|Original Image courtesy |
of maya picture
But the buttons failed to work for me.
Alone I searched for the stairs.
The promise of belonging had lured me in,
The entry code earned after a considerable struggle.
Totally uncertain of myself yet thrilled and excited I entered alone
Certain this was where I wanted and needed to be.
Each flight of steep stairs tantalised me with hope
Of the moment I would join others and relinquish the invisible bubble around me.
How I ached to leave behind the loneliness
And discover my place in the jigsaw of life.
I climbed and climbed
Pausing for breath and the time to analyse each difficult step.
The pain of isolation seemed to lessen with each floor I reached.
Others called “Hello” as they passed me – and smiled!
At last it seemed I was making real progress
My longed for destination approaching,
The opportunity to relax amongst others –
To “Be” without thinking, analysing, worrying.
And thus I arrived – or so I thought
At the floor where I had yearned to be, with the Everyone I wanted to join
Only to discover nothing had changed.
The door was locked and I remained outside, alone.
I wrote this when I was 16.
I always loved school but found "fitting in" quite a challenge, always on the periphery of every social circle - or so it seemed. That metaphorical lift never actually worked for me, there was no easy route into acceptance.
And right now I know a couple of students currently feeling this way.
As the new school year starts everyone is jostling for permission, finding their feet in new surroundings often with unfamiliar people. (Meanwhile the familiar ones might seem less familiar after the long break than perhaps they should!)
School is perhaps the toughest social environment you are ever likely to find yourself in. It's not optional, and most schools operate a largely "one size fits all" approach to their students. And you rely almost solely on your parents to ensure you end up in the right place. And that's the key in my opinion - finding the right place for YOU. Because later on you have choices, as you shed the strait-jacket of public exam timetables and move into the more fluid world of college or work (hopefully) armed with a better understanding of who you are. Not until adulthood can you can seize control of your life with the essential tools to make sound decisions.
As a parent I'm often asked why I have three children at one school, and the fourth at another. And until recently I thought I knew the answer. But in actual fact, the real reason is far simpler than any academic, social or medical reason I might have previously conjured up. It's not because of what that one child is or isn't, and it isn't a second choice. Choosing a school is such a fundamentally, crucially important decision. It should never be reactive - selecting a second, third or even fourth "best" because x y and z were not possible. It's about making a proactive choice for that individual- focussing on who they are, their talents, personality and potential. And I honestly believe that is the same for all children irrespective of how "good" or "bad" a school might be. Because one size never fits all.
But even when you are indeed in the right place for you, those initial weeks can often seem particularly traumatic, with parents chewing their nails to the quick in a state of anxiety comparable to our offspring! Do we do our children a disservice focusing so strongly on the "Transition" process, making moving up such a big deal? In our efforts to prepare and calm them, do we in fact whip kids up into a frenzy of change-acknowledgement and preparation? I think perhaps we do. In an aspiration-driven superlative-seeking frenzy parents arm themselves with the latest stats, information and opinion, learn their rights and options and strive to secure the "best" place they can for their child, be it in the Private or State sector. But do we sometimes choose schools based on parental need more than that of our child?
Sometimes I wonder if we lose sight of what we should be focussing on, as however good that school is, what really matters is whether it fits your child. Because if their metaphorical lift isn't working when they get there, it's not a good place to be.