The place that defined me

thank-you-typewriterCallum Parrish, a student who has just left school, writes about what his schooling has meant to him…

I have finally left secondary school after seven years. This is around the same amount of time it would take to get to Uranus; the number a right-winger will traditionally wear in football; or, according to one of my old science teachers, the amount of time in years it takes to digest a piece of chewing gum after swallowing.

In truth, it could not have gone quicker. They say time goes quickly when you are enjoying yourself and in this case, that saying seemed to be more truthful than the chewing gum story.

Many adults have told me throughout my life that the best time of your life is at school. I wouldn’t necessarily call being made to stand facing a wall for ages just for being a bit eager to learn, as happened in my first primary school, a good time. But luckily, people in my family recognised that I wasn’t going to achieve much at this school due to the inadequate teachers. I was therefore moved to another primary school where I spent two years.

I wouldn’t say I always fitted in well due to my opinion of certain teachers’ inabilities to understand the person I was and how I operate. This often meant that I had no confidence to express myself, especially being a massive sports fan and being rated “below the national standard” in physical education, something I will refer to later on.

After finishing at this school, it was time to begin my secondary education. My step-nan Sue along with my parents wanted to move me to a school well out of my catchment area. I was completely confused as to why they kept wanting to move me as all I wanted was constancy. I realised years later that all they wanted was the best for me in education. This is why in September 2009 I began at Madeley Academy.

In some respects I was the same as every other student there, working out how to make my way around this gigantic school. However, coupled with that, I only knew one person at this school, so once again I had to start the process of making friends with people. In the following seven years, I have developed some close friendships which I have no doubt will last for the rest of my life.

Some of you reading this may be thinking that it doesn’t have relevance to the school itself. I will try to persuade you otherwise. The friendly ethos of the school and the “Madeley spirit” as I like to call it creates a healthy and positive working environment which encourages peer work and projects developed by groups of students. Many of these friendships also include teachers.

As in all my previous schools, I was an eager, excitable individual. In the other schools, this had led to trouble for me (and I suppose for the school). But Madeley Academy embraced my particular personality, just as they embraced all others’. I relate this to a quote I believe is so true: “The best teachers teach from the heart, not the book.” Because, at the end of the day, you can’t inspire a student simply by reading from the curriculum.

You could see and hear the passion in the teachers as they delivered their lessons, all planned by themselves. These were the sort of characters who made me excited for the lessons. I was never the best at French or physics, but my teachers would always ensure I got the most amount of help possible. Because of that, I felt obliged to try my absolute hardest to repay the hard work they had put in to help me succeed. In English language I achieved an A* at GCSE, with which I was thoroughly delighted as writing is one of my passions. That will always be a big achievement for me.

You could see and hear the passion in the teachers as they delivered their lessons, all planned by themselves. These were the sort of characters who made me excited for the lessons.

For my A-levels I chose to do psychology, English language and double sport. My results weren’t the best in English language at the end of AS so I decided to drop it and focus on psychology due to my newly developed passion for the subject.

It was during my two years at sixth form where the school’s impact on me really began to show. My teachers helped me to see how much they believed in me.

My intense love for football had been visible since my young years. But as a “below the national standard” sports student, I was never really going to succeed, was I? One teacher, Andy Thompson, identified that I may be suitable to try out as a football referee, so he persuaded me to do a referee course.

Whether he realised it at the time or not, this will potentially be the most important decision of my life. Starting out as a Level 9 trainee referee, I aim to be in two years a Level 4 referee. I have had nothing but support from the PE staff throughout my time at Madeley, with whom I have developed great rapport thanks to our common passion for the sport.

The most important thing that not only Andy but all the teachers did was to help me develop self-confidence and allow me to pursue anything in life. Mind you, I was probably closer to teachers than a lot of students – I like to think it was because I was a little too mature for my age!

The most important thing that not only Andy but all the teachers did was to help me develop self-confidence and allow me to pursue anything in life.

I will forever be indebted to this school for developing and shaping the person I am today, and for the knowledge I gained due to their sharing of wisdom. I will always have great respect for Vic Maher and Lady Maria Satchwell (who I believe are two of the greatest headteachers in the country) for laying down the foundations to allow the flourishing of passionate teaching, which defines everything that is right about education.

I will never forget the teachers who believed in me and helped me realise that I wasn’t a “below standard student” but someone who aims to become one of the best at what I do. The teachers who would shake my hand as I passed them in the corridor. The teachers who taught from the heart, not the book.

I will never forget my friends – fellow students who also embraced the Madeley spirit. This is how I was defined as a person; not because I read from a book, but because these inspirational adults opened up my mind and cared for me and my peers. If I was to list everything this school has done for me, I would be sitting here for the next seven years.

The impact of this school runs through my veins seven days a week. In seven years, Madeley took me in as a nobody and made me a somebody who has a clear direction in life.

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