My Experience of Education Part 1 by Kirsten McCrossan, 31

I have been a drama practitioner now for nearly ten years. I think it is incredibly important that we learn from our own experiences in education to help and motivate others. Also now that a lot of my students are now in High School and further education themselves, I feel a responsibility to share these experiences and highlight the fact that although things are not always easy at the time, they can and do work out for the best.

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My Experiences of Education Part One P7-s1

I will start at Heathfield Primary School, Ayr: primary seven. Why? Because I absolutely loved it. Primary seven was such an amazing and fulfilling experience. I was wing attack in the netball team; played recorder every week which I adored to the point that my friend Emma and I would meet up and practice ahead of what we were being taught; I was one of only two people in my class who was given two jobs to do – I looked after a primary one class in the mornings and at wet playtimes and I delivered all the office letters and notes around the school. I loved both of these jobs – I relished the responsibility and the feeling that I was doing something worthwhile.

We also did our cycling proficiency course and were given a ‘personal project’ to do which we could choose any topic that we wanted. I chose to do mine on the Island of Arran which was my favourite place to be because of the countryside, the seaside, the views, the horses and wildlife. I spent weeks on end on that project, even sailing across to Arran by myself to stay with my parents’ friends who were who we stayed with when we went there. I enjoyed every minute of it. I do remember however the teacher having a bit of a laugh – with some of the other pupils – that I had written at the start that ‘Arran is an island – an island is a piece of land surrounded by water’ – apparently it was pretty amusing that I was stating the obvious – but my reply was that I would be pretty stupid if I hadn’t gone over the basics at the start. I got a B+ for that project which really annoyed me as my friend Emma who did hers on cats got an A. Nonetheless I still have that project in my parents’ loft. I loved putting it together and working independently. I felt free when I was working on that – free, excited and motivated. In fact I remember even taking it on holiday with me and working away on it most days.

One day the teacher had an idea to make a video about the school. This was years before mobile phones were common and a video camera was a massive deal! I can’t remember what my initial role was in the making of that video; but the idea was so exciting to me that soon I was presenting, directing, organising and even interviewing the dinner ladies about how they made their fudge tarts. A little team of us just set off and did it. No one was telling us what to do next – it was brilliant fun. I don’t think we ever finished that video but even just being trusted with the camera and allowed to do what we wanted was liberating and exciting.

The best announcement of primary seven was that we were doing the musical ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat’ I loved this musical. My grandparents had been taking me every year to see it at the Gaiety Theatre in Ayr and I knew every word. I had been dancing at my local dance school now for a few years – I did disco, majorettes, tap and modern and so was hoping that I could dance in the show. I had never done any drama or singing before outside of school lessons. At that point, drama in our school was taught by a tape – yes a cassette tape. The teacher would put it on and the class would do what the voices on the tape told you to do. You are in a forest, creep through the trees etc. The idea of that seems ludicrous to me now but that is what we did. Singing was taught much the same way – from a tape and a book that we followed along. So how enthralling that we were going to be doing a real show with real people teaching us!

I used to sing a lot at home. My dad told me I was terrible and was always telling me to be quiet, as he did when I practiced my recorder, practiced my majorettes and dropped my baton on the floor or was “prancing around like a fairy elephant” practicing my dancing. I remember the audition. I can’t remember what we had to sing but it was one of the Joseph songs. I was excited to sing – I thought I was OK at singing despite what my dad said. When I was finished the teacher Mr Vincent (who was a friend of my dad’s) said to me – “well done – tell your dad you’re a good singer” I felt really happy and couldn’t wait to tell my dad what he had said – I will point out at this point that I had of course not told Mr Vincent that my dad thought I was a rubbish singer.

I got home and told my dad what Mr Vincent had said. My dad burst out laughing and told me that Mr Vincent had only said that because he was his friend. My heart sank.

The cast was announced for Joseph. I hadn’t made the list. Mr Vincent then said something which I admire him for. He said: “Is there anyone here who is really annoyed, angry or upset that they haven’t been called out?” I didn’t know if I had the bottle to put my hand up, but someone else did so I raised mine too. He looked at me and said – Kirsten you had put your name down as a dancer – I didn’t realise you wanted a part, great you can be one of the brothers. You can be Levi”. Doing Joseph was a fantastic experience and I loved everything about it: the dancing the singing, the learning of the songs, being on stage and being part of something special.

Primary seven was over. It had been an exciting whirlwind. I had felt important, I had felt valued and I had felt happy.

I arrived at Prestwick Academy feeling hopeful. Prestwick Academy was renowned for its music department. I had watched their jazz band perform before and I was desperate to join it and learn how to play the saxophone. I had heard that if you were good at the recorder – which I was – then you would be good at the saxophone. I went along to a meeting in the music department for new first years who wanted to learn an instrument. The teacher said to me – what do you want to play? I replied, the saxophone. He asked if I played the recorder. I said yes. He asked if I was any good, I confidently said yes with a smile. He said: we’ll see. I just thought yeah you will see because I am good. Then at the end of the meeting he handed us out a telephone number for a music shop where we could buy a saxophone which we would need if we wanted to play it.

I got home and excitedly called up the shop to see how much they were. They were £700. My heart sank. I told my parents and they just laughed and told me there was no way they could afford that. And that was that. No jazz band for me. At one point a saxophone did turn up in the house that my parents had picked up from somewhere – it was second hand and they told me not to touch it; but one day when they were out I took it out the box and picked it up and instantly played a scale no bother. It was the first time I had ever held or played a saxophone. I put it in the box in case they came back and caught me. I don’t know where it went or what happened to it.

I was still really into my dancing so I ended up spending a lot of time in the PE department. I would go to aerobics at lunchtimes and gymnastics too. I was never that good at gymnastics but I liked the trampettes and the teacher seemed to like me and think I was good.

One day all my friends had arranged to go swimming after school. I wondered why they hadn’t invited me. It made me feel a bit sick and left out so I pretended I wasn’t well for the rest of the week and stayed off school. When I returned the next Monday none of them were talking to me. In fact they were shooting me horrible looks and whispering about me. I had done nothing to annoy any of them and couldn’t understand it. Luckily I had lots of other friends at the school – I had my friends from primary seven and my friends from dancing so thankfully I could spend break times with them. My ‘friends’ from my class started to get nastier towards me and they chanted things at me, stuck things on my back and made me feel horrendous. After a few weeks they got bored of that and all of sudden were ‘friends’ with me again; but I didn’t trust any of them by that point. At the same time my parents told me we were moving house – not too far away. I instantly said I was moving school. They said I didn’t have to but I had nothing making me want to stay at that school and so I made the decision to embrace a new start. I was now twelve and moving on.

To be continued…

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