This is a huge post but I needed to write it. Read it if you want.
When I started school I wasn’t ready. I’m a December child and like most December children I was small and immature. I didn’t want to learn anything. I had already decided that I wanted to be an author, but that didn’t mean I wanted to learn to read and write. My name (not my pen name) has nine letters and next to all the Swedish Emmas and Annas and Sandras and Linas my name was so difficult. I remember feeling like a failure in kindergarten for being unable to write my own name. And even when I had it in front of me I struggled with that pesky G in the middle.
In first grade I continued. I just didn’t want to. I wanted to climb trees and play make-believe. I didn’t want to do math or learn cursive writing. I have a distinct memory of my teacher handing me a math paper and as soon as she had her back turned I went to throw it away. I didn’t want to do it. It was too hard. I couldn’t focus and what’s even worse is I didn’t want to.
I only went to that school until fourth grade. After that we moved from Sweden to the United Arab Emirates where I went to two schools. First Al Ain English Speaking School and then International School of Choueifat. This is where I learned to speak proper English, learned a bit of French, not to mention discipline and a bit of a work ethic. I’d always been a dreamer in the classroom but in Choueifat it wasn’t possible. The teacher demanded more of me. I learned to listen. Finally.
We moved back to Sweden after 9/11 and I was thrown back into a different school system again. I got reverse culture shock. In UAE I had been going to school with kids who were two years younger (to match knowledge rather than age) and when I came back everyone was twelve or thirteen and I was used to playing with kids who were nine and ten. All my peers had gone through some kind of societal puberty and I was left behind still playing with dolls and speaking some kind of mix between English and Swedish. I’m not an introvert but the situation forced me to be. I couldn’t relate and I just… retreated into my own head. This is when I properly started writing. I had started when we lived in UAE, but being unable to relate to the young people around me made me retreat. I read so many books. Mainly in English, so that didn’t help my Swedish. (Harry Potter, seriously).
My parents moved me again in seventh grade, from private to public school. This was better. Easier. I made some friends again. And even though I was still stuck inside my own head most of the time it got better. I was behind in most subjects since I hadn’t done much during the first year back in Sweden, but I kind of caught up. I didn’t have good grades but it was okay.
The following years were stormy. In Sweden we change school at the age of 16 to start an upper secondary school called Gymnasium. I started one at 15, disliked it for reasons I’m not going to go into now, and changed to another one. On the first day at my new gymnasium I was handed a leaflet on being an exchange student. Since I had struggled to feel at home in Sweden since coming back in 2001, I took the chance.
In August 2007 I went to Britain to do one year, and I ended up staying for three. Living in Britain was great. And the system was easy. I did my AS-levels, my A-levels and started university, aiming for a bachelors in theology. I was home there. I met my wife during the first year and we’ve been together since then. For reasons I’m not getting into now, we left Britain after just one year of uni and moved to Sweden.
The trouble with my education started when I went back to Sweden. First they said I wasn’t eligible to go to university here since I only had A-levels from Britain but not GCSEs. They said I hadn’t even graduated gymnasium aka ”high school”. They still refuse to acknowledge my British A-levels in psychology, sociology and English literature. In Sweden when we graduate from Gymnasium our grades create a numerical value that we use to apply to university. My number today is still 0. It sucks.
The first six months back were spent in desperation. I worked as a nursing assistant and tried to figure out what I should do with my life without a university degree. Eventually the powers that be agreed that I was eligible for university, but my numerical value still remained as 0.
The wife (then girlfriend) and I moved to Sundsvall in 2011 and I studied biology, physics, chemistry and math, dreaming about somehow getting credentials to become a midwife. But to study midwifery you needed better grades, and I had no grades at all to get into the midwifery or nursery program. Luckily I was able to take the Swedish version of non-obligatory SATs so that I had a numerical value to apply with. But it didn’t open all doors, since most programs are so competitive that they take both grade and test values, or only grade values.
Eventually I took the only thing that was open for me. The only program that was crying so hard for applicants that even I could get in. And that’s how I wound up in teaching school to become a K-3 teacher. It was great. Honestly great. It turns out it was precisely what I was supposed to be doing all along.
Everything probably would have been fine… if it hadn’t been for the fact that we moved south in 2014. And me, the idiot, decided that I wanted to transfer to university. Because people do that all the time right? And it works out?
And it did work out. Almost. Then my final struggle started. And I’m telling you know, boys and girls, I don’t think I’ll ever go back and study again. It isn’t worth it. It doesn’t work for me.
I agreed to start Högskolan Väst with the knowledge that I would have to do two years together with the class who had started in 2012, and then in April 2017 I’d have to do one final class that they had already taken. I agreed. It didn’t feel so bad. I would study with this class for two years, then work for nine months, then take some time off to take the final class.
And that’s sort of what happened. Until the time came for me to write my second thesis, and I was contacted and told that I wasn’t eligible. That I was missing classes. That I had to study A, B or C. After a couple of meetings and some forms sent in, I got the okay. I started writing my second thesis on outdoor mathematics. And this is when hell started.
I’ve never been failed so many times on the same thing. I’m not going to downplay my own part in it, some of the complaints I agree with. What I didn’t deserve was a thesis partner who abandoned me, who I couldn’t count on. What I didn’t deserve was an incapable mentor whose ideas clashed with the examiner. We—or I should say I, since my ‘partner’ only helped with the study itself, while I write and re-wrote every single part of the thesis—failed five times before finally, finally passing it a few months ago.
In the meantime I had started working, even changed jobs and towns. I had completed the class in April 2017 and passed it, I was just waiting for the thesis to be accepted so I could apply officially to graduate and get my degree. This was in October, over a year since the rest of my class had graduated.
I got it. I was so happy, it was a victory.
This was when the university dropped the next bombshell. I applied to graduate and received the reply that I, sadly, didn’t have everything I needed for a teaching degree. In spite of five years at uni and two theses. In spite of working for over a year. I had to wait until January 2018 and take two more classes in general pedagogy.
I lost it. I contacted the teachers’ union. I contacted my boss. I wrote an angry email back saying that I wouldn’t accept it. I had done everything they asked me to do. I cried for a whole weekend.
I got an email back the same night saying that they would fix it. I don’t know if my angry email helped or if they would have fixed it either way. But they reversed their decision completely and agreed that I don’t have to study anything more to graduate.
I haven’t received my degree yet, but it’s getting there. Maybe I’ll have it in my hands in December, hopefully in time for my birthday. Then I’ll receive the first paper proof that I have studied for most of my life since, according to Sweden, my British A-levels didn’t mean anything.
So that’s my story. Before the age of 18 I had changed school 11 times and it took me almost six years to get a degree that should have taken four. Claiming to be an educational disaster is strong, and I apologize for that. It’s just been such a trial for me.
My next fight is to one day be a full-time author because that seems pretty impossible too. Not now, I love my job too much for that and considering how hard I’ve fought for my degree and teaching licence I want to enjoy it for a while. But maybe later. In ten years. In fifteen years. Who knows?
Seven years ago I was still adamant that I would be a midwife and that didn’t happen. Like they say, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.