"Yes, Mrs Cunningham"

Abid Hussain dreaded the morning register at school. Nowadays it's him who takes it. Hear how he grew in confidence to become a teacher himself.

Alarm set for 5am. Yes, 5 in the morning. Why so early?

It’s 1989 and I’m only 11 years old. 11 and up at such an early hour? Sharing a bedroom with my four brothers, I definitely don’t want to disturb them or else I’m in trouble. I pull the duvet over my head and I practise what I am going to say: “Yes, Mrs Cunningham; yes, Mrs Cunningham; yes, Mrs Cunningham.”

At last! I can say it, no one will laugh. Mrs Cunningham won’t shout, and my eyes won’t well up with tears. I keep on practising, from 5am all the way to school. I’m sat at my desk ready for registration with confidence and a big smile. I sit impatiently, awaiting my name to be called from the register, but my name is in the middle so I have to wait a little longer.

Mrs Cunningham: “Abid?”

Abid: “Yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy………………………………………………………"

Why aren’t the words coming out? I have been practising for hours. Why now? Why me? What have I done to deserve this? Oh gosh, this is so embarrassing, I want the floor to open up and swallow me whole. No!

I can hear giggles and then Mrs Cunningham says gently, “Yes, Mrs Cunningham."

It’s taken over 30 years just to get this on paper.

I loved middle and high school but I dreaded registration periods and presentations. No one understood that I wasn’t pretending. Why would I? I stopped talking in class so that I didn’t get bullied or laughed at. From the age of 11 till 18 I never did any presentations, either individually nor as a group. Why should I? To get laughed at? So silence was my only option.

I can relate scores of scenarios or incidents similar to this. It’s emotionally draining to write this. It’s taken over 30 years just to get this on paper.

University, confidence and teaching

Abid, teaching
Abid teaching basic English and maths as a volunteer at Hebron in the West Bank
Now to the present day. I’m 41, I teach at a college in Bradford and I’m also tutoring. I have also taught at a madrassah in Hebron, in the West Bank. 

The first few minutes and seconds before every lesson is nerve-racking. Will I be able to speak?, I think to myself. Will I stammer? Will my students learn or will they just laugh? These same thoughts and feelings eat me up if I'm teaching a class of 20, or even in one- to-one tuition.

But once I start, my confidence builds and then there is absolutely no one to stop me. I can speak! I can speak clearly, fluently and I'm filled with confidence! 

Inside we have so much to say, it’s just a matter of expressing the words in a slightly different way to others.

What changed?, I hear you ask. Where has this transformation come from? How has this shy little boy blossomed into this confident man? The answer is through my experience at university. In 1997 my life changed for the better and I couldn’t be happier. At university no one laughed when I spoke and no one finished my sentences. The presentations definitely dragged on but I was talking. Words were coming out. I was respected, listened to and not interrupted or bullied.

The confidence I gained there was unbelievable and this changed me as a person for the better. With this, my aspirations and my outlook on life changed.

Stammering is definitely a taboo subject. But why should this be? Inside we have so much to say, it’s just a matter of expressing the words in a slightly different way to others. I do stammer when I teach but the joy of teaching and inspiring young minds motivates me more. Now I cannot stop talking. Why should I stop now? I am finally making up for the time I lost over the years.  

Believe in yourself, build confidence and seek support.

To seek support, as Abid says, call our helpline (0808 802 0002), visit our Therapy & courses section, or join a local group. Also, see our Stammering at work page for help.

Writer? Artist? Photographer? Volunteer? Or looking to connect with others locally or online? Get in touch. Everyone is welcome.