Models of Excellence- Creative Writing

I’m sure our students can’t wait for this school year to end, but I’m also sure it’ll feel bittersweet for them — they’ve had to contend with yo-yo schooling and a significant dose of uncertainty thrown into the mix. They’ve had the security of normality stripped from them, reduced contact with their closest friends, they’ve lost loved ones and spent long periods of time in isolation. They’re emotionally and physically drained.

I’m sure I’m not the only teacher who has been staggered by the resilience that young people have shown over the past 18 months- they’ve been patient, understanding, forgiving, and have ploughed on even though it’s not always clear what the end point might look like.

Perhaps what I’m more staggered by is their desire to carry on learning and continue to find ways to get better and stronger. Perhaps they won’t know it just yet, but they’ll have learnt more in the past 18 months about human nature, leadership and how to keep calm and carry on in spite of enormous challenges.

This is a piece written by a Year 10 pupil for her end of year examination. It’s an Edexcel English Language Paper 1. Beyond the fact that it’s beautifully written, I think it proves that our young people have the capacity for sympathy and empathy at the most profound levels.

Four months, two weeks, and six days.Yet it still hadn’t become any easier.

Today was one of the hardest mornings that had ever come by in these past few months, the impending sense of inevitability slowly sinking its venomous teeth into my psyche.

No longer could I be held a slave to nostalgia, no longer could I succumb to the self-destructive tendencies of glamourising my own torment and sorrow. Solemnity had become my safety blanket; it was my last rational anchor of validation when the feelings were too strong. The hardest part was bound to be breaking the solace I found in struggling, but how could I allow myself to smile if he wasn’t there to see it?

My hand tentatively enclosed around the rust encrusted door knob, its cold metallic shine a welcome coolant to the beads of perspiration that had began to form across my plan. This was his room. Left closed and bolted for days at a time, with his secrets bound behind the splintering wood of the door. Part of me still clung  to my old maternal mindset: what if he were in there, getting changed, and I was just about to invade his privacy?

Except he wasn’t in there, and he never would be again. This couldn’t wait any longer. It had been perhaps one year since I had last gone into his room – near to the End he had wallowed in seclusion, trapped willingly in the same four walls, subjecting anyone who dared enter to hollow shouts of protest. It had hurt indescribably to see him feel the way that I had felt all those years prior, so I figured that I owed him the shelter that I never got. Until it was too late. Then every waking moment was spent thinking irrationally of how I didn’t realise sooner. There was so much awaiting him, so much love I never got to give him, and so much warmth that was yet to envelop him. I had to find out why. 

The weathered hinges let out a tortured squeal as the door opened, almost a perfect echo of my internal monologue that blared with the vigour of a hundred sirens, urging me to stop, to let it rest.

Then it all lay before me. Quite literally.

Piles of abandoned school books were sporadically littered across the carpet, brandishing his name in his characteristically spidery handwriting. They were adorned with the odd sock or the occasional hoodie, their soft cotton linings diffusing the scent of poor quality citrus aftershave through the humid air. The walls that had once been bright yellow – mirroring the ecstasy and jubilance that we shared when he was a baby – had now faded to a pathetic pastel saffron. It was so different, so unseen, but it felt like him. My inner mother once again began to flare up, nagging the ghost of my son to tidy his room (this instance!) but she was easy enough to ignore. He wasn’t. No matter how much I could envision him in this room, the answers still remained unknown. Why he did it, why he left me, why he would inflict the same emotions onto everyone around him. I understood, but I needed to hear it from him. Shame pricked my spine, its heat taunting me for ever expecting anything good to come out of this. Turning his struggles into my own. Subconsciously invalidating what drained him. But that was when I saw it. 

His childhood bear sat idly on the bed, arms outstretched, holding a note. With my name on it. A beacon of hope, beckoning me to get to know the son that hid away for so long. 

No doubt would this be hard, no doubt the torment would remain. But perhaps his words would be enough to ease the four months. Two weeks. Six days. 

Year 10 Pupil, July 2021

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