I attended a small country school, and my feelings about my school days are somewhat mixed.
This is because my early memories include:
- Being forced to drink warm milk which had been left in the bottles in the sun since pre-drawn. (This was a misguided attempt by authorities to ensure all children had one serving of milk a day). Sometimes birds had already picked through the metal lids, and the milk had gone rancid, but we were forced by teachers to drink every drop. I still can't drink plain milk, and can only drink skim milk in tea, coffee or chocolate form.
- Our Grade 1 teacher's name was Mrs Bull, which was funny in itself. She was a single divorcee, which was scandalous in a small town back then. She also wore mini-skirts or 'bum-freezer' dresses as my Mum called them, and when she bent over we would see her knickers and laugh. I admire her guts now: Being a single Mum is hard enough without being gossiped about and criticised because you are a. single, and b. working, would have been tough.
- Falling over and cracking my head on the cement, tasting dirt and seeing stars.This happened many times over the years. (Yes, I was graceful, even then.)
- Falling from the monkey bars into mud, crying, and the teacher driving me home to Mum to have a bath. (I don't think Mum could drive then, she was forced to learn soon after, since Dad worked long hours and was rarely home). That would never happen today.
- Burping the ABC with my friends. (Yes, I was all class back then also).
- I remember a poor little boy in grade one or two pooed his pants because the teacher wouldn't let him go to the loo during classtime. He was mortified and was bullied as a result.
- I remember being hit really hard on the back by my Grade 2 teacher after being told to do a 'connect-the-dots' picture. I connected the dots. I did not know you had to do it in order.
- Many teachers were mean back then. In Grade 3 or 4, a child had his arm broken when a male teacher hit him. Kids were regularly sent to the office for the cane or cuts. Another teacher had a 'whacking stick' which was like heaps of newspapers taped together. Kids would be taken into the storeroom with the door closed and belted.
- I had a year three teacher called Miss Schuler who awakened my love of reading. She was a Canadian exchange teacher and I loved her accent. Each day, she'd read us a little of Enid Blyton's books - the Faraway Tree and the Wishing Chair series. I fell in love with those books, and have never really stopped reading and writing. Quite possibly, she was my first ever Girl Crush.
- Speaking of books, I was a library monitor from an early age. I spent countless hours before school and at lunchtimes helping the library teacher and aide fix books, file them away, and stamp the cards when kids borrowed books. Yep, bookish and nerdy even back then. And it was a kind of a haven from the other kids.
- I was a smart kid, but shy, so I was picked on relentlessly. I was way above my class in reading and spelling so had to go up into older grades to do those subjects with them. The older kids resented me and the younger kids were jealous of me.
- One bully forced me to help her do her homework one morning, on pain of being bashed up. But when we were busted we both got into trouble. Of course, I didn't tell Mum, but she still found out, because in a small town, life's like that. And I got another bollocking at home!
- As I reached grade 6 and 7, I was known as one of the more responsible students, and because I was usually right up to date with my school work, I got time off to help in the office or during sweet stalls etc. Most days, myself and a friend or two would be given some money and told to walk down town and get the teachers their milk and biscuits for morning tea. Which we did. Alone. Regularly.
- As I got older, and I had teachers who nurtured my talents, I grew in confidence and began standing up for myself, and using humour to defuse situations. I actually became popular, although there were always a couple of bullies standing by.
- And green ants. Lordy the green ants! The school was full of them. And red back spiders. One girl did actually get her bum bitten by a redback on the toilet seat and rushed to hospital.
- Oh and we always did sports in the hottest part of the day. No one wore sunscreen, and only wimps wore hats. No wonder I've got so much skin damage ...
I can tell you that my high school, a different school to the one described above, was the place where I really found my place and my talents. I'll write about those years another time, but meanwhile, what are your memories of school days, good or bad?