A Student's Story

The following story is an excerpt from a middle school assignment where students designed their own magazines. From this student and her subsequent successes, 4R's was born.

Eighteen Years On!

18 years later this is how the young girl who lost her way on the ice rink has progressed, much to many people's surprise!

I graduated from high school, to my complete amazement, after great support from my family and better support in my last two years at the private school I attended for grades 11 and 12. Although I had worked hard, when exam time came it never seemed to pay off. Regardless of this I received my BC Graduation Certificate along with one of the school's most prized awards - the Endeavour Cup - in recognition of my hard work.

I moved to England at the age of 17 to work as a Matron in a boarding school. After two years I decided I needed some qualifications to begin my journey into better paid jobs and the line of work I was aspiring to - Social Work or working with children with learning difficulties - so I went back to Canada in the hope that I could begin further education there. I soon found out that their system required me to spend nearly 2 years upgrading my high school marks, often with courses for 'credits' that would mean I had to do a lot of work even though they were not necessarily related to what I wanted to do. Since I still found reading for information hard and very time consuming I decided to go back to England where I knew that I could work on a Btec in Nursery Nursing without upgrading any of my high school marks. Needless to say, at the time I was not sure which direction or job I really wanted to do!

Since I also had to work in order to support myself, I worked in a variety of settings - e.g. hospitals, nursing homes, psychiatric units and individual's homes, mainly with the elderly, but also with adults and teenagers. This provided me with a wealth of experience in a variety of settings - experience I have continued to utilize since and which eventually helped towards my final choice of studies.

Throughout the next seven years I gained a Btec in Nursery Nursing, a BA (hons) in Social and Professional Studies: Learning Disabilities, and a Diploma in Social Work. This may appear to be a very long-winded way to go about things but, as I said earlier, I was not sure what I wanted to do until gaining other qualifications, working in those different positions, and then deciding that they were not exactly what I wanted. Personally, the most difficult qualification to obtain was my degree as one of the reasons I had applied for it was because there were no exams, only assessments through my written work and my practical ability.

Unfortunately for me, I thought, the year I was accepted the university introduced exams, but by this point in my life I had accepted and had more of an understanding of the different ways that I learnt. I was also thrilled to have been accepted as this was known to be the hardest place to get into! I paid to be re-assessed by the university and was awarded a grant to help me buy a computer to meet my needs. I was also given extra time in exams, had the option of having the questions read to me and/or the use of a computer during exams. The results of the assessment also enabled my lecturers to understand the ways I learnt and expressed myself best in order to reach my full potential.

Admittedly, I did not use the support available to me as much as I could have as, although I did not have as many ‘hang ups' about my different ability to learn, in some ways I was still ‘rebelling' against some of the derogatory remarks and on many occasions humiliating treatment I received from fellow pupils and staff throughout my initial schooling.

As I described in my initial article the difficulty that I had with ‘space' is still an issue for me and one of the main areas this affects me in is with directions and map reading. One day I decided I needed to try to conquer this so I applied, and got, a job where each morning I was handed a list of clients, their addresses, set times I had to be at each, and a map. I won't deny this was not extremely nerve-wracking but I did it!

Although I remember some of the bullying from other pupils and negative responses from teachers, when I look back these have shaped the person I am now and provided me with a great determination to continue to prove them all wrong! I am successful and very good at what I now do (I am a Social Worker with the Department of Children and Families in England) and, although it might have taken me longer and been more of a struggle than for others, I know I can overcome anything I apply myself to and SO CAN YOU!

4R's was developed because of my difficulties and because my mother somehow always knew that I could achieve even though others doubted this and because there were others who were underachieving because they learnt differently. I hope this update shows how teaching a young person in the way that they learn best can lead to success for them in any area they wish to strive for. Please remember that being different or, as I like to call it, unique really can benefit you. I like to look at it like my ‘secret' - I may not be good at some things but I am very good at others and in reality this is the same for everyone, learning difference or not!

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