Friday, 13 March 2009

'Catherine does not lack ability, only the will to use it.' Catherine Johnson

World Book Day is over a week ago now, but I am still in a haze of March school visits.
On the whole I do like visiting schools more than I ever enjoyed attending school. I suppose it's knowing you are free to leave and never return. I like young people too, I like their company - at least for some of the time anyway. Many of the students I met were preparing for the summer exam season. I thank my lucky stars I am not in their shoes.

Kath Langrish's memory of school got me thinking too. I find it hard to remember anything good about mine. I remember the lessons lasted forty minutes and dreaming up this game which involved moving stick men (one for each minute) from a bench by the side of a river, over the footbridge and safely onto a bench on the other side. When all forty men had made it, the lesson had finished.

I actually visited my old school last year for World Book Day for the first time since I left in 1980. The cherry blossom blew down in drifts of fat pink petals, just like I remembered. The corridors seemed cleaner and the staff room didn't smell of cigarettes.
The uniform had been made slightly less rigid - trousers or skirts, v- neck jumpers, no ties. But it was still terrifying. The hordes of confident, competitive, articulate, girls. The palpable fizz of hormones and ambition. My alma mater is still a school where anything less than A* is as good as a fail. I took my school reports to read aloud. The quote at the top is one of the nicer comments.
The girls couldn't believe that anyone could possibly be happy without an A at O level.
I felt glad that I could show them that I am.


Jon M said...

I wouldn't be a school kid these days. They work so hard and the pressure (not encouragement) to succeed comes from a great height. The feeling seems to be that if you don't achieve at that stage you're doomed.

Brian Keaney said...

I wouldn't be a school kid at any time.

Nick Green said...

Oddly (it seems, for a writer) I remember quite enjoying school. But my father, who was a teacher (elsewhere), used to delight in dreaming up the most scathing report comments that one could reasonably get away with. The wittier, the better.

'Absent-minded when present; usually has the presence of mind to be absent.'

'A workmanlike performance.' (Think about it...)

(Geography): 'James does well to find his way home.'

I'm sure most of them were apocryphal. I hope they were.