Once I’d heard those three words, I could only hate going to English class. As I sat there next to my dad, I wished that my chair could just swallow me up and save me from the humiliation. He kept asking questions, but I just wanted them all to go away along with those four words: “she’s at the bottom”.
It was a Year 11 Parents Evening. After speaking to several teachers who had identified both positives and potential areas of improvement in my work, I approached my English teacher with my dad in tow. The conversation was strained to say the least. My dad immediately noticed a lack of interest from the teacher when she commented on my progress, prompting him to ask a string of dreaded questions. He asked about how I could improve and how I could be helped. This led to him questioning how I fared against the other students in the class, which in turn gave way to those words I’ve now grown to hate so much…
What stage of your education did you enjoy most? 🏫
— OpinionPanel (@OpinionPanelEd) August 9, 2018
But the worse thing is, I wasn’t offered any help or advice on how I could improve, nor was I even told that I could improve in the first place. It appeared that I was viewed as a hopeless case while the teacher’s favourites were given encouragement, even when they didn’t perform well. This became obvious to me while listening to the verbal feedback the teacher gave to us when she was giving us some essays back; I was given little to none. All the questions in class were asked of, and answered by the typical favourites since no one else seemed to matter. So no wonder she branded me bottom of the class!
I really don’t agree with telling an insecure 16 year old, already visibly lacking in self-confidence, that she’s below everyone else in the class. I shared my feelings with my friends, but didn’t think to mention it to anyone else because my self-esteem had taken a hit, and I didn’t know what to do. I dreaded going to English lessons since I was struggling and only receiving negative comments from the teacher, particularly with poetry. My poor performance was no surprise at times; some of my lessons involved blindly copying out information from a powerpoint for a full half-hour. The information was undoubtedly useful since it was directly copied and pasted from online sources, but it didn’t help me much with understanding.
With exams beginning to approach, and no help from the teacher in sight, I decided that I would help myself by setting a goal to overcome my difficulties with poetry. During study leave, I spent a few hours each day thoroughly reading through the notes I made during class on each poem I had to learn. I read over the same material again and again until I fully memorised and understood the content. Anything I didn’t understand, I looked up online for a simpler explanation.
As time went by, I could see the improvement. I could recite my notes nearly word for word and confidently answer the questions in my exam paper. What seemed so unachievable just a few months before finally appeared to be within my grasp. And what was the end result? An A* in English Literature. I could’ve chosen not to put in any extra work and blame the education system or the teacher’s lack of support for my poor performance; however, instead I used this as further motivation.
For those of you who have been in the same situation, I would highly recommend teaching yourself to an extent. The class textbook is your best friend. Just by reading through it, you’ll find that you’ll manage to remember a lot of the material, and also to understand the content in a way that you didn’t before. If you need extra help and don’t think you can ask your teacher, seek help from other teachers or even the best student in the class. I would also suggest speaking to someone about your teacher if you feel that they are repeatedly singling you out and not providing adequate help. I have seen favouritism in almost every class and some of my closest friends have also shared similar experiences, and it is never reported as much as it should be.
I learned some very important lessons from this whole situation. As long as you believe in yourself and put in the time, effort and necessary hard work, you‘ll be surprised at what you can achieve. The people you prove wrong along the way will come as an added perk.