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My Passion for English and Teaching.

by Rachel Brennan 7 months ago in teacher

I will be that teacher.

Ever since I’ve had the ability to comprehend the English language, I have been utterly galvanized by it. I remember when I was just five years old, I would go to my grandparents after school on Tuesdays (the day my parents worked late) and I’d clasp my hand around my grandad’s arm and drag him into their garage. The garage was gargantuan compared to me who was tiny. The icy, concrete floor appeared dismal but the multi-colored chalks my grandad owned didn’t. They invigorated my fingers to detain them in my hands and doodle on the garage ground.

My hands made the chalk dance, and looking back, I feel bad for my grandad who I instructed to sit by me whilst I swirled the chalk, quilting the entirety of his garage floor. He would ask me what I’m writing, and I’d be chalking exactly what I learnt at school that day.

If I learnt what an adjective was, I would map it out and explain it to him again. He was the student, I was the teacher, and the garage floor was my demonstrative whiteboard. He must’ve listened to me ramble on for hours whilst he acted oblivious and shocked as I taught him. Every single Tuesday, whatever I learnt that day, I would reteach it to my grandad. I remember his delicate hand trembling as his arm lifted upwards to ask me a question.

It was always English I taught, as someone with Dyspraxia, (which is nothing like Dyslexia, it basically means I am scatter-brained with poor motor skills) – I have never comprehended Math. Contrastingly, I have always been mesmerized by the way writers can write to pursue an influence, expanding our thoughts through the expression of theirs.

A creative novelist can concoct a relationship with us, (readers) enforcing us to kindle an emotional attachment to fictional characters, entities created purely by pen, that is imprinted on us for a lifetime.

A writer could write twenty pages, describing the rusting doorknob in their office that is overlooked and twisted daily. Our language enables somebody to describe such doorknob as if it is a quintessence of a deep-rooted philosophy, as though it is a literal and metaphorical asset. Language can transform something from being disregarded, every day and ordinary – to something of colossal significance.

I’m forever fascinated by how punctuation changes everything too, which I saw a perfect epitome of this on Pinterest with these sentences:

• A woman without her man is nothing.

• A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Isn’t that incredible? The way that punctuation entirely dominates how language is interpreted has always amazed me. I find our language and its multitude eccentricities and foibles mesmerizing. Whilst having an invisible disability which will alienate me during my entire lifetime, English and writing has enabled and enables me to escape everything that plagues my mind. The passion I have for it courses through my blood and always has.

In the words of Joseph Joubert, French essayist: ‘To teach is to learn twice over’. For me, this quote exemplifies the powerful impact of teaching and with the education I have obtained and obtaining, I desire to expand my knowledge endlessly in English. Then, I will recycle my education to others and teach the inspirational value of the study.

I strongly believe that the subject possesses an overwhelming power; words alone have the capacity to manifest ideas that can impact the world. Look at the words of Martin Luther King, his words shaped humanity, bettering it.

Instead of a garage floor, a pack of chalks and my generous grandad who pretended to be my student, I hope to have my own classroom one day. I hope for a whiteboard teamed with its pen, which I can utilize to reteach what I’ve discovered to real students: the tremendous strength of words.

However, I did not recognize this was my passion for a long time. As I have previously mentioned my dyspraxia, the invisible disability of extreme clumsiness, made me stand out like I had a bullseye plastered on my chest during secondary school. A bullseye just waiting for darts to penetrate my arteries with ablest comments.

Dyspraxia is a neurological condition where your body does not listen to you – you tell your hands to deliver the fork carrying your food to your mouth in the proper way, then your hands decide to spill it all over yourself. You tell your fingers to hold the wine glass in the correct way, your grip weakens, and you smash it into smithereens at the restaurant.

Eyes are always glued to you. You know when you use PVA glue and pieces of the glue harden and latch to your fingers, refusing to come off no matter how much you rub and exfoliate at the scraps of glue? Well, that sticky situation and the frustration it evokes, reminds me of everybody’s eyes whenever I have a ‘dyspraccident’ (a Dyspraxia induced incident). You clean yourself up, or you blush and stagger away, but you can still feel eyes scanning you. You can’t quite scrub them all off.

Of course, teenage girls are insecure anyways. There are the fears of body image, social image, puberty, hormones, school drama, boys, girls, sexuality, everything a typical teenager goes through and worries about growing up. When you’re a teenager, small problems with easy resolves are hyperbolized and are the forefront of your world. You’re not as reasonable and you are not easy on yourself.

Teaming typical teenagerhood with a neurodiversity was not good for me. My confidence withered, people sniggered, my face burned, and I hated school. I dreaded it, a suffocating sensation of dread would envelope me and drown my stomach every time I woke up, preparing to be called retarded again because I simply looked clumsy.

Nevertheless, I struggled in lots of lessons, but I enjoyed English. I would ‘zone out’, immersed in a pool of my own thoughts whilst I waited for any lesson that didn’t involve writing, to pass. I was an alien with that bullseye on my chest which carried round heavy darts where students had insulted me that day, but when I began writing in lesson, the darts became lighter. The holes where they had been, were slowly healing. I felt able, I felt worthy.

The anxiety of school became too much though, and despite my love for English and writing – my mental health took a real downturn. I struggled with English because of my Dyspraxia too, I couldn’t hold the pen for too long without immense pain cramping and disabling my fingers. Everything negative, outweighed the positive. School became hellish.

My mum who was a self-employed counsellor, who had worked for a vast array of organizations over her time, was educated enough to understand that sometimes health needs to be prioritized first.

Whilst having a neurodiversity in a neurotypical, mainstream schooling system, the perception I had towards myself grew erroneous and concerning. I didn’t like myself at all. I hated myself. My mum was so supportive, when I would be worried and sleepless at night due to panic attacks which climbed and stumbled through my throat, she would listen, she would dissect my problems, and she would tickle my hair until I fell asleep with her index finger looped inside my curls. She really was there.

She shifted me out of school and decided home schooling was a better option. I remember the relief when she told me I didn’t have to go back there. The bullseye crumbled and fell off my chest. I was home-schooled for two years, but the problem is I was depressed, and I was at home. I went from a routine of anxiety and situations that highlighted my disability, to a relaxed routine which I would constantly transcend and deviate from.

My mum created different timetables for me, and I do feel awful because I didn’t realize what I was doing. I just wanted to sleep all day. I didn’t want to shower, I didn’t want to read, I didn’t want to write – I especially didn’t want to exercise my skills in subjects I found challenging. My mum just wanted best for me, I was on antidepressants, I had constant therapy, she hunted for tutors and ways to teach from home.

I was problematic because I was not motivated to do anything, I wanted to bury myself in bed, I lost passion and umph for everything. I hated education and didn’t see the point in any of it. My only desire was to conceal myself away from everybody.

After my mum’s consistent venture for an answer, she found something that changed everything. She did browse special schools before this, but the thing about Dyspraxia is that you are not ‘special’ enough, to be in a special school.

What my mum found instead was a behavioral specialist academy, where children with behavioral problems are monitored and you do not need to wear school uniform or anything like that. That was a relief for me – because of my dyspraxia, I struggled to fasten buttons, fathom putting on my tie, and overall, the mainstream school uniform was extremely challenging for me.

My mum drove down the motorway, with Elvis’ voice praising our ears, and when we finally arrived at this school’s opening day, we were seated for an assembly. I was nervous, but to my mum’s and my disbelief – they mentioned Dyspraxia in their presentation.

I was no longer an alien. We were shocked, we giddily whispered to each other and grew extremely excited – before we knew it, the enrolment form was filled in and signed. I was ready to rediscover my paused passion for education again. I’ll never forget my mum’s Earth green eyes which smiled with her motherly beam when we opened the postal acceptance letter weeks later.

Of course, this academy was a train away, and it was quite difficult for me to wake up on time and routinely catch a train every day. That was the only bad thing about the academy, I had to wake up at 5:45am everyday ready to catch the 7:08am train every morning. To think, all my journeys would be non-existent if mainstream schools didn’t employ a ‘one shoe fits all’ system.

Positively, the train journeys eradicated my anxiety as I was discovering independence at a young age. Not only that, but I’d always giggle and wave every morning, watching my little mum smiling and waving to me through the window as the train rolled away.

Despite the journeys being a lot of pressure on a fifteen-year-old and my punctuality being as consistent as the stability of a phone signal on a mountain, the school wonderfully supported me. The teachers expressed their beliefs in all of us, we didn’t voice why we were there, but we all knew we had different reasons.

All of us had potential, all of us knew we did because the teachers made that clear to us and imprinted that into our brains. They were patient, understanding and would let me be exempt from lessons which I felt highlighted my Dyspraxia. I fell in love with English and writing again, after a colossal pause from the subjects – it felt like I had never been estranged from writing at all. It felt innate for me.

Every night my mum would pick me up and we’d go home, we would have our legs up, chuckling at Paddy McGuiness asking the single ladies to reveal themselves as our fingers became thermostats to check whether our cocoa was warm enough to drink yet. I no longer needed her to tickle my hair and dissect my problems to enable my sleep, however I did want to sleep in her bed. Every night, she wouldn’t mind, I would lay next to her and drift off knowing that Mum is right there beside me. I felt safe.

Though, whilst we were puzzling the pieces of my education’s jigsaw back together, under our noses, my mum was falling seriously ill. She was unable to lose weight, her back became detrimentally painful and she was eventually diagnosed with cancer, after being misdiagnosed with a hernia. The tumor in her stomach had wrapped around an organ, presenting itself as a hernia when doctors loomed a camera through her stomach.

I was attending school for months whilst being picked up every day by my Auntie and Uncle, sometimes my grandparents, sometimes my dad – to go and visit my mum in Sheffield hospital. I went from living with my mum, to just living with my sister. I still slept in my Mum’s bed, but I slept on my own. I would sometimes weep into the pillows as I looked at the dimple in the bed where she would’ve been.

I will never forget when she had the tumor removed during a nine-hour operation. She was in intensive care whilst she laid in an induced coma afterwards, she didn’t look like mum anymore. There was an immense, red tube which looked like a tube of blood dangling into her mouth, her cheeks were squeezed by everything wrapped around them. Her eyes were open, but she wasn’t there, they were cloudy and glazed over.

Day after day, we would go to see if she had woken up or made any movement. I remember ringing the intensive care unit on my walk from the train station, to school, underneath a bridge. They’d update me with similar things every day; her blood sugar is doing well, her blood pressure is stable today, she’s coming off dialysis today, different things like that. I also remember the saying that our family would commonly echo between themselves: she is doing better, but she’s not quite out of the woods yet.

When my mum had the tumor removed, they removed everything. Her spleen, colon, pancreas, stomach, part of her kidney, part of her bowel. She had bags filled with different liquids surrounding her. I remember when she started to come around, surpassing the coma, she would lift from the bed slowly, and spread her arms out. Me and my sister were trying to fathom what she was signaling to.

Day after day, better news arrived, she was coming around. I remember coming home from school, jumping into my Auntie’s car, and mum being awake when we got there. Her voice was higher pitched and trembled, her precious voice shook as she spoke. We asked her what she was doing with her arms and if she remembers doing that when she was in the coma, and Mum's reply was that she was trying to reach to give us a hug.

This broke our heart. We couldn’t hug her properly; she had lost so much weight and was glued to the hospital bed with machines and cords quilted around her. I missed Mum’s hugs. They were lovely, we used to cling onto each other, swaying left to right, laughing at how silly we looked.

As the days went on, her voice grew stronger, strong enough to talk about our hugs, to talk about how much she missed our dog, asking us to bring her phone so she can scroll through Facebook and message her friends, she was coming back to life. I remember telling her about every day at school, about friendships and what I had learnt and that me and my sister, Holly, were both doing okay. I learnt how to do things around the house more and was promising that everything will be fine, it really did feel like everything was going to be fine.

After months in hospital where she endured unfathomable suffering, she began to attend physiotherapy inside the hospital where she learnt how to walk again after being laid in bed for so long. Of course, she had some days where they would move her to the hospital chair, but her muscle tone had deteriorated with staying in hospital for four months.

Something wasn’t right – in physio she would always throw up. They took her in and out of scans as an attempt to comprehend what was wrong, and then one day we went into hospital to be met with an answer. I remember how normal the day was; we knew mum was getting a scan, but she was looking so much better than what we had seen. We’d been texting and bantering with her about her candy crush addiction just hours before she went in for the scan.

I remember revising English, but I was sat next to my best friend Mollie, who I ended up laughing with whilst I studied. After school, my sister and I sniggered about our days whilst strolling obliviously onto Firth 9, where my mum was laid in the hospital bed. When we entered, my mum had tears enveloped inside of her irises, her mouth was flat.

A nurse came in and I remember exactly what she looked like. She had the lightest azure blue eyes, and bleach blonde hair. She sat us down, telling us; the cancer had come back in several different places, twice as aggressive, and there was nothing they could do. Mum was going to die.

I felt so helpless. I remember clawing at the nurse's arms, she was crying too, I was clawing at my face, begging for this to be untrue. I felt like I wanted to give her my life, my organs, my something. I couldn’t give her anything, there was nothing anyone could do.

They gave her a choice to seek care at home or in a hospice. She chose home. Mum hadn’t seen our westie in forever and wouldn’t stop chewing the nurses’ ears off about her. All she wanted, was to be with her girls, to feel home again, to feel a ration of normality.

Mum was yearning to transcend the hospital walls; we were yearning for our mum back home. We still are. Her return home wasn’t like we imagined – we pictured confetti, Elvis on the highest volume, balloons, and celebratory hugs.

I’ll never forget buying flowers for her return, that’s the first time I had been into a florist without Mum. I couldn’t suppress my tears. The feeling when the hospital bed arrived in our living room was indescribable, a herd of nurses huddled around my once healthy, dancing mum – hoisting her onto the bed as her skinny hands trembled. You could see the cancer had eaten her; her fingers were smaller than mine - I was fifteen.

We took turns spoon feeding her, she could only manage two mouthfuls of baby food before we needed to dart for a sick bowl. I remember Mum’s Earthly green eyes clouding, like fog condensing onto winter windows inside her irises. Much like decaying roses, her colour was fading. Her skeleton was visible through her face. She looked and smelled like she was rotting; it was cruel. I felt helpless.

She dedicated her life to the empathy she felt for others, working for the NSPCC, children in need, helping victims of abuse, being a self-employed and successful counsellor, yet this is how God repaid her. It didn’t make sense, she was lovely. Maybe too lovely and earthly for a money driven world, she was too human for this planet, too aware – maybe that’s why God wanted her back. Now that I have grown up, I realize my mum’s purities, so selfless, shaped for an Earth of integrity, not this one.

My Auntie and Uncle moved in to look after us after the dreadful news whilst we had an arranged timetable for nurses to come in every hour. These nurses visited our house and changed Mum’s stoma and multiple bags, aided her morphine dosages, and helped hoist her into different positions. They also chatted to us; we built a good relationship with them. They told me that one of the last senses you lose is hearing, so when they alarmed me, Mum was dying, I said to my mum I love you and you’re safe to go now.

The week before, my Auntie, Uncle, sister, and I reminisced songs my mum would play and dance joyfully to, one of those songs were Fun: We are young. She struggled on her last breaths whilst the song played: ‘Carry me home tonight. just carry me home tonight.’ I hoped playing one of her favourites would calm her down. I swallowed my tears, wrestling the urge to cry knowing that hearing me weeping would only paralyze her resting peacefully.

I silently cried watching her, concealing all my roars, she did one final exhale that looked like she was still breathing. I couldn’t comprehend it; I told the nurses she was still alive. ‘She’s gone sweetheart.’ They rubbed my back. Everybody left the room, I sat beside her body which had stopped respiring, she was gone. I violently weeped.

I struggle writing about all the details of what happened, but to summarize, me and my sister couldn’t cope in the house alone after my Auntie and Uncle returned to work. We had to move in with my dad who we had little contact with. We had little contact with him because he had an affair with my best friend’s Mum who he met at my ninth birthday party, who was also our neighbor and my Mum’s friend.

We wanted little to do with him – he didn’t live with that homewrecker anymore, but he lived with a new woman who was envious towards my mum. She had made passive aggressive comments about my mum before and after her death. She was extremely bitter, perhaps this stemmed from the insecurities alluded in her mind from my dad cheating, he cheated on everybody he was ever with.

My dad would take me to the train station every morning – but instead of waving me off and singing to me on the way there, we would argue and fight. I lost passion for English again. When my mum died, she left us a lot of money and my dad’s girlfriend wanted some. At fifteen, I gave them £2,500 for my upkeep to live there.

My dad and mum had a huge rivalry when she was alive – there were constant court dates being announced because he refused to pay his child maintenance and my mum was a single mum on a council estate, managing her own business on her own. It was difficult moving in with him.

My dad’s girlfriends demand for money became so irrational that my dad noticed that it wasn’t right what she was doing. She had children of her own in that house – they had better relationships with my dad more than my sister and I did. They had all been away together, and when we moved in – there’s no nice way to put it, they treated us like dirt.

After a day of school and an exhausting bus ride home, at 5:00pmish, I entered the house which was in flames over another argument about money. My sister screamed, ‘You are fat, greedy and all you want is our Mum’s money.’ And then my dad’s girlfriend replied, ‘Your mum was a lot fatter than me love.’ Bearing in mind my mum couldn’t lose weight for so long due to the 19-centimeter tumor emerging inside of her stomach.

My sister imprisoned a large lump of her hair in her fist, dragged it downwards, and punched her face repeatedly. My dad segregated them and then his girlfriend evacuated and cried she was staying at her mum’s. This happened amid the week of my GCSE’s, the day after this I had my Politics exam.

Days rolled on and exams went by, I sweated and clenched whilst I typed and typed away on the keyboards, writing my essays. When I would come home and hear yelling over money which rightfully belonged to us, I closed the bathroom door upstairs and surrounded myself with notes about Macbeth. I would sit and write on the toilet floor for hours, reciting quotes and interpreting different perspectives on Shakespeare, silencing the horror unfolding downstairs. It took me away from it all.

That’s when I realized – I had grown up thinking English and writing is the only thing I was good at as somebody with Dyspraxia. I always thought, at least I can write. But writing and learning about English language and literature was not something I was simply good at. It was something I was enthralled about, something that I adored, that enabled me to transcend my trauma.

I didn’t recognize this, all I felt was the willingness to pass my GCSE’s. I didn’t recognize that the main ingredient fueling me was passion.

On the night of my English language exam, a flock of police crowded my house door. There were two policemen and one policewoman, they had sent a warrant for Holly’s and my dad’s arrest. They said to them that they’d been reported for assault, and so they spent the night in the cells.

The police allowed me to gather up my school bag for the morning and drove me to grandparent’s house who were then forced to wake up early to take me to the train station.

I didn’t sleep much that night – my sister and dad were unable to text and tell me whether they were okay. But instead of panicking, I challenged my anxiety and I picked up my pen. My hand ached and my veins erected from out of my wrist, but I didn’t stop writing. Motivation and ambition possessed me.

I wrote everything I needed to know, I practiced creative writing for the final question, and I watched revision videos whilst rewriting everything that was vocalized onto my sheets of paper.

When I nervously stumbled into the exam, my passion launched itself onto the keyboard; I typed so fast, I could barely get a breath in. The prompt for my creative writing was ‘write about something that happened which was unexpected and shocked you.’ I wrote about my mum’s declining health and her death.

As I clobbered each keyboard letter with my fingers, so fast that I had written a paragraph in under a minute, I ticked off in my head language devices; I made sure I integrated onomatopoeia, trick of three, metaphor, everything that you get graded for. I was passionate to pass; I guess you could say, I was PASSionate.

Despite my precise efforts, I didn’t fully believe in myself. I didn’t feel wholeheartedly assured that I had passed the exams. It’s bonkers really – I managed to achieve two A grades in both English’s and an A* in politics. My ability to write finally paid off.

That same stamina carried me through my A levels where I achieved A*’s in English language and literature, and the same fuelling passion carries me through my degree which I am doing now.

If I told you what happened after my dad’s and sister’s arrest – you wouldn’t believe me. My dad who had never been on his own before, who was accustomed to a woman cooking and cleaning and even sorting out the household finances for them, he decided to re-mortgage independently.

Before he did that, he lived in the house with us on our own and moved in a woman with red hair and wrinkly skin, who looked forty but also looked worn out and rugged like an eighty-year-old. There was something off about her. Me and Holly pondered but couldn’t quite put a finger on it. Not until we found her diary.

The diary read: Liam, likes roleplay, 10am-12:00pm, £120.00. And then on another page it would say something like, Derek, 9:00pm-10:00pm, £40, foot fetish. That’s when we fathomed why my dad’s girlfriend before was so vicious – he had been sleeping with prostitutes, and this woman, Laura, was one of them.

There was too much going on to write it all down, but whilst living with a prostitute during my A levels, I learnt that writing and studying seriously does take me away from my trauma. My sister and I were unbreakable. She helped with things my Dyspraxia makes me struggle with, she fought and argued when I couldn’t.

After everything we had been through with losing our Mum, we just wanted to experience some sort of stability in another home. Why couldn’t our own dad give us that? We went from laughing, and drinking cocoa every night, having our girl talks, to being in a crumbled home. I had to find my new home, which was found within my passion of studying.

One of the political perspectives I was writing from in English literature was feminism. With all the tucked in anger towards my objectifying dad, I managed to channel all my anger, fear, and confusion into my studies. I learnt more about the world and myself. I found passion.

Overall, I learnt that the English language is so powerful – with its dominating punctuation, its ability to describe and create, its writers, their protagonists – but for me, mostly, it is powerful because it is a doorknob. The English language is a doorknob, you can twist it and push it open, then you can transcend into a world which is outside of your own.

All the horrors that plague your mind, can be silenced by annotating a transcript, listing all the different theories you can apply. It can be silenced by reading Shakespeare and plunging into his words.

I am passionate that one day my experiences will carry me into education with empathy, a deepened understanding of life and heightened awareness. Whether I work in a mainstream school or not, whether I have my own tuition business or tutor privately on the side, whichever career path my love for English takes - I am passionate I’ll help people the way my mum did.

I will help students the way my school did, to recognize their potential, the way I recognized mine – no matter what their circumstances are, every student has the capacity to achieve. I’m passionate - I will be that teacher.

teacher

Rachel Brennan

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