Friday, 30 November 2007

Schools close with a fizzle, not a bang

Last Friday, as my kids were writing their final exams for the year, I got a phonecall from the school registrar. ‘We probably won’t be running the bus service next week,’ she said, ‘because so few kids will be coming to school. But we’ll keep it on if you want to send your two for the last week…?’

(My kids go to school in the next town, about 25km away; the bus picks them up in the morning and delivers them back in the afternoon.)

‘Um, no, that’s okay,’ I said.

When the kids got back from school that afternoon, I told them the good news – that they’d scored an extra week of holiday. ‘Cool,’ they said, and disappeared into their respective bedrooms to hang up their clothes on the floor and play execrable music at earsplitting volumes.

And that was that. End of school for the year.

I find this a bit of a shame. I was no fan of school but I loved the last day. Pupils (we were called ‘pupils’ then, and our teachers were called ‘teachers’; these days it’s ‘learners’ and ‘educators’) were expected to attend school to the very last minute, practically on pain of death. In fact, often there was an exam to write on the last day – something like vocational guidance or religious studies, which we all knew wouldn’t count towards our reports and probably wouldn’t even be marked. But we had to turn up and write it nonetheless.

Then there was the final assembly. It was always held midmorning and often outside in the amphitheatre (big treat!). The headmistress would ramble on about, oh, whatever headmistresses always rambled on about, a few people would get awards, and some keen bean might treat us to a silly self-written ditty accompanied by some other keen bean on guitar.

Then we’d sing ‘Lord, dismiss us with your blessing’. Where school hymns were usually desultory affairs, sung reluctantly and off-key, this final hymn was belted out with enormous enthusiasm, our voices soaring joyfully into the summer air.

And finally – finally! – those magical words: ‘School dismissed!’

Seven hundred pupils, half-mad with post-exam pent-up holiday spirit, would run shrieking from the amphitheatre, throwing things in the air, kissing and hugging friends (and, for that matter, enemies), making and comparing plans… The end-of-year parties would go on for days, driving parents to distraction as they ferried their kids all over town, or had hordes of freedom-frenzied teenagers invade their homes and swimming pools and drink fruit coolers on the sly until they threw up.

Those were the days.

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2 comments:

angel said...

aah yes, i remember those days... damien wrote his last exam last thursday, left saturday morning to go and stay with a friend and has yet to come home- so he's been on holiday for a week already even though the schools only close today!

meggie said...

You describe my kids end of school year days.
Ours were similar, but we took our parties to school, & sat about eating all sorts of food scrounged off our long suffering parents. And smoked sneaked, horrible cigarettes stolen from who knows where.
Now, in Aussie, it is all holidays on the Gold Coast, with booze drugs & sex.