Friday, 23 August 2019

I Failed My GCSE's But....

Scrolling through social media over the last couple of days, I've seen so many parents eagerly anticipating their children's exam results.

Be it A levels or GCSEs, the excitement is palpable.

And while I can fully understand the  pride in finding out the results their beloved offspring have earned...I also remember so clearly the intense anxiety I felt myself 20 years ago, as I stood in the common room at school, envelope in hand...about to find out my fate.

And I also remember, incredibly clearly, the feeling of dread and panic I felt when I opened that envelope to find that I hadn't quite met the expectations that had been placed on me.

Suddenly my future seemed in doubt. I didn't know what my pathway to my imagined future would look like anymore. I felt like a door had been closed in my face.

The school I attended was known to be one of the worst performing schools in the country for exam results, OFSTED ratings and truancy levels. It was so notorious in its failings that, the year after I left, it was the subject of a BBC2 documentary which dubbed it "Britains Worst School".

Ever since I had joined the register halfway through year 7, I'd been hailed by the teaching staff as one of their brightest pupils.

I'd come from another, more "Successful" school where I'd been bullied relentlessly and so my parents had removed me and allowed me to choose a new school for myself. I chose this one because the school day was much shorter than everywhere else and because there were less than 200 pupils in the entire school when I first started there - in my mind, less students meant less chance of being bullied again.

My previous school, although misery inducing, had set me in good stead academically and my new teachers were very impressed with my level of knowledge in subjects like English and French. And so they put me in the highest ability group for all subjects, and when it came time to study for our GCSE's...I was placed into what they called "The Elite Group".

The Elite Group consisted of me and about 6 other students who the school expected to achieve at least 5 GCSE's at Grade C or above.

We were offered additional support to help us meet those expectations but I didn't take them up on it - infact I barely attended school at all during the last year due ...once the bullying and anxiety which plagued my early life.

My record of achievement shows that I was only present in class for a mere 25% of the final year...which meant lots of missed GCSE coursework, minimal revision time and...inevitably, lower exam results than expected.

As I stood in the common room with my results letter in hand, tears filled my eyes as I stared at the solitary Grade C printed on it. Followed by a couple of Ds, an E and even an F in  French.

I felt like a failure. And at the moment in time, I felt frightened of what the future would hold for me.

All I'd heard about for the last 2 years was how very important these exams were. How they would shape my whole future, and how only those who did their very best would go on to become somebody or achieve anything.

When I walked out of school that day, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or how I would set about making anything of it.

And so, when I see and hear talk of exam results now, as much as I can understand the excitement of parents...I can't help but worry about the children who are taking them.

Do they know that their futures don't rely solely on the letters printed on that piece of paper? Do they realise that there are ways around these things if the results aren't all they hoped they'd be?

I'd hope they do,  but just incase...I wanted to share some of my personal experiences of life as a person who "failed" their GCSEs and never even attempted their A levels.

I failed my GCSEs but....I've never been out of work for longer than a month in my life.

I failed my GCSEs but...I have an entrepreneurial and creative mind which has allowed me to think outside the box when it comes to earning money.

I failed my GCSEs but...I have supported my family of 5 as the sole earner for the past 6  years, from home, with a business I started and built upon myself with no advice or financial input from anybody else.

I failed my GCSEs but...I work for myself, have total freedom and have made my dream of earning a living from writing a reality. On my own terms, in my own way.

I failed my GCSEs but...I did not fail at living a fulfilled and happy life.

And neither will you.

 Those grades do not define you, and they don't dictate your entire future -  please don't let yourself believe that they do.

You can go through any door in life that you wish to, you just need to find the right path to it for you.

There is always another path.

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