When school isn’t an option: Libby’s story

Hello, my name is Libby. I am a 15-year-old student of iScoil and this is my story.

Instead of a photo of me, this is from my Digital Media course portfolio.

I started secondary school in September 2019 and I loved it. To be able to walk around school, have my own locker, go to buy lunch and eat with everyone. But when Covid hit, I was inside so much more. I remember always laying in bed while my iPad was playing with my teacher talking and teaching us Maths. Half of the class was probably asleep in their bed while it was playing. I was one of them.

Then school opened back up and we all had to wear masks, honestly, at first the masks were annoying. I hated having to always cover my face and not be able to breathe properly under them, but then I grew to like the fact nobody could see my face, and that it was normal. I grew to like the fact that nobody could see my expressions and I didn’t have to care what my face looked like in the mornings. It was all going okay for a while, until one day I asked to stay off school. And then I asked to stay off more. I never realised why but I think I know now. I didn’t like school, I didn’t like seeing all the other girls around me, and all I was doing was comparing myself to them. So the more I didn’t go to school the more hidden I was, the more I didn’t have to care what I looked like because nobody was going to see me. My anxiety got really bad soon after. I was having panic attacks going to school and in school. But I was still in school, barely.

And then the masks were off, I was so scared. I was texting my friends from school, asking if they were gonna wear it or not and it seemed like nobody else cared about the mask restrictions being lifted. I wondered why did I feel sick about it? Why did I not want to take my mask off? The morning of the mask lifting I remember getting up at 6 am in the morning, did my whole face with makeup. I mean everything you could think of. I put of fake eyelashes, foundation, and contour. I even had lipstick on. Walking into school so many people were looking at me. I now realise that coming into school with my face full of makeup drew more attention to me then no makeup would’ve. I went to school for about another week after that. Then I couldn’t anymore. I stayed home, watching all my friends from school do things and have fun and go on trips. But I was at home, in bed. It stayed like that for about a year. I never really went out much. And I never went to school.

I always wanted to do online school but my family didn’t think it was a thing. But the middle of 2022, my Mam found out that it was a thing, and I was over the moon, just hoping I could get a place. I did! Being able to go to iScoil and being able to do online school has helped me in so many ways. I could wake up early, have my breakfast, brush my teeth and go to my room and do school, I could learn in my comfortable space. I could spend time with my family and I could ask them for help if I was ever stuck on anything.

With iScoil, everyone has their own learning plan and their own mentor (mine is Hilary). She puts up work for me every day and keeps me on track. I have tutors for each course I do, and they help me understand what I’m studying. I’m not stressed or worried about anything because you can take your time, do it at your own pace and work on it for as long as you’d like. Whenever I feel stuck or lost on a problem, there is always someone there to help me and guide me through the task or problem.

My tutors make me feel really comfortable with reaching out for help, and if I get stuck on a task again, even if they already explained it to me, they will explain it again and try to help as many times as possible. There are a lot of things to do on iScoil and they are all very enjoyable. The mentors become like friends through their kindness and helping hand.

Since I got accepted into iScoil, I found myself going out a lot more, socialising more and just, in general, feeling a lot better. I don’t feel stressed or worried every morning and I don’t feel anxious. I feel excited to be able to log on and start my work, to talk to my mentor and my tutors if I need help. The teachers and my mentor are a big part of me enjoying it so much, they’re not teachers that just want you to work and work. They let you take your time, they understand if you don’t feel good or if there’s something you’d need to do, and they are always there to help you as many times as you need. iScoil has really helped me get through my fears of school and helped me learn. And I hope a lot of other people could experience iScoil too.

I hope to one day be able to go to college, and have a job I truly enjoy.

Another photo from Libby’s Digital Media course.

Click here for a parent’s perspective on iScoil.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of the Museum of Childhood Ireland.