When I was in year 11 I was told to drop out of school. Nine years later I have two university degrees with a full time job.
Part of being disabled at school means an assessor comes to check in on you every year to see that you have the systems in place to be a full participant in the school environment. I sat there with my parents and teachers and listened to them say that people with disabilities usually can’t handle the curriculum and I should drop out as soon as I turn 16.
I have never been a straight A student and I truly believe that school isn’t for everyone. In my own life philosophy, I’m of the ‘C’s get degrees’ school of thought. But I liked school, and I wasn’t sure what to do without my level 3.
Hearing that made me think that maybe I can’t handle the real world. University and the work force won’t be willing to cater to me. I’d struggle. It’s not worth it. That’s my future now. No education, no job.
That’s when my teachers stepped in. ‘Latifa can handle it. She’s just not doing the work’. Yeah, I was lazy. That’s not to do with my disability. From year 7-10 I never did my homework. I think homework is a stupid waste of time. I know that’s not an excuse not to do work. How can we expect kids to sit in classrooms for 6-7 hours a day and then make them sit and do more work when they get home.
Anyway. Moving on.
Had I not had teachers who believed I was capable of making something of my life, I would’ve dropped out at 16. And it makes me sad that not everyone has people who believe in them.
I was lucky to have a support network at school and at home. Not everyone does. When you’re already vulnerable and people who supposedly know more than you tell you not to bother, that’s a powerful thing. And it’s not their fault.
Perhaps she was well-meaning, but sometimes good intentions are dangerous. She was in a position of perceived knowledge – more than what I had. That holds weight – so much weight that I still doubt my abilities sometimes, nine years and two degrees later.
Words stick. They can hurt as powerfully as they can heal. When we make claims about someone’s future with no basis to your claim, you’ll be surprised how quickly that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I wouldn’t have quit because of self-pity. I would’ve quit because she knew more about the world than me, especially for people ‘like me’. Think about what you’re saying before you say them.
Imagine how many people out there could’ve changed the world if their talents were recognised and they had access to the resources they needed to do amazing things. That is literally millions of people in this world right now, and we’re a worse of place because of it.