Earlier this month, Mark had the pleasure of appearing as a guest feature on Darren Clark’s LinkedIn live ‘Neurodiversity Stories’. During the conversation, Mark shared with Darren his life with dyslexia and the impact it has had on him mentally, physically and emotionally.
During Mark’s early school years, he was bullied severely by fellow pupils, teachers and headmasters as they naively thought Mark was incapable of learning and not trying when actually his dyslexia hadn’t yet been diagnosed. This was in fact the root cause of Mark’s struggles with normal day-to-day learning.
After finishing school, Mark knew his passion for creativity would be his career calling and set about designing and sculpting beautiful bronze pieces of art in the form of wildlife using his trips to Africa and India as inspiration. This was the start of Mark’s journey to becoming the world-renowned artist that we know and love today.
After Mark’s extremely thought-provoking discussion with Darren, he reflected further on one particular question Darren had asked during the interview. Below is Mark’s take on that question in more detail – it makes for a fantastic and truly interesting read.
1. Darren: “How did the teachers at Brickwall House/Frewen College in Sussex help you?”
Mark: I think it would be fair to say that at my first two schools, Brooklands and Drumley House, the teachers only ever taught me neglect, abuse, bullying, ignorance and misunderstanding, so as you can see, I’d only ever experienced negative aspects of schooling and that was all I’d ever known until Brickwall House/Frewen College.Drumley House School
However, before I found Brickwall House/Frewen College, I spent 2 years at home with my parents as my father was in and out of the hospital and required looking after. So, whilst my mother visited him every day, I taught myself how to garden, grow a range of vegetables and flowers and even collected stamps as a hobby. These tasks helped me become more self-sufficient at home and I grew content with my own company as well as being with my dog, Kallie.
When it was finally time for me to move from Scotland to Brickwall House/Frewen College in Sussex, I realised it was my only opportunity to turn my life around – from being introverted and stuck in my shell to becoming more confident and assertive.
I had 3 years to re-do my entire schooling, starting from learning the alphabet, times tables, verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives plus sports. However, it wasn’t daunting or difficult because the school understood how my brain worked and what helped me learn – they supported me and gave me guidance to achieve my goals and that’s exactly what I did. My outlook on life completely changed and for the first time, I met other people who were just like me.
With the help from fellow pupils and teachers, I realised I wasn’t thick, stupid or lazy like I had been told by my previous schools, I was dyslexic which was why I had difficulties in learning compared to other children.
My schooling at Brickwall House/Frewen College was more than just academics, it was about life too. There is a story I remember about my Geography teacher – he quite often didn’t turn up to class but when he did, he would mostly teach us about life after school and for a dyslexic person, that life sometimes felt scary and alarming. However, when it came to sitting the Geography O Level exam, I had someone read out the questions and write them down. I quickly realised I hadn’t been taught any of the questions on the paper, so stopped the exam right there. But, that didn’t matter to me, I’d learnt other things in that class that were more valuable and would help me cope in the big world. There are always other little wins in life and this was one of mine.
Funnily enough, a mother and step-father happened to ask said Geography teacher who I was (their daughter was visiting them and I happened to be at the same pub as everyone that day). Kindly, my teacher told them “if I had a daughter, Mark would be the first person I would want her to go out with (or perhaps marry)!” Let’s just say our encounter cost me a few pints that day!
My Biology teacher had a different method of teaching again – he designed his classes, homework and studies so that the whole class would not need to sit an exam. I do wonder if perhaps we should have sat an exam but I appreciate that he was trying to teach us in a different way to how most children were taught. After all, exams are daunting and extremely stressful for even the most intellectual of children.
I experienced another method of learning from my English teacher too – during my O Levels, we used to take trips to Brighton and London to watch concerts, shows and plays – some very modern. This helped me achieve a B in English Literature because the way I understood things differed from how other pupils learned – I was more creative and needed to visualise rather than read from a book. When I found out I had got a B in that class, most people thought I had cheated as it was an incredible achievement but it was 100% down to the method of teaching, and as a dyslexic person, enjoying being taught. This was the first time I really enjoyed reading the Merchant of Venice and Brighton Rock.
Another story I remember is when a few of my teachers taught some of us how to play bridge. On one occasion they arranged for us to play against a school in Bexhill-on-Sea. On the day of the tournament, we turned up at their school in our Sunshine Minibus, dressed differently and the other pupils just took one look at us! We played the tournament and won – we were all so overjoyed! We later found out the other school had not long won the Daily Mail UK School Bridge Tournament and they were not happy to lose to a school that drove about in a Sunshine Minibus… don’t judge a book by its cover… or minibus!Brickwall House School/Frewen College
What I have concluded from Darren’s question is that not everyone understands and learns in the same way – what works for one person might not work for another and it’s finding a method that suits you as an individual. Luckily for me, I found Brickwall House/Frewen College and my time there helped shape who I am as a person and the success I’ve had in my life so far. Some aren’t that lucky and I plan to try and change that outcome by working with organisations and charities such as Dyslexia Scotland to try and ensure every person - child or adult - is supported mentally and physically so they can achieve their goals – just like I did mine.BACK TO NEWS
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