Television Interview on Western Gazette Pride Awards 2015
Radio Interview between Denise Hodgson and BBC Somerset
My name is Denise. I achieved Adult Senior Learner of the South West in the Adult Learners Week Awards 2010 (now Festival of Learning). I am now sixty-two years of age and still working full time at present as a lecturer at Yeovil College in Somerset.
When I was at school I was branded thick and often made to sit in the corner. At senior school the teachers treated me differently. They made me the class clown: making me read aloud, and allowing everyone to laugh when I got things wrong. One time the history teacher asked me to read aloud; we were learning about the Turks. I just wanted to melt into the ground and become invisible but even if I refused, it was made worse; I would be classified as a trouble maker. So I read starting out well. Then I read “the turkeys moved forward up the hill”: the whole class burst into laughter but I was unsure why. I would leave crying and would cry every day before history and at home into my pillow. Every time I went into history class, the teacher would put up a picture of a turkey for the whole class to laugh at. This had huge implications for my self-esteem. I think I must have had depression as I look back now. I was at secondary school and took CSEs (Certificate of Secondary Education, as they were then) and went on to college to do catering. This was successful. Well, in the practical I got a distinction but the theory held me back. Still, no-one noticed my struggles. I worked in schools and hospitals in the kitchens for a good number of years. I had my babies and returned to catering. The shifts were helpful. Then the worst thing happened: my husband left after fifteen years of marriage. I was broken hearted, and used a lot of health and social care services. I survived a really dark time in my life. I had a fourteen year old and a two year old to bring up.
I wanted to provide for them so I got a job in care working with older people. This was good. I liked it and soon got promoted. Things were starting to improve. I then went to work with homeless people as a resettlement officer. I learnt a lot and started my Open University (OU) journey. Just after my first assignment my tutor contacted me and said my work was really good. I clearly understood the requirement but it was extremely fragmented. She said she thought I was dyslexic and wanted to send me for an educational assessment.
Well, this took place when I was approximately thirty-nine to forty-two. I can no longer remember, but the assessment came back and stated that I had a severe learning disability. I had no phonics. I cried a lot and was so emotional reading this account of me and then I realised why school was so hard and why I need to help others. Once I had the label it gave me support to help others to understand my learning needs. It is different for everyone. I had fifteen minute breaks in exams. With the OU I had an invigilator come to my house so I could sit the exam where I felt comfortable. I have a peach film and glasses to support my reading off white paper. In all exams I have a reader if I choose and fifteen minute breaks where I do stand up and walk around but like to do everything else myself. Since the Equality Act 2010 I have had another assessment as an employee. This was to support my need for the Dragon speech-to-text system and a laptop of my own. I have been asked to speak at local dyslexic clubs, which I have been delighted to attend. With my second course at the OU I had talking books which help my comprehension.
I never stop studying. I changed jobs a few times and then I was a manager in supported housing, working alongside people with mental health issues. From the Open University to counselling and group work, my educational pathway grew. I also trained to be a trainer and an assessor and verifier for the old NVQs. I was head hunted and became a training officer in a mental health trust. It felt strange as I still had a hard job to realise my knowledge and skills. This is still the case today.
I started work at Yeovil college approximately ten years ago after leaving the NHS with stress. I graduated as a teacher: cap and gown affair. This is how I won the Adult Learners Award (now Festival of Learning). Since then I have continued to study and grow. In my local community I have just become a finalist for a Pride Award in Somerset and Dorset’s unsung hero. I am so very excited. The final date is this 4th December. The local housing group nominated me as an enthusiastic and inspirational teacher, for teaching older people and young people in an intergenerational project for the past five years. It is such an honour.
I am a Lecturer in Health and Social Care at college and also hold a post of teaching and learning coach. This is about supporting other lecturers to develop creative teaching and positive risk taking. I only have two years left to work. My sons are both grown: one with a family of his own; the other son, the youngest, has his own business and works extremely hard. My mum used to help so much with child care, both when I was working and studying, while the boys were dependant.
I was a chair of a local organisation for seven years: interesting when my history teacher said I would never succeed or come to anything. I just wish I could see his face now!