I went to an ordinary comprehensive school because I was considered ‘too bright’ or ‘not disabled enough’ for a special school (whether that was a comment on the assumed quality of the teachers at special school or the state of my legs I’m not quite sure) and yet in a school that prided itself on its league tables my disability was somehow letting the side down each time I failed to get 10/10. I might be ‘out of bounds’ because with dyspraxia, I had no idea where I was _supposed_ to be.
Yet despite my constant anxiety nearly all my teachers praised my efforts and attention to my work-and this was in Thatcher’s Britain. They gave me credit for effort and the hours of unseen work that I put in, even if many of them never realised that burning the candle at both ends was an understatement and that in addition to the school day and doing cleaning for my mother, I would stay up ’til midnight studying and then get up at 6 am to finish projects or reports.
I wish I still had a copy of the glowing final year report in which EVERY teacher who remembered that one student among many and praised my skills and abilities or where I had no discernable skill, my effort and determination ‘to ‘overcome all obstacles’ -they weren’t trained in disability correct language, bless ’em. However, I threw it away.
Why would I throw away something I ought to be proud of? The front page countersigned by the head. reads: ‘She has let herself down with a disappointing result in Mathematics’. Such a comment would have followed me to my first job had I being going straight into work, in fact would have followed me to College and University had the authorities there been only interested in the front page of my Record of Achievement. For me and for anyone who knew I had special needs a ‘D’ for Maths was a triumph but the Head Teacher only saw me as ‘letting the school down’ and discounting the A*s, As and Bs in every other subject.
A pity I did not keep the positive comments and throw the nasty one away.