When I was 9 years old, I was very excited about the next school year. Two weeks before school starts they would put up the lists of which kid was in which class. There was a teacher who I adored and I had been assigned to his class. For the next two weeks, I was floating in a happy daydream of the school year ahead of me.
On the first day of (Grade) Year 5, I was nervous and excited and I had butterflies. These had settled down somewhat by 10:30am, which was recess time. I happily headed out to play, not knowing what unpleasantness was looming like gathering storm clouds.
When I returned to the classroom, the headmaster was in our room and he said “I need these 5 students to follow me to my office”. My name was one of the 5. Not knowing what was going on, I was very surprised to find my Mother waiting in the office, with 4 other parents. We were told as a group that the Sunney Twins had enrolled late – on the first day of school, and this meant they had to do some shuffling of classes.
The five of us were considered the most “brainy” in the class, so they wanted to bump us up to make a Year 5/6 class. The tears began not long after this – for all five of us. None of us wanted to change classes but our parents were then told – in front of us – that if we refused to change classes we would be expelled from the school as they would be unable to fit us in as students.
Even worse, we would be made to do homework – Year 5 was the last year of freedom in this country back then, Year 6 was when they started sending work home after school. This made me fall to a crying lump on the floor and not long after that I was utterly hysterical.
The headmaster was not impressed or sympathetic, and he said we had to go to our new classroom now. The parents told him to wait until the kids had time to get used to the idea, or even let them take us home and start fresh tomorrow but he was stony faced and said no. All five of us were still in tears.
I do not recall anything about leaving the office but I do remember right in front of my new classroom there was a fence. When I got near it, I grabbed on to it for dear life and refused to move any further, crying, screaming. When the headmaster came over to dislodge me from the fence, I kicked him square in the face. Yes, you read it right, ladies and gentlemen. I kicked the headmaster in front of all my new classmates. This I did not live down.
The girls in the new class were pure evil. Beeyotches of the highest order. I hated all of them – and they hated me equally as much. I only had one friend in that class, my Chinese best friend Ellen. We tolerated the other three only because we were forced to stick together – they were boys and therefore not the kind of people we hung around with. Everyone else was an enemy.
Even the kids I used to be friends with became distant – we tried to play with them at recess and lunchtime but they were talking about things that happened in their class and we were not included in that – we had not been there. The frames of reference were completely different.
Homework was an enemy too. I refused to do it at all. When the teacher gave me homework assignments, I would scribble all over the page as soon as she gave it to me, grade it myself with a fail mark and hand it back to her with a smirk.
Mother was called in many times to discuss this, and she was enlisted in the war to make me do homework – so she soon became an enemy as well. I felt she should have told them I wasn’t going to do it and they should not expect any of us year 5’s to do it when nobody else in the other Year 5 class had to do it.
I remember many nights where she made me sit in my room until I finished my homework. I never did any of it. Not once. I would just sit there and scribble holes into the page. I was so angry. With her, with the school, with the beeyotches, with the inferior teacher I hated, with everything. I believe now this is the point at which I just gave up on caring about success or good grades – I hated everything about school. The only thing I liked was reading and the minute my Mother would leave the room, I would open a book and escape.
Mother said to me years later that she felt she should have taken me out of that school that day – I wish she had – but she didn’t know what was the right thing to do. The results caused long lasting effects in my school life, my relationship with her as a parent and my personal life. My grades went downhill and never recovered. I became angry with being smart, and decided I would simply refuse to be smart. I ignored maths completely because that was supposed to be a smart subject – and four years later in Year 9 I failed maths because I never had that solid grounding in the subject.
I was one of the brightest kids in that school but I decided to become unbright. You know what they say about use it or lose it? I lost a lot of my skills in various areas. Art was another one. Sport was when the year 6 kids got to push us around and beat us up without getting into trouble and they took great delight in it so I found excuses not to play. I began to put on weight as a result of this – and the long nights spent refusing to do homework when I should have been out playing with all the other kids my age.
The next year, I thought we would be placed back in our normal years – but no. They put us in a split 7/6 class – the five of us who clung together like rats on a sinking ship, and the same people I’d hated for the last year. This caused already shaky friendships to become non-existant with the students of our year level – so the following year when we were all in the same class, the five of us were outcasts, ignored, and teased.
This post has been a Hump Day Hmmm post. Feel free to join in the Hump Day Hmmm anytime!