Join the Q: Back to School
The September 2021 Create Challenge was very thought-provoking. Here are some of my reminiscences.
- What languages did you learn? Did you learn Latin and Greek? French, German or Spanish? Was Russian or English the required subject? (And did you learn it?)
- Did your favourite teacher inspire you with a love of literature or a fascination with geology? Who was your most memorable teacher?
- Did you love school sports or loathe them? Did you have a golf team or a rifle team? Were balls involved?
- What about school dinners/lunches? Were they barely edible or the tastiest meal of the day? Or did you bring packed lunches? What was the most unusual lunch item in your part of the world?
- Did you make friendships which lasted the rest of your life? Or were you eager to forget your fellow students?
- Do movies about schools fill you with nostalgia, or stir feelings of regret? Would you consider returning for a reunion, ever?
- Are there stories about your schooldays which you are prepared to share? Pranks you played? Unforgettable events?
I was fortunate to be able to learn French, German and Russian in addition to English. I didn't study any languages in primary school, but when I was introduced to French in secondary school when I was 11 I found I really enjoyed it (even though my Scouse French accent meant I wasn't able to be understood when I visited France, I could at least understand some of what I heard and read). My dad studied German at school, so I was pleased to be able to take that up when I was 12. I enjoyed visiting Germany several times and being understood as my accent was an advantage in pronouncing 'Ich', etc. I gladly took the opportunity to learn Russian, as one of my cousins had lived in Russia for a while - we wrote each other simple letters to help me practise my vocabulary. I found it easy to learn the Cyrillic alphabet, so much so I remember accidentally transliterating words during the Geography lesson that followed the Russian lesson!
My favourite subject was Mathematics, and that was because I got on well with my maths teachers - they made the subject fascinating, introducing problems like 'How did the chicken cross the road?' and encouraging us to enter the Maths Olympics. I won a silver medal one year and got to attend the prizegiving ceremony at a university, which was an inspiring occasion - I learned even more about maths in the real world through playing with 'toys' such as pendulums, magnets and an air hockey table.
I enjoyed table tennis time, but apart from that I wasn't particularly sporty - I took Russian partly because lessons took place during one of the Physical Education (PE) sessions!
School dinners were generally pretty grim, apart from the rare occasions when we got half a Granny Smith apple with a 'Melting Moment' - a delicious biscuit that melted in the mouth! I switched to packed lunches after a couple of years when the dinnerlady in charge of making the Melting Moments left the school.
My parents both had friends they had known since the age of five. I skipped a couple of years at school when I was five as I had already learned to read, so the other children in the class moved on while I stayed behind until my peers caught up with me. Not really conditions to make lasting friendships out of. Social media is helpful for keeping in contact with some of my classmates from secondary school, but with other people it was either a case of me being eager to forget them, or them being eager to forget me.
I used to devour boarding school stories - eg Jennings and Malory Towers - as they seemed exotic and yet familiar at the same time. I did go to a couple of 'reunions', as there were presentations by alumni on topics I was keen to learn about, but I didn't meet anyone from my year group.
Even though I didn't have particular friends when I was five, I was lucky that my teacher was very keen to ensure I was fully included in activities for the three years I was in her class. Something as simple as travelling on a train through the Mersey Tunnel took some organising, but was a memorable treat for me and my wheelchair. It was surprisingly easy for me to crawl up a spiral staircase in an old bell tower and ring one of the bells, but unfortunately it was only when I was up there that I discovered it was surprisingly difficult to go down the spiral staircase - luckily I was small enough to be lifted down a few steps at a time so I made it back to ground level without needing help from the fire brigade. And I even climbed a small mountain (Moel Famau in Wales) with the help of my teacher and her husband - that was certainly quicker going down than it was going up!