School days – then and now

The sun-drenched days of September are here.

The sun-drenched days of September are here.

And in the midst of all this golden glory when everything just seems to be almost achingly beautiful, school‘s back in.

How fair is that?

It’s good to be back! Actually, I have not heard one person say that, but I’m sure some people are glad to be back.

I just haven’t met them.

My daughter, in fact, has bemoaned the fact that summer is over loudly and quite often. I think she thinks I am hard of hearing and don’t hear her well enough the first time.

“I hope the kids aren’t mean and don’t pick on me,” she whined. “I hope we get a little longer for lunch. I hope there are lots of adults on supervision at recess. I hope they like my hair and my new jeans,” she added as an afterthought.

“I’m sure they will, sweetheart,” I say, soothingly. “After all, you are the teacher.”

School days. How they’ve changed.

When I was a very small kid I sat in a desk that was hooked to another desk and had an inkwell in the corner. It was in the right hand corner. I was to learn later this would be my first introduction to a ‘right handed’ world.

“Can you write with your right hand?” the teacher, who was kind and motherly, even to left handers such as myself,” questioned. “No,” I said, immediately assuming a look of innocence and helplessness. Innocence and helplessness may help me get my own way, I reasoned.

It worked. She sighed and moved on.

And I, the six-year-old rebel that I was, printed my name boldly and clearly and proudly, the newly sharpened pencil clutched in my grubby little hand.

My left hand, of course.

It felt good.

Getting away with being left handed was about my only act of non-conformity as a kid.

For the most part, I just listened and learned and swung my feet a lot because being somewhat vertically challenged, I couldn’t quite reach the floor until I was about in Grade 6.

We all knew, the children of the ‘50s and ‘60s, the days before iPhones and iPads and cell phones and laptops and white boards and smart boards, that life was simple and good, as long as you followed the rules.

Rule No. 1. The teacher was boss. Period. No ifs, ands or buts. That is just the way it was.

Rule No. 2. She or he had a strap. And she or he was allowed to use it. I have no idea what ‘the strap’ was even made of, only that it stung and bad kids like my brothers got it lots. And kids who were slightly less bad such as myself, got it slightly less.

Rule No. 3. If you got in trouble at school, chances are you would get in more trouble at home.

In those days, parents had this annoying habit of siding with the teacher if there was some kind of dispute so as a kid you knew there was really no point in whining about very much at all. You would be far better off to go out and do the chores and if you didn’t have any chores, it might be a good idea to invent some.

Despite all those rules that existed in the black and white chalkboard school days that etched out my childhood, it was fun being a kid.

After all, there was always recess!

— On The Other Side