The College Years – Race

Guest blog from @HalilMrT1

I remember that office so vividly that if I were to close my eyes I could tell you almost every detail of the room. I could tell you about the paintings on the walls, the colour of the walls, the paraphernalia on his desk, the books on the shelves and the ridiculous curtains that were still allowing (in my opinion) too much light through – what was the point of them?… I was having to shield my eyes from the sun coming through the thinly veiled window.

What was the point of the meeting? Why had I been summoned to his office? To the heads office! My college headteacher has called ME into his office!

I was outside a few minutes before just chatting with a friend – we were talking about very important issues – “man what are you going to wear to the end of year ball?” – I mean what’s more important!? Then, out of nowhere, my form tutor walks over and tells me that the head would like to see me in his office. Sandeep (the friend I was talking to) put his hand to his mouth and took a sharp intake of breath “ooooyah!” – he didn’t have to say anything else.

The head was looking directly at me, I was looking everywhere else but at him. He proceeded to speak…

“Halil we have noticed your attendance has slipped, this is unacceptable. There are other people who would love a place at this college” I knew what he was implying – my place at the college was under threat.

They knew why my attendance had slipped, but they didn’t understand. They knew my mum was unwell.

What they didn’t know or understand was what it is like to be the older (male) sibling in a Turkish Cypriot family. The expectation on my shoulders to support my father in the kebab shop that we had at the time. My Baba never asked me to help, I made the decision to. I felt I had to. My duty. I suppose it’s all linked to the stories my father used to share with me about how he used to help my Ali Dede – pronounced deh deh (grandfather)-  particularly through the spring and summer months, selling watermelons around the other villages near his own in Kıbrıs. Family first. Son helping father. Family responsibilities.

What they didn't know or understand was what it is like to be the older (male) sibling in a Turkish Cypriot family. The expectation Click To Tweet

I mean how could I watch him struggling to look after my mum who couldn’t work because of her illness (another blog for another time) and running a business that had just been set up?

“You don’t understand what it’s like for me…what family means to me. I’m not you, someone else can have my place I don’t care, you don’t understand!” my response was swift.

What I really meant was –  “you don’t understand my culture/you don’t understand what I ‘have’ to do!”

He looked at me, silent. I am sure he was not expecting the response I gave him…and I was not expecting his.

“Halil, I don’t think I do understand. Come and see me again tomorrow, we’ll work something out. Maybe we can look at adjusting start times for you for a short while – you have a bright future I don’t want it wasted”

Halil, I don't think I do understand. Come and see me again tomorrow, we'll work something out. Maybe we can look at adjusting start times for you for a short while - you have a bright future I don't want it wasted Click To Tweet
That act of understanding, kindness and compassion was so important as I know I would not be where I am now in my career if it had not been for his reaction.

I did see him the following day but I didn’t need a change of timetable as our meeting made me open up to my Baba – he sorted it. My dad had this saying “as long as Baba is here everything will be ok”. He had a way of making everything better no matter how bad things were. He’s not here anymore – and for a short time, after he was “taken” everything was bad – he wasn’t here to make it better. But I’ve come to realise that he is here (I’m holding hand to my chest) and I take great comfort in that.

It is so important to look at each situation on an individual basis. Take time to understand the whole person.

At my school the stories, backgrounds and lives that make up each child is taken into account – our children know they are cared for.

As long as we are all here for each other everything will be ok ☺️.

#belong #care #persevere #succeed

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