Monday, 8 September 2008

Do you want to be a schoolgirl again? No! No!

My schooldays were most assuredly not the best days of my life, and I’ve never done that annoying adult thing of telling my kids that they were. In fact, I more often tell them just to grit their teeth and get through their own school careers with as little fuss as possible, because once they leave school they’ll discover a whole new fascinating world out there, mercifully devoid of the pondscum that they were forced to rub shoulders with every day of their lives from age 6 to 18. And that’s just the staff.

This morning at my daughter’s school I was talked down to like a naughty child, kept standing in a draughty corridor, and remonstrated with about various breaches of school protocol. And that’s only the way the haglike secretary treated me. My poor sick daughter, who was a weeping, shivering wreck by the time I fetched her, was ganged up on by a bunch of grownup bullies, ably led by the moronic secretary and backed up by the ugly vice principal, for wearing a ring, carrying a cellphone on her person during school hours (a rule she wasn’t aware of, since it was introduced two weeks ago, while she was away in England), and having some silly badges clipped to her blazer. These appalling people gave her a grilling until they literally reduced her to tears – and only then did they agree to phone me to tell me she was ill and needed collecting.

I recall only two adults who made a real positive difference in my life when I was at school – my high-school Art and English teachers. For the rest, it was a nasty mishmash of being given endless detentions for various ridiculous infractions (eg, wearing non-regulation panties), groundless accusations of cheating (this happened surprisingly often to me and it still burns my arse – I never once cheated on a single test!), unreasonable loads of homework at inappropriate times (most irksomely, projects during the school holidays), inexplicable mark-downs on essays (once, particularly memorably, because I had dotted my i's with open circles), etc.

Then there were the teachers who took a disliking to me (I was a loudmouth) and made my life unpleasant just because they could – the History teacher who frequently made me stand in the dustbin for entire lessons; the vice principal who told me that I’d been voted to be a prefect but that she personally had vetoed it; the Housecraft teacher who knew I couldn’t knit to save my life yet took apparent pleasure in ripping out my efforts at the end of each lesson; the principal who once caught me out in a stupid schoolgirl lie and hounded me literally for days until I broke down in hysterical sobs and admitted it: Yes! I had worn my takkies home after sport rather than changing into my school shoes like I was supposed to!

So little of my school career seemed to be about education, so much about who held the clout and how it was wielded. And it saddens me that so little seems to have changed – that the powers-that-be still think it’s okay to shout at a teenage girl who is clearly not well until they make her cry. Bastards.

Left: Me at the very beginning of a not terribly illustrious and largely unhappy school career.

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Juno said...

Oh, skinny legs and all... how cute were you? And those socks just kill me, Mur.

And as for the teachers who made your daughter cry: what small, sad people they must be. Hope they felt the lash of your tongue across their piteous shoulders.

Audrey said...

This post has given me pause for thought, Muriel. I've been irritable with my 17 year old for kvetching incessantly about the unfairness and stupidity of school in general, because I always suppose that she should just get on with things and that life's a bit unfair anyway, in general. I myself cruised through my schooldays mostly, loving some of my teachers to bits and ignoring the rest - and I'd go back to school if I could. I know I know, I'm sorry.

My daughter is so very bright though, as they are these days hey - far more sussed than I ever was and the thing is, her kvetching is very much along the lines of what you're talking about here. She has so many good points and you have underlined some of them here. She wants to leave "this stupid mindless infantile place" and do something else, but that terrifies me. She only has a year and a bit to go... I can do this, I keep thinking. You WILL do this, I keep saying.

But I'll try to be a bit nicer about it from now on.