I had just started uni at 18. What followed was probably the most turbulent period of my life, filled with lows but has ultimately worked out to be the making of me.
I remember going to Wimbledon 2013 before uni in July feeling very apprehensive. That’s normal, I guess. Then the first couple of weeks rolled around, and still something just wasn’t right. Again, totally normal, so I carried on. Then the months and the semesters went by. I hadn’t fitted in, I hadn’t really made friends, I hadn’t progressed in my skill-set and experience, I hadn’t discussed much with my tutors. I was looking forward to going home every day and felt like a right fraud. This was where I should’ve pulled out, and found a job for a year. I just wasn’t ready.
Why I didn’t do this frustrates me looking back. I guess at that age I still had the typical British stiff upper-lip attitude and to be honest, I hadn’t really gone through any real hardship in my life. I have been blessed with an easy and fun childhood, I had always worked hard sure, I was brought up very well, but just breezed through life up to that point. So perhaps another reason why I didn’t talk about anything, was because I just assumed I’d eventually find a way of pulling some magnificent teaching out of my arse.
I didn’t. You simply can’t on your own without any input from anyone. I crashed and burned during the 6 week assessed placement, and had all of a sudden found myself at a crossroads. Again, after having not really been through any setbacks up to that point, I was just stunned.
It reads as a little arrogant doesn’t it, but that’s just how I felt. I had no idea what to do in a situation like that, forced to completely reevaluate everything I was doing, because everything had worked before. I got in a bit of a rut and was just drained of confidence. Because I had been doing well before, I was confident previously of my skill-set and sure of my identity and who Tom was. Then it was all up in smoke, and I had to discover everything about myself again.
During the Christmas holidays of 2015, I reached a point of no return. After a year of deciding not to do things because I thought I’d be a nuisance, I decided to just try anyway because I had nothing to lose at that point. I applied for a bank staff role at a nursery in Angmering, and that’s when everything started looking up again.
Firstly I was stunned that they actually wanted me. Then I was just overjoyed to be back in a classroom again, with a routine, having the opportunity to engage with a new set of children. Everything felt shiny and new, and I had rediscovered exactly how I felt when I was 15 on my first voluntary work experience again.
To use a tennis term, I was swinging freely. I had no pressure. When I made a mistake, one of my extremely talented colleagues would sweep up my mess in 5 seconds flat. So I had the luxury of trying loads of different things, be it with behaviour management, setting out activities, leading small group inputs… Then I was taken aback at just how well things seemed to be going.
Sure, it took me way too long to settle, but that was because I just hadn’t been in the game for so long. Still, the whole team were far more patient with me than they should ever have been, and to top it off, were always supportive as well. I have a lot to be thankful to them for. With everything I do from here on out, one will be able to trace it back to how nurturing the whole team was. I’ll never forget that.
So how did I manage to get all the way here in Accra?