A letter to schools

Dear teachers and students,

Some say that school can be the making and breaking of a person. For me it was about 10% making and 90% breaking. In fact, I just went back to my old school today because my music group has moved there and my mood wasn’t great just because I was in the building. Despite all of this, I love learning. I believe in educating myself and enjoy to improve my skills. The way the lesson is taught in *most* places is what I have a problem with.

So, to the students-

A lot of the reasons for my experiences here were pretty much out of any teachers control. I was very severely bullied and took away a lot of anxiety, along with awful trust issues when it comes to making and keeping friends. Let’s just put it this way, my year was the year that made the headmaster install a more secure door system… No student did anything to help until I made some amazing friends who got me through the later years. To their credit though, this was mostly because I was very quiet and didn’t like to bother anyone with my troubles. So, no one would notice if I was upset.

But if you do ever see anyone sitting on their own at lunch, looking the slightest bit down, or staying out of the way in a corner somewhere; go and sit with them, give them a smile, go talk to them. I know it’s scary, it might seem lame, or they might seem weird but let me tell you three of the most important things you’ll ever learn: 1) Every new experience is scary. 2) If you want to do it, don’t let fear of judgement tie you down. 3) Everyone on this planet is weird.

Be yourself. Don’t let anyone- ANYONE let you think you can’t be different. As soon as I learned that, a lot of the bullying stopped. Embrace your weirdness! Be confident! Don’t be afraid to do what’s right, even if you stand alone. Learn things you can do to help yourself out. I know of an incredible man, to me, he was one of the most amazing men I’d ever heard of apart from my Dad and he once said that to get him through each day, he stood in front of the mirror and said “everything is going to be okay”.

And, if none of this helps, it will all end eventually. School will become nothing but a memory and you’ll never have to go again if you don’t want to.

And to the teachers:

I went into high school as a tiny eleven year old thinking “I’m going to do better than I did at primary, I can get more organised, I’ll come to school on time and remember all my books.” In my first month I got a detention for forgetting my pencil. It probably fell out of my pencil case or someone could’ve taken it. It might seem like a very small thing to an adult and to me now, I can get over it. But to an eleven year old, it felt like my teacher got really close to my face and said “screw you”. In my first month at my new school I felt like I couldn’t accomplish my goal to try and get more organised. In short, they made me feel like a failure.

Although I said in the address to the students that most of my bad experiences were out of the teachers control, there’s still some things that you can do. In the example above, my teacher could have said “that’s okay, these things happen” and let me borrow a pencil. Some of our teachers were marvellous but that was only a select few. I’m very sorry to say that we weren’t treated very well by the majority of our teachers. They would make fun of us in front of fellow students, they would put us on the spot when they knew full well that we didn’t know the answer and they would stamp out any dream we had that was slightly abnormal.

Can I just say, that forcing a career onto someone will not make that career appear any more attractive to them. If someone has an achievable goal that is anything other than “normal” -whatever that is- then help them towards it with polite encouragement. If someone has an unachievable goal, then strive to make it achievable. If they have the passion to put in the work then that’s all that should really matter.

When I said to my teachers that I wanted to be an artist they didn’t support me at all. They said that it wasn’t a good or realistic choice and that it was too tough. Teachers: just because your student’s dream seems daunting to you, doesn’t mean you have to put your worries onto them. I knew of the risks, I knew that I probably wouldn’t make very much money but I didn’t need to hear it again, I needed to know what I could do to make my dream a reality.

I am now directly addressing the art department of any school. Art was, is and always will be my passion. But my school’s art department unknowingly did everything it could to stamp that passion out of me. If I could name the head of the art department at my school and talk freely about him, I’d probably get him fired. He had all the characteristics an art teacher absolutely should not have. He was unimaginative, closed minded, and just down right boring. He was blind to anything that wasn’t traditional art or Picasso. I would show him pieces that I had put great thought and care into, things that I saw as beautiful and he shot them down without even a second glance. It felt like getting a slap in the face each time.

We once did a project that was meant to be centred around yourself and I, once again, did my own thing thinking “Well, this project is meant to be about me, so I’ll make it about me.” apparently, I did it too much about me, he didn’t like it one bit.

What’s worse is that I’m hearing from lot’s of art students that art teachers are prohibiting the use of black paint as they see it as “cheating”. Let me tell you, as an artist, black paint is what I have most of and I guarantee that most other artists will say the same. The same goes for not letting students erase things. It’s silly and needs to be stopped.

To the Maths department: if a student get’s the right answer, you ask why and they say “because I know” please don’t tell them they’re wrong. They got the right answer. Teach them how to explain themselves. You’re a teacher. That’s what you’re there for. To teach.

To the History department: that one time we watched black adder in school taught me more than any other classes I took in history. Probably because we actually enjoyed it.

Teach with fun. Use your time as a teacher to develop the next generation of kids, not to put them into one end of a machine and have them come out as clones of the same person. I’m begging you, put joy back into teaching. Bring life into schools. And most importantly: let those children have an actual childhood.

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