My darling Noah,
For the first time in my life I have decided to keep a journal. I am not sure yet if I will ever let you see it, what form it will take, whether the entries will make much sense or even if there will be more than one of them.
I just want you to know from the start that I am immensely proud of you, everything you do and the young man you have become. I never imagined that you and I would be on our own together though. I had the vision in my mind of being a happily married middle class housewife and stay at home Mum with at least 3 or 4 children and a dog. The thought of being a single parent never even entered my head, and I certainly didn’t plan on you being an only child. But sometimes in life, as you will surely discover yourself in time, even the best plans can change in an instant when you least expect it.
As you know, things between your father and I deteriorated beyond the point of reconciliation when you were just a toddler. When that happened, I promised us both that being in a single parent family, as far as I could ensure, would never be a disadvantage to you. Single parent families have a certain stigma attached to them. People have assumed that the less than flattering stereotype of a dishevelled mother, dragging around a string of dirty, snotty nosed children, swilling beer, smoking and feeding them on chicken nuggets and chips is an accurate one, and even the Centre for Social Justice published a press release in June 2013 that suggested because a father is absent, the child is more likely to end up with little education, abuse alcohol and drugs, be involved in criminal activity and become a teenage parent. I didn’t want you to be burdened with those labels or judged by those standards as I didn’t want you to suffer self-esteem issues either now, or in the future, as a result. I know the devastating effect they can have on a person, both at the time and for many, many years to come.
Although we had moved out of our own home into a rented house and didn’t have the same holidays and luxuries as our friends anymore, I still tried to instil the same values and morals into you, and made sure we didn’t fit the stereotype .I didn’t then, and don’t now, see why politeness, courtesy, kindness and good manners need to be characteristics exclusive to the middle classes. And just because we live in a council house, why we should be grouped with the ‘Chavs’ who condone brash and loutish behaviour and the wearing of designer-style clothes (Bennett, 2012)?
I think one of the most important things a parent can give their child, apart from love, obviously, is access to a good education and support and ‘scaffolding’ (Wood et al., 1976), to achieve their potential at whatever academic level that may be. And this is where I start to feel guilty. If I had persevered with your Dad and decided not to leave him, you wouldn’t be at St Bartholomew’s School now. You were on the waiting list for a wonderful nursery and we lived in the catchment area for one of the best Primary Schools in the county. Your father and I had even briefly discussed sending you to one of the Independent schools in the area, if he got promoted. You would be at an Outstanding school, benefitting from the privileges you so deserve. Instead, you went to the local Primary school and then on to St Bartholomew’s, where the only things outstanding are the boys who have been sent out of the class and are standing in the corridor in disgrace.
Working class single parents are represented as failing to provide adequate support for their children at school (Standing, 1999) and being working class has a negative statistical correlation with educational success (Ingram, 2009). I know the Department for Education (2006) says working class boys are the lowest performing ethnic group, but really, these views are not accurate or to be adhered to. And in fact much of the evidence to suggest working class boys are at a disadvantage can be disputed (Ingram, 2009).
As you move up through Secondary School now and start to make decisions about your future by considering different careers, choosing options for GCSEs and the like, I just want you to know that the only barrier to being held back in life is you allowing yourself to be held back. Albert Einstein once said:
“I am thankful for all of those who said NO to me. It’s because of them I’m doing it myself.”
If society or the media or even people are telling you that something is not possible because of your upbringing, because you are from a working class, single parent background and brought up for most of your life in a Council house, remember Einstein’s words and go out and achieve your goals and dreams and prove those who say ‘NO’ to you wrong.
Follow your dreams sweetheart.
All my love,
I loved this piece of writing when I came to mark it. It is so beautifully written: both clear and accessible, and authoritative and academically rigorous. the student shows a great deal of maturity in writing for Level 4.
The combination of the personal (this is clearly a reflective piece, and may even have felt therapeutic to write) and academic (the debate about class and educational achievement is clearly discussed) is excellent, showing that it is perfectly possible to meet the assessment criteria, evidence wider reading and so on, while also writing very much 'from the heart'.
Note the balance of rather 'descriptive' writing (where the writer addresses her son) and more analytical writing (where she discusses the arguments around her chosen topic). These are joined very cleverly, so that the more and less 'academic' writing does not seem very different.