By Nigel Gordijk.
It only takes one teacher to change a life. A personal story.
When I was at Woodhouse School and Sixth Form College, preparing to take my O-level exams (Ordinary level), I had to choose three subjects I wanted to pursue towards A-level (Advanced). One of my choices was Art (along with Computer Science and English Literature). After submitting my selections, I was told that there was little expectation of me passing O-level Art - an opinion shared by my then-art teacher - so going on to A-level was out of the question. I was sent to see Woodhouse's career advisor in order to determine more realistic ambitions. I left his office with a glazed look on my face, after he concluded I should drop Art and English Lit, replacing them with Pure Maths with Statistics, and Economics.
In the end I did pass my O-level Art, but I'd already committed myself to not taking it at A-level. Instead, I struggled as best I could with my second choices, bored witless. Every Wednesday afternoon, students were allowed to engage in any college activity, such as sport. There was an additional, new (to Woodhouse) Art teacher, who oversaw the bizarrely-named Recreational Art session. Of course, this is what I opted to do, and it soon became a creative oasis in the middle of my academic ineptitude.
After a couple of months, the Recreational Art students started putting together the annual college magazine. I ended up designing most of the advertisements that appeared in the publication, the fees for which paid for the printing. I also drew illustrations for some of the articles submitted by other students (plus a god-awful Gothic comic strip that will never see the light of day). During one Wednesday class while I was preparing one of the ads, I didn't realise the art teacher was watching me work, until I heard a voice behind me ask: "Why the hell aren't you in my Graphics class?" "Because I was told I wouldn't pass", I replied.
Suffice it to say, after less than three months - and with this art teacher's advocacy to the careers advisor - I aborted my banking career for one that fed my creative urges, and it was all down to one educator who saw some potential in my abilities.
Thanks, Mrs B, wherever you are.