I remember that when my mum dropped me off that morning her hair was long as it seemed to have always been. When she came to collect me, her hair was short, above her shoulders, a little bob. I was balling my eyes out insisting that she was not my mother, that I didn’t know who she was. Poor mum! She must have wondered what to do when I claimed I had never seen her before.
I had difficulties understanding the school thing. Mum clearly needed my help at home with my two younger sisters. I enjoyed our walks to the library to read and go shopping. Everyone seemed to know my mum so we chatted with many town folk. We had a very contented routine. Leaving mum to go off to be with other children was not my idea of a happy state of affairs. Mum and Dad could see how perplexed I was about this arrangement. One of them put the idea into my head that the headmaster had put a special request to have me at the school, so that I could teach the other children how to behave. When I asked questions about this, the reply was that I could teach the other children things like how to use a knife and fork (this had been a major challenge for me up to this point but I had recently conquered it and was very proud indeed).
So at my first lunch-time I sat down and started with my task. I announced “children, listen to me, I am going to teach you about knifes and fooooorkes” (I was terrified of mispronouncing the work “fork” so took pains to make sure I lengthened the vowels)….the other kids were staring at me. The girl opposite me, whose name I remember very well (and years later we played netball together) took the flask cup of orange juice she held and threw it at me. I realized I had my work cut out! I will admit, I never felt on the same level as the other children. Some of them I liked very much, some of them I pitied, and others left me bewildered, baffled. But when I think about it, not much has changed since I left school and have had to move in adult circles.
I didn’t like school at first (I liked it more later). But I was told that if I didn’t go to school my parents would be put into prison. This I found very distressing indeed. I felt as if it was a bit of a nightmare situation. I wanted to be at home helping my mum with my younger siblings and looking after the house. The only way I settled in my mind this separation from home, was feeling I had a role to fill. I was always tidying up after the other children, helping them put their coats on, putting straws in milk cartons at “milk time”.
I also had issues about the uniform – well it was grey…as some school uniforms are. I said to Mrs Richardson “Yes, I know all the other children have to wear a uniform, but what I don’t understand is, why do I have to wear a uniform?” I didn’t see myself as one of them but that I was being forced against my will to be at this school. Well….whatever I said to the teachers it worked! I was allowed to attend school throughout the infants and juniors and wear my choice of clothes rather than the uniform.
What did I wear? I had so many pretty little girl dresses that had been given to my mum by my dad’s customers and friends. Quite an impressive wardrobe. I remember some of them vividly. Although I also loved wearing shorts and T-shirts at home, I was too proud to wear shorts for school, I did want to be smart. It sometimes strikes me as odd that although I was such a tomboy in so many ways – I always loved my dresses.
What would the other kids think of me? Bright blonde hair. Pretty dresses in white, pale pink, peach, lemon, baby blue (I had some that were darker coloured but I preferred to use them as play clothes as when I was climbing trees or playing football I would get quite muddy). I am helping every child I cross paths with, breaking up fights, sharing my crisps with everyone, doing all these jobs to help the teachers and tidying up. I remember sobbing to my parents that the children were bullying me. When my parents looked into it this is what was happening: the children were following me home and asking me if I was an angel. I was very upset by that. You might wonder why?
In our classroom, there was a golden book about the Bible that the teacher used to read stories from each afternoon. The angels in the pictures were all men with beards and big muscles and huge wings. I thought the kids were being unkind calling me an angel. Mum and Dad tried to explain that some of the children were just fascinated by me. They were not trying to be unkind at all. They thought angels were like little fairies. I had been reading books like “The Famous Five”, “The Secret Seven” and “Mallory Towers” – they didn’t have little fairy angels in them….so my understanding of angels was big burly men with bulging muscles – so I found it an insult they were asking me if I was an angel.
Sometimes I felt overwhelmed with challenges. The other children were at times hard to comprehend. But slowly, I became more accustomed to them. I am one of seven – the fifth in order. Number four – my brother is eight years older and number three, one of my sisters is nine years older than I am. So, my Dad had done a lot of playing with us and had treated us a bit like little boys. It was all climbing and sports. But he hadn’t taught us girly games. We went to a lot of parks and went to the beach a lot and to the swimming baths and picnics with other families, most of whom had sons so I remember huge games of hide & seek in the woods and building dens with them. At last I found a reason to be at school. It turned out there were useful things I could learn from the girls in my class.
The girls taught me two things I never had experienced elsewhere. But the other girls at school knew how to do handstands – it took me a long time to master them. They also knew how to make daisy chains. You wouldn’t believe how much patience and effort I put in to trying to make them. While I should have been in the classroom, I went missing several times, and although twice I was found fast asleep in the wendy house underneath the clothes for dressing up, I was more often than not found on the cricket pitch behind the school – which was not allowed. I know why I went there. The grass around the cricket pitch was a little longer than our school field and the daisies had longer stalks. The longer the stalks the more chance I had of being able to make a decent daisy chain. Making daisy chains is one of my favourite memories of school.
I have great sympathy for those who have to go to school (often against their will!). I would like to reassure you that it will end eventually. You may not realize but there are actually some useful things that you unconsciously learn at school. It turns out that learning to sit still is actually important. You learn how to co-exist alongside the nice, the weird, the wonderful and also quite disturbing of fellow humans. I wouldn’t listen to everything they tell you at school. I quickly realized that some of what the teachers were telling me was nonsense. But you have to learn express yourself respectfully. But it would help you pass tests if you remember what they tell you, even if you realize some of it is nonsense.
In fact, in my last two years of school, I made it a point to indicate in my homework, coursework, exam papers what the national curriculum seemed to require my teacher to state in the classroom, and I would then explain why I found some of those statements inaccurate. It won me A* grades. I’m telling you…never lose your ability to reason. Behave yourself at school, be respectful, but never lose control of your own mind. You are not a robot!
A few years after I left high school, my chemistry teacher actually apologised to me for mocking me in front of the class on repeated occasions because I expressed my opinion that there was an intelligent designer behind the periodic table of elements. It turned out I had a talent for maths, I won national competitions for the school. He was a staunch evolutionist. Well, he saw me when he was walking his dog and he called out to me and told me he had changed his view and that he now believed in a Designer, a Creator, he just was not comfortable with the term “God.” I replied that he had never provided a rational explanation of such perfect order without intelligence, so he had not influenced me. But I told him he should go and find all the students he influenced and apologise to them for being so belligerent in the classroom.
One of the biggest tips I would give you is to get into the habit of reading. I don’t really mean comics…or wizard or fairy story books. Read encyclopedias and history books. It will give you an enormous advantage at school.
At the end of the day, you have to get through school, but do not let it break you ok! Don’t let yourself be completely assimilated. Do school your own style. Do your homework, sit still in class and try your best. But preserve your conscience, preserve your thinking and reasoning abilities. The world likes young people, especially if they are clever, enthusiastic, energetic and talented. But the world uses people and often leaves them exhausted and disillusioned. So be above that. Make use of the world. It can be useful. But it is passing away, so do not let the world dictate your dreams. Instead look to creation.
Always remember that in life nobody is really going to care how much you know, they are going to want to know how much you care. School will teach you some fascinating things – the water cycle, the periodic table of elements, the way light refracts, the history of humans aspiring to greatness and then blundering into the same mistakes previous empires blundered into. As for the exams…they are a mix of a memory test and an opportunity for you to show you comprehended and discerned the point and know how to express that point. I left school with top grades, but nobody has been interested in my grades. They are more interested in how I make them feel.
And then when you are free of school…you can go on learning and training for the rest of your life in different ways. In fact we as a human family have the opportunity to go on learning forever. Ahead of us is education on a bigger scale than in all human history. We need to learn how to care for our planet home properly and to all live alongside each other in peace.
You will hear many conflicting ideas that go against what your little heart may tell you, and you may see much appalling behaviour, but at the end of the day, you little children usually do see the truth clearly. Humans should be doing a better job at looking after our home and getting on with each other. Success is not, and never will be, owning a gas guzzling car or a factory that pollutes the atmosphere or travelling in your own private jet. In fact they show that a person has failed to understand and comprehend. They show ignorance and reveal greed and selfishness. Despite years of “education” they have totally missed the point!!!
If you are at school and feel depressed, and apparently there are an alarming number of primary school children suffering from depression, here is something your teachers are unlikely to mention. Your Creator wants you to go on living and learning forever. Very soon this earth will be the delightful home He originally had in mind and you will have the chance to live “the real life”. Soon the current education system will be replaced by one that is far superior! Never allow school to crush your heart. It is the meek, and those who love what is good, who will inherit this earth and live forever.
Learning is good, even if school itself is pretty pants at times! Don’t worry you’ll survive it! I know there is a lot to endure. But learning to deal with challenges is really good for you. And if you are ever struggling, it is ok to shout up…many of us have your back!
Writing Prompt #36