Updated: Aug 17, 2019
My name is Ellie & this is my story.
“Growing up she was a wild child, she was full of fire and for no good reason she was always ready to fight the system.”
I want to talk about my time at school and how 11 years later I am hellbent on wanting change for the kids who are having a similar experience.
My first school memory of not feeling understood was in primary school. I remember feeling like it was my fault, it was all my fault I didn’t understand the given task, I was embarrassed, ashamed and felt so so dumb and no matter how many times I told the teacher that I didn’t understand, that I was struggling, I was still left behind, I couldn’t keep up.
Let’s take a minute to take that in, at 7 years old I felt like a failure. I was a child, my brain hadn’t finished developing and here I was drowning in my own frustration to just understand like the kid next to me did. I was a child in primary school. I should have been excited to learn but I cried everyday because I didn't understand.
And so the domino effect of being left behind & self hate began…
Starting intermediate, my first pimple, my first period, my first crush & my first detention. My first moments of resenting & hating the person I was after years of not feeling good enough.
What a time to be alive, boys are starting to look cute, your mum tells you “you're too young to wear makeup” but you apply mascara anyway, you figure out that if you hide in the toilet you could get out of morning hurdles and sprints. Amazing.
Year 7, eleven years old. This is our teacher's first year of teaching. He is full of hope, he thinks if he gains our friendship first, life will be easy, we’ll listen and respect him and we will be one big happy team. Nope. We became hard to teach and he gave up, signed in & signed out. We were too young to understand what we were doing and how it was going to affect us later. It was a classic case of “monkey see, monkey do.” He seemed to stop caring, we stopped showing up. We felt angry, misunderstood, and as though we had something to prove. A huge part of that came from the logic that the people who were meant to help and teach us, made us feel like we were idiots with a shared brain cell. If they think we are bad apples, we’ll show them just how bad we can be.
And so the rebellion began…
I attended an all girls high school. Yes, it was as one would imagine. HELL. Hundreds of girls in one space. Thousands of out of control hormones. Hundreds of periods syncing. Thousands of rumours and a thousand fallouts over boys. As if the pressure and stress of that isn't enough, you are now at a HUGE school and if you are not a fast learner or one of those lucky people who always get it right, you are f**ked.
Because I had just spent the last how many years tuning out because I didn't understand, this was a wake up call to me of just how far behind I was. Once again, I voiced that I needed help, I needed more explaining, I didn't understand.
For me, that was the last straw. I had tried and tried to understand, I wanted to understand so badly but all my teachers were in a hurry to get onto the next subject and I guess when you have a class of 30 people that understand and four who don’t. Majority rules. Bulls**t rule. Outdated and useless. Time for change.
From then on, I went to school to show up or wag class with my friends, to smoke behind the dairy, talk to boys before school, and wear electric blue mascara. That year I started shoplifting, dabbling in drugs which later on lead to drug addiction and a painful recovery. AND giving zero f**ks.
“Hey education, you can kiss my 14 year old butt”
From then on my choices became increasingly the wrong ones, determined to do all the damage I could. Still trying to figure out why at 26.
I remember being an unhappy person, I made a lot of choices that hurt myself and everyone around me, I own up to my part in that, but I put part of that down to feeling lost in school, I felt unwanted and I felt like no one cared about me. I spent the next years trying to find validation in other ways to make up for that. At 22 I was diagnosed with depression & finally everything made sense to me. All those years of struggling, feeling alone, overthinking, being too sad to do anything, it was all clear & while I felt relieved that I finally got the help I needed. I was resentful and angry thinking about how unhelpful school had been. Telling us if we didn't understand algebra we wouldn’t survive.
And then there were some teachers who did “Reach & Teach” me.
I left my original primary school in year 4 and went to a school that worked for me. It was smaller, it was more customised to the individual student. My year 4 teacher was extremely attentive and was always finding new ways to engage with how my brain worked, and I did a lot of catching up that year.
In high school I had a dean and my god, was she my hero. I still keep in contact with her nine years after finishing school. There was just something that clicked with us and she understood me, she saw past all the things teachers wrote me off for. She believed in me.
Those two teachers that didn’t go with the current, that went against the grain and changed their ways of teaching to cater to the individual. They are the way forward. One thing I hope for, is that in the future, my experience isn't a common one. I feel teachers need to understand and evolve with us, no two people fit the same mould, changing the way we teach can mean we change the way the child survives in life. That is crucial.
I left school at 17, I moved out of home and started working full time, sitting here now at 26 I work a 6am till 2pm Monday to Friday job that I LOVE, as well as running my own successful business that does international work, and has allowed me to connect with clients from all walks of life.
School was never for me and I was ready to accept that, whilst I understand the importance of education & how privileged I was to receive one. Having such a tough time at school forced me to take a more unique and creative approach to get to where I am now.