I returned to my old secondary school and sixth form St Wilfrid’s High School yesterday (22.3.15) to find only empty spaces and R.I.P school ties left behind by ex-pupils.
I couldn’t hang my tie along with the others because they had faded, discoloured and had worn away with the weather, although nevertheless I admired the selflessness and courage to hand them over in memory of the old building. The only symbol left I have now is my tie and I want to keep it. The developers will disregard them anyway at some point I thought. Seeing the ties close up made me feel sad. Standing at the school location again was like being at a funeral, the void of the physical being left an emptiness but the memories remained. That’s the real struggle. My experiences of school and the teachers I met are still alive in my soul however the demolition of the actual building has decreased the potential intensity of those memories…
The fact is that the only evidence of my time there now is carried with me in syntagmatic narrative fragments. Our narratives are important because as you can see in the photographs they are alI have. There is an honesty in the emptiness I witness but I know someday soon there will either be a new housing development or a new Aldi built there and the space will not only carry less meaning but will come to represent a sign of 21st century ideals and education and community will no doubt sink further underneath the symbols of capitalism.
I spent several key years of my life growing up and understanding the value of education in that space and now I am doing a doctorate I can’t even go back to tell anyone.
Note: The consistent use of the term ‘Stings of Memory’ here has been amended from Denzin (2014, p. 32).
This page is specifically to document more personal aspects of who I am, it represents my subjective memories, fragmented narratives and reflections as I progress throughout the research process. I seek to illuminate how my own biographical history and narratives serve to inform, shape and impact on my research project.
My memories or ‘stings’ will neither be dated or nor organised chronologically in sequence but live randomly as they often do.
Denzin, K. Norman. 2014. Interpretative Autoethnography. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
STING: Early Years and Education – 1980’s Liverpool
As a child growing up in mid 80’s Liverpool, I was brought up by my parents to believe that education was essential as a route to social mobility; discipline and hard work provided the gateway to escape social and economic poverty and the repressive, often limited cultural parameters of the estate where we lived. It offered the opportunity to ‘better’ oneself in a way that my mother’s generation could only dream about. Fully conscious from an early age, I had access to a key they were denied and in many ways I wanted (and still want to) succeed for them. At St. Wilfrid’s Catholic Comprehensive, the drive to exceed (for those who desired it) cultural and social expectations provided a tantalizing and very real backdrop of hope; facilitated and supported by passionate, contented, emotive and motivated teachers. It was those same teachers who supported my learning in the final year of my GCSE’s (1990) just after my mum died and continued to do so through my Sixth Form years when my dad was struggling with grief and bringing up four children. At that time, my education and the teaching staff who supported me remained the sole consistent feature in my world. The one guarantee; education represented something very tangible, dependable and concrete. My school signified a constructive and very positive escape. In a sense education was my heroin; it dulled the pain and provided distraction but above all it provided a democratic platform to oscillate, transform, negotiate and reconfigure my sense of self. It provided liberation from the inequalities of the social situation into which I was born. I felt privileged at the time. On reflection, I feel even more privileged now.
STING: Beliefs Versus Reality
On a weekly basis, my spirit is eroding daily and my facade can no longer mask the cracks. My epistemological beliefs grounded in my own memories and experiences of education as a child and youth are distant to my current hopes and desires for what learning should look like as opposed to what I fear it is becoming….
I keep thinking ‘stick with the DocEd’. It has become a sort of mantra as I endure a test of will. I am tired of the conflict.
Me as a 2 year old (…testament to a diet of no additives, preservatives, pop or fruit juice).
When I was little I never used to like this photo, I felt embarrassed because of my dress (well the collar specifically) and hairstyle and yet now I would give anything to talk to her… even though it is me, I can’t do that. All reflexivity is limited. There are some disconnects we simply cannot reconnect to. Her eyes look happy, I take comfort from that.