At school the Head teacher told my mother that I might have to see a psychiatrist to help me to deal with my educational ‘problems’. My reading and writing wasn’t very good but I couldn’t explain exactly what I had difficulty with as nobody seemed to understand when I tried.
Throughout my school years I was made to feel ‘thick’. I left school at the age of 15 years old with basic qualifications and started work as a trainee cabinet maker, I stayed in this role for 6 months until I was made redundant, on same day I was able to secure another position in retail. Jobs were readily available back then and I never had to worry about working and having an income.
Between leaving school and securing a long term post at the age of 19rs I had approximately 10 different jobs! At the age of 19 I became a long distance lorry driver, I really enjoyed this job, being on the road, meeting new people and seeing new places.
However at the age of 51 I suffered a terrible headache whilst driving and crashed my car. I was very unwell and was rushed into hospital where they identified that I had a brain tumour.
After the successful removal of the tumour I have suffered multiple issues from mental health through to memory loss. I had limited reading and writing skills before the accident and even less so after.
I spent 6 months slowly recuperating, learning how to do the basic things in life again. My wife and I spoke about how isolated I had become after the accident and together we decided I should take some positive steps to change this. I made a massive decision to go back into education. At first I wasn’t sure whether there would be even a course that I could take or whether any people of my age took courses any more as I was aware of lots of the cuts to adult education that had taken place but I knew that I had to do something!
On the day of enrolment it took all my courage to walk through the doors of Dudley College. It wasn’t just that I thought I might be older than everyone else and I wasn’t sure that there would be a suitable course, it was more so the echo of my old school head teacher who had told my Mother that there was something wrong with me that meant I wasn’t meant to learn!
However my fears were soon appeased when I was greeted by friendly faces and a courteous approach. Nobody spoke to me as if I were stupid and I received a really positive experience. This gave me the continued courage to take some initial assessments and find out the suitable course for me.
I explained to the college staff the difficulties I had at school and how I had been made to feel, they were horrified by my stories and assured me things would be different at Dudley.
One staff member asked me to take a ‘Dyslexia’ assessment. I had never heard of ‘Dyslexia before in my life but the staff explained that it was more common than I may think and identifying it may explain the challenges I had faced with reading and writing in the past.
It was almost a relief when the results came back positive that I did have dyslexia as it was like a weight lifted from my shoulders to know that there was a real reason as to why I had struggled all my life and now I would receive the correct support I needed in order to succeed.
College has been a lifeline to me, not only supported me in gaining new skills and improving on those I had but has also helped to improve my sense of self esteem and self worth and tackle some demons from the past.
I am a really active member of the college community and through becoming an Executive Team member of the Students’ Union I have had opportunities to sit on management committees across the college representing student views and collaborating with the college to ensure a really positive experience for students. I sit on Health and Safety and the Green Team cross college committees and oversee the Students’ Union accounts in my Executive role with the support of the staff there.
I have found my return to education a massively rewarding one. And FE has held the key for me!
Ray Middleton MILT DIP / MIOM