Wednesday, July 22

In Memory of School Days...

I was not sorry to quit school. I was glad I had a reasonable student attainment level, and I could afford to leave, whithout shame or dishonour.

In Primary School I passed all the levels required. Passed early onto some classes. I had begun my schooling late, due to the Polio Scare. Which closed schools in New Zealand for about a year. I had been due to begin school at 5 years of age, but due to closures, did not begin until I was 6 years old.

As did many of my contemporaries. I began with a class of children who were both 5 and 6 years of age. There was a 6 year old sister, who began with her 5 year old brother. I don't know that any of us feel we were cheated by that delay. I suspect we all made up the delay, by being moved rapidly up through our classes.

My memories from that time are sometimes dim, but other moments shine with a startling clarity. The fact that identical twins were put in seperate classes, simply because the teachers could not tell them apart.

The awful, hideous, vomity reality that we were expected to drink disgusting milk every day, which came in bottles, covered by cardboard tops, which sat in crates under a tree for shade, in hot summer weather. It made me sick every day. My mother had to write me a note excusing me from having to be forced to drink this vile substance. I still retch at the memory!

I still remember the wonderful old Oak tree, which seemed so enormous, & ideed, ageless, in our childhood photos. It was often used as a backdrop for school class photos. We loved that tree. It was so nice for the shade, & the little acorns & nut cases we used, to play teaparties. Such dainty little cups. We also played marbles on the barren, smooth, earth, which never grew grass, due to the spread of the Oak branches, & probably the roots too.

Moving on, up through the classes, we progressed, and it became a demarcation. We did not venture into the region of the Oak Tree. It was the domain of the Primers. We were now in the Standards, & were expected to observe boundaries. We could roam the 'Flats' which were flat patches of grass set aside for sport, or exercise.

The fact that the boys used the 'Flats' for smoking, or bullying was not noted or secretly ignoredby staff. There were the 'Bike Sheds' where the boys tried to cajole unwary girls into revealing 'more than they should'. Mostly, a vain exercise. The boys would swagger, & smoke stolen tobacco, or their father's pipes. Supposedly the 'second best pipe'. Which often turned out to be the 'best pipe'. Thereby earning a thrashing which required 3 days off from school, while the thief recovered from the 'hiding' which resulted, upon discovery!!

A teacher, taking a dislike to one particular pupil, who was tall for his age. He was particularly popular with his peers. When this spinster teacher singled him out for classroom riducule, the class, as a whole rebelled. We misbehaved & caused that ghastly spinster to run, crying, from our class.

A boy, of smallish stature, became our 'Class Leader' & he decided to go & calm her down, apologise, & get her back into the classroom. He later became a 'Leader' for a local industry.

Moving on, to High School. Some fun times, but some fraught times. I had a Geography Teacher who was either Irish, or Canadian. He was extremely Ruddy of Complexion. I could not undrestand his accent. I stared in horrified fascination at his glowing RED face, his popping, pale blue eyes, & all normal thought or concentration fled! I swear, I never understood a word of his classes, & he detested me as a student. He failed me. I felt inordinately proud!

Throughout my School Years, I had a Best Friend, for In School time. As it happened she had the same first name as I did. She was not keen on English, so I answered the questions. I was dim at Maths, so she answered the questions.

I had a Best Friend for Out of School, I spent most weekend staying at her place. The two friends knew each other, but did not often cross paths.

The School Time Best Friend, had an unfortunate luchtime habit. She loved Sardine Sandwiches. I hated the smell of them, so needless to say, when she broke out leftover sandwiches for afternoon tea, I tried to sit far from her desk. It was not always successful, as we needed to sit close for certain classes.

To this day, if I have a sardine sandwich, I remember those classroom tortures. I wonder at the patience, & forbearance of our teachers. Did they dislike them, as I did? Did it disrupt their train of thought, as they tried to grapple with the attention of post luncheon students, who were bored, & drowsy, with heat, & fullsome lunches?

I would never wish to relive a day of my school days. I can laugh at various events, but I can never feel totally at ease about any of them. I still feel that horror at the thought of Total Authority. Even though I was never in serious trouble, or had to front the Headmaster, for any misdeeds, I still occasionally have nightmares about such scenarios.

If you are a teacher, never forget the lasting impact you may make upon your student.


Pauline said...

Meggie - your uncomfortableness at school comes through and I agree - I would not repeat my school years for anything. I hated being locked in the classroom, hated the dim, dark basement cafeteria with its wretched smells. Twice in first grade I ran away at recess time, skipping through the woods and swamp toward home.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Like you, I do not miss being in school! Highschool was the worst for me and though I sometimes feel nostalgic when a memory of a schoolmate runs through my head, I wouldn't EVER want to go back!

The Sagittarian said...

Oh yuck, yes I remember that horrid putrid milk!
School was fun for me, I really enjoyed it all. Worst sandwich filling I ever saw/smelled was a sardine and beetroot mix!

Anonymous said...

I don't miss those days at all, either. I am hoping I can help my own wobble through the years with less pain.

Marja said...

I recognise many things some things are universal I didn't like school untill I went to trade school after High School Only 25% were girls so we had a great time and it was fun most of the time. Just did the very minimum of work

persiflage said...

Oh, that milk! It really did make you vomit. How could the authorities have thought it was right to make children drink milk which had gone off?
Like you, I was happy to finish school. It was a stage of life which had finished, and I did not understand those who cried at the very idea.
I wonder did you listen this morning to Margaret Throsby's repeat interview with Frank McCourt, about his teaching days in New York and his book 'Tis?

Henri said...

Hah , Meggie ,
I was a school Milk Monitor and loved the stuff !! As long as it was cool& we drank it early in the morning.
That old Oak tree has gone -- rotted and felled I was told . I remember sitting under it too but mostly reluctantly ,as I also remember very well the incredible amount of bird poop falling from its branches as the birds sat and shat above us as it were !!
Like you many of my school day memories are less than happy ones -- but there were some marvellous times , some marvellous teachers and some great school mates too. : )

Tanya said...

Yes, and that is a scary thought! I hope I can be a good influence but there are times I know I've really failed some student and he or she will hate English for life because of me. Occasionally there will be one who makes it his or her life dream to study in another country and use English. Then I feel like I helped encourage them...