29 Nov 2012

Thursday Truths...Educating Rita...i.e.me!

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Thursday Truths!

Yesterday, I finished my novel and remembered that today is Thursday Truths. Then this morning I remembered that Thursday Truths was changed slightly last week (due to the on-again-off-again nature of Tuesday rants) as Tuesdays sometimes contained truths. Do you remember? I had gone all theme-y. It was “sleep” last week.

I don’t really expect you to remember, especially not when my memory is so bad, but I did again ask for prompts...again received none...but then my Twuddy the Gargoyle proffered two; Charity and Death, and seeing as I blatantly ignored her suggestions last week I am going to address one of them this week.


I need to add some kind of disclaimer to this which is: its not that funny and is a bit long and if you have known me for a year now then you may have heard some of this before!

Lets get this show on the road.....

The majority of my childhood was spent growing up in the 80’s and I consider myself very lucky, it was a great time to be a kid. The music, the films, the lack of technology; were we the last to spend the majority of our childhood playing outside and waiting outside phone boxes?

But one memory that I have and that influenced my life choices was Live Aid. When I saw those children, even as a child myself, I knew that I wanted to help them. I told my mum that if they needed me to go over there (at that time) then I would, happily. 

Then several years later there was a problem in Russia with hunger and starvation, it sounds ridiculous when I think of it now, but I wrote to the Russian embassy to advise them to breed rabbits (I’m not even joking).

As I grew up I always volunteered for things such as campus service (I helped in the library!) and as a Mentor (I worked at a Girls School) and I guess (without sounding too pompous) I have always liked to help where I can.

I took part in the citizenship project that they were running in my first school, I always was the class representative (throughout secondary and higher education), I loved helping the new kids settle in at the school, and did and still do enjoy helping others. I’m not sure why, if it’s for selfish reasons or altruistic but all the same, that’s how I am.  

I knew that at some point in my life I wanted to volunteer in a developing country. I knew that the way to do this was to get a degree. When I was studying my A’ levels I, had this in mind, a driving factor of going to University wasn’t to get a great education and pursue a high paying job (I lack materialistic motivation) but because I knew that I needed a degree in order to volunteer. 

Since forever, I have always been one of those people who have no idea what they want to be when they grow up, I am interested in everything, learning new things, meeting new people. Life is an adventure and so my degree subject wasn’t something I thought too much about. At the time, I wanted to study environmental studies. I visited several universities and my first choice was the one that I felt comfortable in  - I wasn’t concerned about its image, rankings or course instruction – but it had to feel right.

I failed my A’levels miserably and thought I would have to go to plan B. My plan B as a teenager was to be a nurse. I know now as an adult that it is not a career to be chosen lightly and I really don’t know if it would have been for me but I have never needed the plan B. The university I chose gave me the option of studying a foundation course and then if I passed moving on to study a degree. It meant an extra year, but I wasn’t too bothered, I was happy to go to my first choice and agreed.

I think that everyone, if they try hard enough, can probably remember a point in their lives where they made a decision that changed the trajectory that they were on, maybe it was a big decision for you and maybe not, maybe like me it was a spur of the moment choice.

You need to bear in mind that my A’levels that I failed were in; English Literature, Geography & General Studies (I just about passed this one).  I had started off with these three and German but had stopped that after the first year when the teacher told me he didn’t expect me to pass. English literature actually put me off reading for a very long time. I think I have had more bad teachers than good unfortunately. I had passed my GCSE’s averagely and can honestly say that I never put the effort in. I did one GCSE a year early, and really applied myself to prove a point to the teacher, again it was German (which I loved) and she told my parents that I shouldn’t expect anymore than a D. I got a B. But after that it was always about doing just enough.

I started that foundation course and it was in science: Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Communication Studies and there was an option: Laboratory Practice (LP) or Environmental Studies (ES).

One afternoon at College the lecturer was discussing the optional choices of LP or ES. I should have chosen ES and I did, but then he gave a speech about how if they didn’t have enough people to do LP then they wouldn’t teach it. Could I sit idly by when I was so indifferent to a career goal? So I chose Laboratory practice.

At the end of the year we had to make our degree options and providing we had the right grade we could do that at University, I didn’t choose ES because I hadn’t studied that option, I didn’t choose Chemistry because I was failing it (I don’t like to blame others but the lecturer hated me – that does sound like a cop out but when your classmates notice it and its not just you being paranoid then that makes it fairly valid). I still to this day hate chemistry. I didn’t choose Maths because it seemed highly intensive and I was left with Biology and Physics to choose between. I liked my physics teacher and thus I opted for Physics; with no science or maths A’levels! I believed that if it was an option then they must think that I am capable of studying it, but you already know I am na├»ve.

The first year at uni was very different to college, in college I had lodged with an older couple who bred border collies (like lassie) only the miniature version and kept a Shetland pony in their garden. First year at uni was in halls of residence and was a blast. I think I was having too much fun!

I took all the courses I needed to and an additional course in German! It was German that saved my honours degree, because I failed a course and when I returned in the second I had my meeting with my personal tutor (most impersonal man on the planet) and he said I hadn’t enough CAT points to continue with the honours and I wouldn’t be able to add another course and keep up, when he read out the courses I had done he never mentioned the German. I remember saying “What about the German I thought that was worth CAT points?” He checked and said “oh, oh I forgot about that, oh. Ok then.” And thus I was rescued!

Year 2 was extremely hard! It was only 4 courses but the level they jumped from first year to second was far greater than the sum of its parts or something like that. I thought that there was no way in hell that I would pass the course. That I would not be back for year three and that maybe I could choose plan B after all! I did try harder, but the maths in a physics degree is ridiculously hard. At the end of the year I told my mother that I thought I had failed, that I wouldn’t be going back, that I would look into plan B and I didn’t bother looking for accommodation. So when the letter landed on my mat and I discovered that by some freak chance I had done enough to pass them all! I was surprised. Even to this day I am still surprised. It was by far the hardest year. Year 3 was still hard but not as hard as year 2 because now things were starting to make sense.


I did pass my degree, not amazingly with flying colours, but I graduated with a BSc (hons) in Applied Physics with a 2:2.  I like to think it could have been so much worse.

I had originally enrolled to do a teaching degree, so year 3 I would have spent doing my teacher training, but after year two I opted out of doing that, much to everyone I know disappointment and continuing insistence that I would be a great teacher. I wouldn’t. I’m too bossy and I don’t think the subject matter is as important as how you teach it. I don’t pander and I think everyone can achieve their dreams. I guess I see each step as a stepping stone to what you want as opposed to having to know the subject in minute detail, I guess I am more about functional education. Does that even make sense?

As you know, I went travelling after that, and then I when I came home I had to decide what was next for me. I was working and was happy to do that but I also still wanted to volunteer and so I filled in the application for and applied to the VSO. I never told anyone in case I never made it past that point. I did and received another form, and another and another. Then I was invited for an interview and assessment day. I passed that and had to start the training courses, and each course you were still under assessment and could still be refused, I went on about 4 of these weekend courses and then I had to spend a week teaching (and being assessed by teachers) in a school in Bristol. I passed.

I have always wanted to go to China and I was hoping that the posts that they would offer me would be in China. I was offered Ghana, there was a secondary school in a village that needed a Maths and Science teacher. I remember thinking that it really didn’t seem too challenging but I accepted it.  I was finally on my way to volunteer in (what at the time) was a third world country (it has changed so much in such a short amount of time) and finally achieving my dream.

And that is how I got my first job working for a charitable organisation, there are many stories from the two years I was there which I guess you may discover as the weeks go on…but please tell me?

What did you study at university? What would you like to study more? Have you had a great teacher or a terrible teacher?


  1. interesting perspective. I remember food parcel runs and annual removals from flatshare to houseshare etc. Think you put yourself down too much. You did really well in Ghana teaching Maths & Physics and coaching the school football team and you loved it:-)x

  2. You put me to shame Kate. I've never had great desires or goals, always just glided through life. I have no idea what it is to persever or struggle at anything. I've had a few adventures, but always of someone else's making, never as something I strived for. The above commentator is right. You shouldn't be so modest about your accomplishments. They've made you who you are (at least partly) and you should be proud of them. I know I'm proud of you, and glad you've allowed me into your life.

    1. I doubt that very much! Shhhh...dont let her know she might be right! Eek. You are welcome here anytime.

  3. My memory of Live Aid was the complete opposite. I stayed up the whole time waiting for Duran Duran, only to have the cable go out due to bad weather two acts before and not come back on until three acts after. I cried for a week! In the 80's I was spoiled and immature and thought only of myself...basically about the same as today!

    I hated science and was horrible at it (which explains why I work in a lab today). I was the lowest of the low, the weirdest of the weird, an art major!

    I would be a horrible teacher, but I thought about it once or twice. You'd make a great teacher!

    1. You most definitely dont give yourself enough credit young lady! Art students get a different experience here, uber cool and always have been.


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