I know that the academic world isn’t for everybody, but I loved every minute of my experience learning things. I’m on the other side of that equation now, and while it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do, I do miss learning.
My GCSE grades were pretty good; A*s, As and Bs. My B in Maths was my proudest exam result as I found that by far the hardest. I always struggled with maths, and if it wasn’t for my patient father coaxing me through the curriculum I would have failed.
My A Levels were more of a mixed bag. An A, in Sociology; my tutor for the Lower Sixth may have turned into a convicted rapist in his later years, but by God, I got a thorough grounding in Marxism, Functionalism and Symbolic Interactionalism. Add a healthy amount of bullshitting in my final exam, and I flew through that one. A B in English Literature, which I found a little disappointing as I loved that subject so much. I really did poorly, by my standards, in my History; only a C grade. That was a real disappointment, but deserved. I found coping with the stress of exams so difficult that didn’t revise enough. I also got an AS Level in General Studies, which is as useless as it sounds. I talked about it briefly in this post where I talked about role models. I took an S Level – a step above A Level – in English too, and passed that, although not with any particular distinction.
Back then, the UCAS points system awarded ten points for an A, eight for a B, six for a C, etc. I needed something like twenty two points to get into the university course I wanted, and somehow in my head I convinced myself that because that was what I needed, that was what I would get. When I actually saw my results I was thrown because my brain couldn’t process the number of points I received. I had cleared that goal with just my A Levels, but with the other qualifications too I was closer to thirty than twenty. My old Maths teacher was there on results day as she was also the Exams Officer, and mistook my confusion for horror. I had to thrust the slip into her hand and ask her to tell me if I had the points I needed for university. The look of exasperation she gave me is forever etched into my memory!
I went to the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, which is now just Aberystwyth University. It’s a beautiful small town on the west coast of Wales, with dolphins in the bay, a ruined castle next to the nineteenth century campus and a wonderful feeling of warmth and safety. I read English and History, with a focus on Anglo-Saxon and Norman history. To this day I consider myself half a historian. There I finally found academic freedom and it was the happiest three years of my life. I would have loved to continue on to an MA, and even a PhD, but there just wasn’t the money available. Instead, I took a one year PGCE course and qualified as a teacher. I’ve just recently achieved a Graduate Diploma in Professional Development (Leadership), which was a draining and painful experience. I don’t think it’s possible for me to juggle my day job, writing and earning any more professional qualifications – it’s just too much.
Should I ever win the lottery and give up work, I think I’d go back into full time education. I love teaching, but I love learning more and there’s just so much I don’t know!