes me unbelievably happy, because there is nothing anyone can do or say that stops that being one of my achievements and no one can ever take that away.

thoughtful

Mairi Campbell-Jack’s book This is a Poem is available from the Burning Eye website, and she can be followed on Twitter @lumpinthethroat