Ab ovo usque ad mala…

It was 1986 when I decided to join The Open University, the reasons were many, but simply put I liked the name, if there was anything that spoke to me deeply and personally it was the two words “Open” that was followed by “University”, I felt a connection with these words, so wanted to join and learn what I could and get that degree, but I would need to muster my courage of convictions I knew.

As no, I never stayed on to take any A levels and gained only one O Level qualification in Art as a subject, that is, I was a student of mostly the CSE qualification which most employers looked down upon. For even though I passed my Eleven Plus exam with good grades; I scored very well in English (grade 2), Maths (grade 3) and Science (grade 3), but in secondary school I wasn’t even considered for O Levels at the very least — I felt demoralised but not defeated.

As the educational decision that was made on my behalf, was left totally unchallenged by the parents, who had no idea of my potential anyway (nor did they care about me neither; as my one-year older half-sister achieved exactly the same 11-plus grades, and got to do her O Levels in all her subjects without any problems. So it wasn’t sour grapes on my part, but a real comparison study on this issue), I felt at the time really shafted, and I think the general feeling among some teachers back then, was that I was going to go off and have many babies, if that…. such was their expectation for me.

So I was considered a waste of their teacher time; as it was assumed that a female can only be smart or pretty, but one can’t be both brainy and beautiful at the same time; neither did they accept within the embodiment of a female one who’s intelligent, attractive and personable. Herewith their problem: most female teachers were themselves plain-ugly or ugly in face and their dress-sense left much to be desired, plus in the 1970s they were active feminists too, whom were out to prove their point using themselves as the bench-mark by the ‘selection-of-the-ungilded’ for their propaganda; they perpetuated the same clichéd myth of “beauty and brains don’t mix” for their own gain in society.

And thus students were never taught by beautiful female teachers nor pretty-boy male teachers who also had brains; liken to some plain-handsome male teachers that we had, as well as the ugly male teachers; only the ugly females were allowed unhindered to join the teaching profession and progress with success (same as in certain corporate jobs even now), as they actually lived and breathed those stereo-types, alongside their promotional feminist cause, even though they professed equality for all women, this wasn’t the stark reality: they were ultimately against females who were everything they weren’t, moreless the gender war they supposedly fought. 

Weblink Article: Good-looking women more likely to be turned down for a job

Thus it was unsurprising to me, that most girls who had a harden-serious looking face, and some girls at secondary school actually cultivated this sour faced expression on purpose even though they weren’t born with it, always looked ready for business (but I couldn’t manage it, as my face never lent itself that way, even when I practiced as hard as I could, my face wouldn’t go frosty-like, and I did this because I got rebuked for not having a serious look to my face — seriously— and the most I could manage today of looking serious is the picture aside of me taken recently, along with my hair and makeup for a ‘Glamourous Statement’ — I think this term has been called ‘schooling ones face’  as to the correct phraseology, which means putting ones face in a specific position and with an expression of intent), for they were the majority of pupils that made up the O Level and A level academic group. However, besides that educational set-back, I still was determined to have some sort of qualification and had support from a few teachers. Therefore, I got over it and got on with it. And yes, this kind of focus and self-disclipine alongside my demeanour would verily piss people off and thus find me annoying — simply because I take things in my stride in my outlook on life generally.

Even after so many years had past, actually five, but that goes to show how influential some teachers were to affect me so, four in actual fact: Mrs Blanchard (English teacher) and Mrs Castellini (Art teacher), Mr Giles (Social Studies teacher) and Mr MCE James (Maths teacher and a Tutor Group teacher); who encouraged me so much, truly.

As I still had the haunting words ringing in my ears when I attended my last parents evening of my social studies teacher, Mr Giles [five-foot eight inches tall in height, crew-cut brown hair balding in the middle, brown eyes, hawk-like small boyish face and with a lean built to his body: handsome, he was noted for wearing black skinny ties with a light grey suit and white shirts only, it was his trendy style], who had a background in Media before becoming a Teacher of my secondary (girls) school.

As on this occasion of the Parents Evening, one parent attended with me, why they bothered I don’t know, because they weren’t interested in what was being said to them about me, and the teachers knew it, and it was very uncomfortable to stand there and watch, it was socially painfully. Thus the teachers, after giving up any attempt of engagement with said parent, directed their comments eventually directly towards me instead, which turned out well from the feedback given by my teachers.

For Mr Giles said “you should have gone to university” as a statement of fact to me, because he believed I’d been held back deliberately so others could succeed.  And so Mr Giles parting shot was “Fill in the gaps! What ever you decide to do with your life fill in the gaps!” He was so thoughtful as a teacher but with a humour that was always evident. I knew what he meant.

The other teacher was Mr MCE James, who had a Military background before teaching, and was my tutor group/maths teacher. He said to us in class “Most parents don’t teach their children discipline, but I’ll tell you now, it begins with you and only you, don’t rely on your parents to do it for you, as you will only succeed in life with discipline and this starts with a calendar diary, then follow through everything that needs to be done, and being where you are supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there, but most importantly finish what you start…” and therefore this is also the person who taught me that basic principle of organisation.

Secondly, he said “those who’s nature is to nag are the world’s best reminders of what needs to be done, their characters are what make them organised because they’ve done the work, so know what to expect from it and others, and utilise this part of themselves well in life (ie. in the secretarial profession, the general office manager), as you can’t pull the wool over their eyes that easily; they are the sworn enemy of procrastinators in society (eg. the boss and other employees). Lastly, don’t waste your time and don’t allow others to waste it either…”, as stated by Sir in class that day [who was just over six-foot-three inches tall in height, brown-blonde short curly hair, large round face shape with mannish features, as he still had a very strong jawline: sometimes it was noted that he had a three-day beard shadow, and blue eyes, big-hunk of a man: handsome and his suits were always navy with black ties and a white shirt] as one paid attention.

For he used this opportunity on our last day of secondary school for us sixth-formers to emphasis his point of starting what one finishes, as progression was very important to him rather than trying to aim for perfection. As in military terms its asked sometimes: did you win the battle or the war? I’d answer: both. As you get to move the enemy line to whatever direction you want — oh the effrontery of it all — because to progress takes self-discipline. 

So in 1986, both of them were there in the room in spirit, liken to teaching ghosts, as once a teacher always a teacher yes, when I held the application slip to join the Open University, all I had to do at that point was chose a foundation course, like it was so easy to decide …not.  As I first chose the ‘Arts foundation course – A100’, although when the course books arrived I gulped initially at what was before me, yet I was ready to rise to the challenge, but due to my unexpected pregancy and losing my first home, was out homeless until I could arrange alternative accommodation. So had to withdraw from the course.  But that initial step had been taken, the big-un, I was officially a registered under-graduate student with the Open University.

Then it was 1987, when I had moved into another home, only to lose that home, and a job at the same time after three years stability, and had to sort myself out quickly because this time I had a child to consider and not just myself. Thus I got another job to survive but was living in bed and breakfast temporary housing for three years, that was one room for sleeping in only, as no it isn’t with a snap of the fingers or jumping the social housing queue and rent-free as many people seem to think; even if born British and have local connections to that Borough — no, its much much harder to get any type of social housing and still pay your way in life. Therefore, I had to pull out from the course ‘T101 – Living With Technology: a foundation course’, as I couldn’t have done it due to an uncertain future.

So it wasn’t until 1993 that after sometime, okay another six years, and the home that I’m currently residing at: Myatts Field North Estate, that I tried once more, this time it was ‘D103 Society and Social Science: a foundation course’. And I was finally on my way after successfully passing that first year, followed by a straight run of two years course exam passes. Then, I came to a stand still, a hiatus from studying for awhile, until I felt ready to study again because it took its toll, as the social science field is a deeply involved subject like no other, that is the more you study it the more it absorbs you.

And after this study break, it was to be an academic study pattern of further gaps to decide course choices, for I wasn’t going to take any course just for the sake of getting any old degree. I wanted my degree to reflect a well rounded higher education, and then I had to contend with the upheavals; passes, fails, resits, what with the cancellation of courses, and the ambiguous; as I was allowed to take and complete the ‘B600 – The Capable Manager’ business course, even though it was aimed at the post-graduate level, and I hadn’t even graduated!!  So I had to do another business course after that which tied into what I had originally planned to take in that particular year and in the subject area of business, which meant that I kinda of ended up working for my business studies certificate backwards!  That is, I finished (post-grad) before I even started (under-grad). So therein all this planned study agenda that went somewhat haywire ended up affecting my overall goal that I’d set for myself, but I was determined as ever.

Although one thing for sure, with the discipline taught by Mr James, my Open University student record stands as it does, that I’ve completed every single Tutor Marked Assignment (TMA).  That was no matter the length asked for in the official word count, sometimes minimum 500, sometimes at maximum 5,000 words, all was done and carried out. It was my miniature goal within the bigger picture, so I never missed not one essay, all finished whatever the eventual marking for that particular essay, I was never lazy, all was written with absolute conviction.  And as a final learning outcome, I believe as each essay of the different requirements necessary in an exposition was tackled, my academic skills improved too.  Thus all the completed modular courses eventually, after all that hard work, added up to the UCAS points of 360, more than what was needed for a Bachelor pass grade.

However, there were decisions to be made along the way, did I want a named degree or an open degree, plotting the Level 1, 2 and 3 courses against those of just pure interest, and what letters was one aiming for a BA or a BSc, or could you possibly make it to an honours, then the Open University went and introduced ‘Interim Qualifications’ that was diplomas and certificates that you could link to the modular course as you worked your way to a degree, but what one’s to take was another academic decision to think about and apply.

Followed by lastly, how would I fit this in to my lifestyle; what would I have to lose in order to gain: it was my social life that was to go and my part-time job.  This was so I could focus with dedication on the two most important aspects in my life: getting a degree and raising my child. 

For not only as her biological mother as a parent and all that this entails raising a child, but also her Attorney; as officially I act for her legally as her Representative until she is deemed able to look after her own interests, but also I’m her Carer; both for her health and well-being generally; as so appointed by the Government State as I do act as her Appointee. Therefore, if anyone observed me with her (in private as well as public), will know that I’ve been much more than a mother with unconditional love, because I’ve had to be — for there’s been no choice — as knowing when to switch from one role to another isn’t easy either, as well as, giving her lee-way to do her own thing, (see picture aside of Sharlene Du-Marie, my ‘Gothic who also loves rock and heavy metal music’ daughter) with each of life’s mile-stones taken by her throughout the years, and believe me there have been many of those stones, (such as she attended the University College of Marjon in Plymouth and achieved her BA Honours degree, graduating in May 2010), with me, her mother, as her guide.

Thereat it’d help if people weren’t assuming the worst about me and negatively judgemental of me being somekind of an over-bearing mother, and of me supposedly being a bullying-parent trying to dominate another individual, as this is far from the truth, for my daughter will testify of herself that she’s very demanding!! And if I’ve done it all fairly okay in raising her, she will make her own kind of happiness in the long run because I’m not responsible for that aspect, that’s down to her to manage in her own life-time, as I’ve encouraged her to make her own support-network in preparation for when I’m no longer around and have gone for an eternal rest, as she is an only child.  And as asked: has your daughter read your blogs? Yes and this ‘Student blog’ is her favourite out of them all. 

And thus some twenty-three years later, with much emotion; as these years don’t seem to have floated by, oh no not by a long chalk my academic grads, it would now take sometime as not to think of submission deadline dates, and the urge to look in to see what new courses are on offer; as I once did during the gap years of studying. But I now have to contend with the notion and reality that this part of my academic learning at the higher education level is finally over and has closure, that is, I’m now a full-fledged member of a learned society being an ALUMNA

I graduated with a
 Bachelor of Science degree
on the 31st July 2010.

Rest In Peace — Mr Giles and Mr MCE James. Thank you for being there at school teaching and those words of kindness and wisdom, and I can proudly say back to you in spirit — I did it and I’ve done it. For you both who had and showed faith in me.

ab imo pectore…..

 

Weblinks: The Latin meaning of: “Ab obvo usque ad mala.” 
               The Latin meaning of: “Ab imo pectore.”

               From the Parent TV Channel, BBC H2G2 and Leapfrog:
               The best ways to prepare for parents’ evening.
               The different types of parents’ evening.
               A parental guide to parents’ evening tips

 

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