09 July 2005

I Guess School Was Scary After All.

Doris and Badaunt are making me feel really left out and abnormal today.

This is a really easy thing to do, given the topic.

Both have related funny but scary stories of having to go see the headmaster when they were eight, and it brings back floods of memories of my own infant and junior school experience, because I was teacher's pet. I sailed through, all smiles and fun.

I knew my alphabet and could read and write before I started school at four years old. I could count up to whatever number you wanted and could do maths - not in a way I could explain, the answers just seemed to sort of make sense all by themselves. I had a precocious knowledge of British animals, hedgehogs etc. I remember 'getting into trouble' as a fun thing that only happened in the first year of infants, when I would do all the work in five minutes and then get bored and start hiding the weights in my knickers so others couldnt finish and had to talk to me. Being in trouble meant sitting on the piano. It was nice - a good view and a little attention.

I was supposed to go to gifted school and become even more precocious, but with two younger brothers and a free place but no free transport, my mum just couldn't arrange it.

I never discovered homework until senior school, because I could do a weeks worth of work in half a lesson at juniors and end up perpetually tidying the stock cupboard.

I adored my headmaster, Mr Lewis, and it never crossed my mind that anyone could feel differently. The only time I went to his office and cringed, I was loose in the corridors having done all the work, again, and got sent to take him his cup of tea. I carried this precious bone china cup and saucer up a flight of stairs and round a corner to get to him, then tripped on his rug and spilt it all over his paper-covered desk.

Its funny to realise I still shudder and hunch down very slightly when others, even innocently, make me feel like I must have been a right little odd ball. I guess I was, but now I have to go off and work out whether I consciously set about killing off brain cells and underachieving just to stop feeling the spotlight. Did I actively decide to stop other kids coming up to me and snarling things like 'you think you're it', when I didn't think that, honestly? Did I breathe a sigh of relief when I got kicked out of one A level and got Fs in the other two, when I didn't have to go to university? Given that I never got round to opening a prospectus, let alone applying anywhere, I think that's a distinct possibility.

Bugger. 44 is not the best age to be, to have to sit yourself down and wonder if you have f**ked up big style out of some sort of stubborn desire to be popular instead of geeky. Geeky has its perks.


doris said...

Oh Cheryl you had me laughing, especially "now I have to go off and work out whether I consciously set about killing off brain cells and underachieving just to stop feeling the spotlight" Ha-ha! I'm still chortling.

I can so relate just a little but not all the way. If we were in the same class you'd have been the kid always at #1 and I'd be consistently #2 and never quite going the distance.

And you reminded me about the tea. There used to be a rota to make tea for the teachers - all of them! It was great to be on the rota as you got access to teacher's biscuit tin and they didn't mind.

I think we do a lot as kids to supress our brightness in order to fit in. I got the worse of both worlds 'cos I eventually screwed up big style on my O levels - I never got to A levels - and neither got peer approval! Even though I had learned to stop answering questions in class. LOL

From my perspective I'm glad school and childhood is done.

However, it is wonderful to read good experiences so thanks for sharing. (Jeez, you were such a minx!)

Cheryl said...

Wanna hear a funny story?
Your post was supposed to be funny, right? Mine wasn't!

Seriously, I am feeling decidedly pointless and squandered - not a good place to be in, even if you've now forced me to smile as I say it!

Dawn said...

Hello Michele sent me:)

I am going to take some time and look around your site some more.

Badaunt said...

Hey, that's not fair! I got into trouble with the same headmaster for being too clever. My sister had taught me to read and write and so on starting from when I was three (when my brother started school, making me hideously jealous), and the school didn't know what to do with me. I had a good first year teacher (thank you Miss Cody!), who introduced me to the library when I indignantly wanted to know on my first day at school where the books with stories were - the classroom had picture books only - but after that first year I was doomed. The only learning I enjoyed was my brother's homework. I never bothered with my own. I couldn't see the point.

I got pushed forward a year, and that was my best year - the junior mistress had arranged that, along with 'special reading classes' (which I thought were because I was stupid - can it really be true that nobody ever TOLD me I wasn't?). But then the headmaster found out, and insisted that it was bad for me and not fair to my brother that I had ended up one year behind him instead of two, so made me stay back a year so I'd be with the same age group again. I ended up in the same classroom with the same teacher two years running, doing the same stuff all over again. Naturally, I was bored silly and spent most of that year sitting in disgrace at the back of the class with Eric the Bad Boy, who stabbed me with his pencil one day when we got into a fight. I still have the pencil lead in my knee to prove it. (Actually Eric and I got on well most of the time.)

Sometimes the teacher, in despair, would divide the blackboard in two and write up stuff for me to do on one side and for the rest of the class on the other, but understandably he didn't do that all the time. He got me reading other kids' writing instead, and correcting their spelling and grammar. I was a demon with a red pen, but don't remember the other kids treating me badly because of this, though. I think I was so weird already they just accepted it. (It's hard belonging to a 'weird religion' at school. Everybody knew.)

My parents tried to do something about that skipped and then double year, because I was getting into trouble so much, but the horrible headmaster insisted that it was school policy to keep all children with their own age groups. I don't know why they didn't switch me to a different school, but perhaps they didn't think it was important enough, or maybe they swallowed his arguments. Girls' education wasn't important anyway, in the sect we belonged to. I was always made to feel a bit weird for being 'brainy,' and for years thought it was a code word for something embarrassingly wrong with me that everybody was too tactful to mention.

I left school at 15, and the only reason I ended up at university was that a very outspoken English teacher whom I loved went apeshit at me when I told her I was leaving. She yelled at me about what a waste it was, and told me that someone as bright as me should be going to university. She terrified me into promising to at least go on to university entrance exam level at night school, and I loved her so much for saying such nice things about me (albeit loudly and angrily) that I did it. She was so angry she was in tears! It was shocking. Nobody had ever been so angry on my behalf before. Nobody had ever told me that I was worth anything.

But the thing was, leaving school at 15 was my decision, not my parents'. They went along with it because I'd found a job, because I'd been so miserable at school (at high school it was because of severe bullying from the other kids from the sect, which we'd been kicked out of by then, and not because of the school as such), and because they were suspicious of education anyway.

Gawd. What a long comment. Sorry!

Cheryl said...

Brautiful, B, never say sorry!
I went up a year too, and back down again in the last one because the age rule applied at seniors. I must be where my son got his Aspergers because I never noticed. It was all much of a muchness.

jane said...

That was a hoot! Boy, I'd give anything to go back & re-do so I could be geeky. No doubt, geeky wins! Great post Cheryl.