I remember getting my SATs results in Year 6; I wasn’t an especially academic pupil in primary school. I just wanted to learn about music, listen to stories and make things from cardboard boxes. My results, as I remember, were poor; I had tried my best as I always did at school. I was never made to feel rubbish or inadequate and I was never told that I was a lower ability pupil. I ambled along in my own little world – not a bad place to visit as I often do. I moved up to secondary school and carried on, still only interested in Music, fact books and making things. Soon subjects like Drama, Design and Technology, ICT and German would be added to my timetable and my interest in these subjects was growing.
When I was in infant school – a very long time ago now – my headmistress once said to my Mum and Dad “He will always be a little bit behind, he’s small, quiet and much younger than some of the other children. Mark will catch up one day”. It’s common knowledge that a lot of August born children sometimes do fall behind but this doesn’t apply to every child. Research suggests that August babies are just not ready to go to school at the same time as their peers and that they are less confident because others are months ahead of them. My headmistress was right, I was quiet (in school) and perhaps I wasn’t as confident as the other children, from what I remember I wasn’t a particularly good reader, maths wasn’t my thing either and I also had a bit of a lisp because I pronounced s like th – thanks to Mark Wilson for sorting that out!
I’ve just Googled ‘August babies’ and the internet is jam packed with headlines like:
I had always said, even when I was in Year 2, that I wanted to be a teacher. I loved school, I loved my teachers and I just wanted to be like them. I had a chalkboard at home that I used after school and my sister would be my teaching assistant, I’d stand at the front of my bedroom teaching what my teachers taught me only a couple of hours earlier. My sister was less than impressed; it must have done something for her though because she is a teaching assistant now.
At secondary school I just sauntered along, quite happily, again I enjoyed getting to know the teachers – I still keep in touch with a few of them today. I certainly wasn’t getting the results that I would need to go on and be a teacher. I remember the career lessons we had at school, we had to pick something that we wanted to do and a computer would tells us the skills and qualifications we would need. I was quite relaxed about it all though because I was a good few years away from getting any qualifications. This wasn’t the case, my GCSE exams were nearer than I thought.
I was always under the impression that teachers needed to know everything, that they should be a walking, talking, singing, dancing encyclopedia and that they were amazing human beings that never got questions wrong. I thought teachers were the sort of people that would watch the Weakest Link (weekdays after Newsround at 5:30 on BBC 1 – bring back early 2000s TV) and would never fail to answer a question correctly. I sometimes couldn’t get my spellings right and my maths skills were never completely up to scratch. How could I be a teacher?
By the time I got into Year 10 I’d been doing a lot of am-dram productions outside of school and I loved it, I started to think about acting as a career because I had started to loose hope on the teaching front. I had chosen my four GCSE options, Music, Drama, German and ICT. I picked the subjects that I enjoyed, not necessarily the subjects that were going to help me get a job – Mum and Dad agreed that this was the best way to do it. Do what you enjoy!
I focused so much on my Drama work; it was now my favourite and strongest subject. A career in acting. I’d have to move away, I’d need to fight off a lot of competition and I’d always be surrounded by people who were trying to be better than everybody else – could I handle this? Probably not, too wet and not the argumentative sort. At the time, YouTube had more or less just launched. Videos of cats playing pianos and children biting their siblings’ fingers started to appear more and more often. Yes, they were funny but I was more interested in videos of interviews with actors and actresses, old recordings of ‘Parkinson’. Honestly, I must have spent hours watching interviews with David Jason, Rowan Atkinson, Julie Walters, Judi Dench, Michael Cain, etc. They all had similar things to say and they all talked about the struggles of getting into acting. Well, known actors all have something in common, at some point in their lives they have been in the right place at the right time – they were lucky. I didn’t think luck was on my side. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself but I just didn’t think I would make the cut. Besides, I can’t really dance so musicals would be off the cards and I wouldn’t have been popular on Strictly. Stick to am-dram and enjoy it as a hobby. Do it part-time.
So, I’d considered acting and the answer was no. Underneath this idea of becoming a famous actor, there was a little Year 2 inside me that was still saying ‘I want to be a teacher when I grow up’. What did I have to do? Work my ass off!!
I got my first ‘A’ in Drama. Actually, it was the equivalent of an A because we did a B-TEC in Performing Arts alongside our GCSE award. My GCSE results weren’t particularly amazing but at least I didn’t break my own tradition. I still managed to get into 6th form to study the A-levels I had chosen. Now I was seriously close to finishing school and choosing a career. I was still trying to think of alternatives to teaching because I still didn’t believe that I’d be able to do it, I needed something to fall back on.
I should mention that throughout my school days my parents and teachers were all incredibly encouraging and always wanted the best for me but at the end of the day, it wasn’t their name on the exam paper or the coursework that I would be handing in. They all wanted me to get into teaching and they supported me in everyway they could. On A-level results day 7 years ago, it was still touch and go. I’d tried to predict my results but couldn’t, I had no idea what was going to be printed on that slip of paper. A few hours later I received a confirmation of acceptance email from University. I was off to Hogwarts…I can dream can’t I?
Skip to 2016.
What I know now:
- I will never know everything, nobody ever will, thank goodness for Google.
- I got more A and B grades at University than ever before (not bragging here)
- I’m an August baby that caught up.
20th August 2016:
I’m preparing to teach my fifth class. There are two or three children that I’ll teach in September that are August babies, what do I do? I think back to what my parents and teachers did with me – encouraged. I wonder how far through school I’d have got if circumstances were different, if I hadn’t had that encouragement. Teachers do not need to be walking encyclopedias. We don’t need to know everything there is to know and we don’t need degrees coming out of our ears but what we should all have is the ability and the time to encourage others, especially those that perhaps need a little more time to grow and develop.
For the record, August is a great time to have a birthday because I can always guarantee a day off.