A young person’s account of the difference good listening can make

High angle view of two mugs of tea on a lawn.

Authors: Chloe Sutcliffe, Listening, Advocacy and Mentoring Coordinator, Life Chance Trust, and Jessie Ford, an Every Chance Champion and Youth Board member, Life Chance Trust

Chloe: What are the challenges of leaving school?

Jessie: I think for me personally, leaving school was leaving that familiarity and the structure. There’s a lot of fear of the unknown and what you’re going into. I was at such a good, nurturing school where I was so comfortable being myself. Leaving that almost felt like you’re a bit alone and taking a step into the dark and not having those support networks around you. That was the biggest challenge for me.

How does the Life Chance Trust link into your school experience?

I think for me, I was always labelled as naughty. Rather than being understood and teachers actually taking the time to sit down and think: Wait a minute she’s not being naughty, you know, there’s a bit more to this.

When I moved to a non-mainstream school, and they’ve really took the time to understand me, I think that made a huge difference to my confidence and being able to accept me for who I am. Francis Harland the Head of Torlands, looked at me and said: “We believe in you, I believe in you”, and it was the first time someone had ever said that they believed in me. I think it really built my confidence and made me think that I can do this. So, I think that’s how it links in with me, because the Trust is all about building people’s self-esteem, their confidence, listening to them, making sure they feel accepted and heard.

What has been the experience of going to a school where you were listened to?

It makes a huge difference being listened to because I felt really understood and accepted for who I am. I found it really hard to form relationships when I was in my first secondary school – it was a mainstream school, you can’t really form those relationships with adults.

When I moved to Torlands, I was able to build trust and really get to know the people I was talking to and my teachers, and they really took the time to actually listen to me and then I felt like I could really unload my problems and for the first time feel like it wasn’t me just being this naughty student and I actually felt like I was heard. If I was having a bad day, I didn’t need to put on this mask and act like something else. I could just go in and say “Look, guys, I’m having a bad day.” And they’d say, “right, we’re going to go into the kitchen, have a cup of tea and have a chat or have some timeout”. They’d know if I wasn’t ok and then they would put some provisions in place. I really struggled waking up in the morning, so they changed my timetable to afternoons. They really listened to what I said and put things in place for me.

Being listened to can help you form relationships, build trust, and then be able to actually think if I have a problem, then there’s a teacher who really does listen to me and respect me. I can actually go to them with my issues and not carry the weight of it on my own.

How have adults shown that they were listening?

A prime example was Claire, who was one of the support workers at Wave. She took me into the kitchen and said, Look, Jess, I can tell you haven’t really been sleeping and eating very well. You know, I can see you looking a bit rough. We talked about it and she spoke to me she said she understood why you’ve got sleeping issues, eating problems, everything. And she actually went back and spoke to my CAMHs worker and they were in conversation with each other. They really checked in and made sure that things were put into place and they communicated with outside sources to make sure I had that support.

What difference do you think listening has made to you?

It really helped me by giving me the tools and then I was able to put that into place and help myself because a lot of building confidence and building trust within yourself starts inward. You just need that helping hand outside to almost get that block and get: right I can do this. And I think being listened to by my CAMHs workers and by my teachers, I was able to use that advice and really helped myself and build off that baseline that they had given me.

Are there any other ways that you would like to be listened to without or outside of Life Chance Trust?

I think personally for me, I’d like to be able to help other people my age with confidence and feeling like they can be themselves because especially at college now where I am around a lot of people it’s like fitting into a box. Again, it’s almost back to that mainstream. You know, you’ve got to wear this and you’ve got to talk like this and dress this way and be almost the whole popular cliche.

I think if I could reach people and help shift their mindset into thinking: do what makes you happy, you do what feels right for you. That is where the confidence starts and the self-acceptance really starts and I think if I could reach people, especially my age, you know, you go through that transition of secondary school to college, and already finding yourselves. If I could reach a few people and help them believe in themselves and feel confident to be themselves, that would be where I want to be listened to.

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