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“You’re Not Smart Enough”

Recently, I’ve been reconsidering the direction I want this blog to take, but struggling to really sit down and write. Usually, my best posts come when I have an idea stuck in my head. I’ve really been thinking about leaving the Student side of this blog behind – I’m no longer an undergraduate and although I do like writing about my masters, I wouldn’t say I’ve made an entirely typical choice. So as a kind of goodbye before I archive that piece of my blog, I thought I’d write about something that has been on my mind recently.

I’ve mentioned before I previously dropped out at university – at 18 I thought it was uni or nothing, even though I really wasn’t ready. So the second time around I’ve really had to prove myself. And I like to think I have. I put myself first in every instance of my degree and really pulled it out of the bag. Which is amazing, because recent memories saw me reminded that several people thought I’d never be where I am now, and it’s time to address that. Because young people, especially women, can be often told they don’t know enough. That they aren’t good enough. And that can really dent your confidence.

 

When I was in year 8, my science teacher had a very obvious dislike of me and my friends. We weren’t exactly the loudest or rowdiest group of people, but we were consistently given low grades, put on the spot for behavioural issues, and eventually separated out of the general class seating plan in what I now know was an attempt to embarrass us. Throughout the year, that teacher told me I’d be lucky to pass my end of year tests. That I wasn’t focused or smart enough to make it through. In my end of year report, whilst every other teacher told me I was an example of good behaviour and said the dreaded comment I can still recite to this day – “I just wish you’d speak up a bit more in class” – She marked me incredibly low for behaviour and said I had no focus and was essentially a lost cause. Thankfully, my mum figured out what was going on (my form tutor didn’t notice the inconsistency) and kicked up a huge fuss. I passed my end of year test with flying colours. So much for not being smart enough.

I’m not afraid to say that my GCSE biology teacher was a straight up bitch. Again, I think she took a dislike to me. And I’m not saying this because I can’t admit when I’m wrong or have some sort of complex. One particular incident that stands out is a homework assignment – I’d typed it up, but my printer gave up halfway through printing it. I ended up gluing in the half I’d typed and writing out the rest. As I handed it in, I explained this to her, and showed her the pages. She failed me on that assignment, stating it was “incomplete”. If I knew then what I know now, and had the confidence I have now, I would’ve shown her that she was wrong and demanded she remark it. But I didn’t – I was terrified of her. She told me I would be lucky to pass the GCSE, once again because I wasn’t smart or motivated enough to do it. But I did pass, and passed my A level in biology, which she recommended I didn’t do. So much for not being smart enough.

At A level, I ended up being ill over my AS exams, to the extent I was unable to sit my first psychology exam. This meant that, overall, I failed that AS and didn’t live up to my potential in my other exams. When my mum told my psychology teacher that I needed to get a B to make my university offer, the woman genuinely laughed in her face. She made it clear she didn’t think I was capable. That I wasn’t smart enough to make up my grades. I worked my ass off for the next year, essentially resitting my entire AS levels whilst taking my A2 exams. I got my final grades from D’s and E’s to A’s and B’s. I didn’t just make my university offer – I exceeded it. So much for not being smart enough.

Girl in pink jacket walking away from camera

When I decided to go to university again, I was still working. I was speaking to a regular customer who expressed a happiness at usually seeing me there, because it gave some sense of routine. I told him I was leaving soon, to go to university. When I told him I was moving to Aberdeen, he incorrectly assumed I was attending Robert Gordon’s University. When I told him I was attending the more highly ranked University of Aberdeen, he genuinely grimaced, before warning me the workload would be higher and I should consider my options more carefully. He told me I probably wasn’t smart enough to attend the more renowned and prestigious university in the city. That I should probably rethink my choices in order to avoid disappointment. I still think he basically discriminated against me in that moment, because I worked a low skilled job. Clearly I didn’t have the brains to earn more than minimum wage in his eyes. But not only did I not reconsider, but I now have my degree from the university that this man thought would be too difficult for me. And was I disappointed in my 2:1? Not for a moment. So much for not being smart enough.

I’m now studying for my masters, and remembering that awful GCSE teacher made me smile the other day. She told me I’d never pass that GCSE. But at the end of this academic year, I’ll actually be more qualified in the biological sciences field then she is. And unlike her, I never plan to put a person down or intimidate their intellect just because I can. In fact, everyone that told me I wasn’t smart enough to do this will actually have less qualifications than I will. And this isn’t me tooting my own horn. It’s a lesson.

Girl walkign down city street with jacket slung over her shoulder and a large building in the background

You are more than capable of achieving anything you put your mind to. You are never “not smart enough”. That you can believe in it, means you can do it. And anyone that tells you that you can’t can sit down and shut up. Because no matter your age, earnings, situation or school leaving grades, there is always someone that help you onto the ladder you want to be on. Motivation is more important than IQ. You can do this.

The best revenge is a life well lived. And to all those teachers and people standing by that told me I wasn’t smart enough – I am more than smart enough to be here. I’m smart enough to know that in choosing to get this far, I will always be capable. So will the children you chose to break down in confidence because you were having a bad day or just didn’t like them. It’s better to encourage. And that’s what I plan to do.

No matter where you are, you got this. You are capable. You are smart enough.

Rachel

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2 Comments

  1. October 11, 2018 / 11:28 am

    My constant thought while reading this: “What is wrong with these people?!” These “teachers” should search for another career, because a teacher should not behave like this with their students. I had similar experiences in school, but not on this level that you had. Teachers should support the kids, not telling them that they are not smart enough (aka stupid, but they can’t say it to a student). It just makes me angry that people like them “educate” these young kids and teenagers and probably ruining their self-esteem.

    • October 11, 2018 / 1:24 pm

      I didn’t want to put in the post directly, but I agree. One of them did leave the school fairly quickly after starting but the others were long term teachers there for years. The things I would say to them if I saw them all again now! X

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