The Worst Year At School

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!

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bitches, embarrassing stories, family, growing up

17 thoughts on “The Worst Year At School

  1. Pretty crummy that so many other kids’ lives had to be altered because one set of twins’ parents were late in registering them for school. Why is it that the innocent always seem to be punished when these things happen? This irritates me to no end.

    LOL – Now that you’ve fueled me to comment I may as well say hello – I’ve been lurking a couple of days here. I found you through Opal’s site! Hello!

  2. That is horrible. What an awful man. What was so special about these twins that THEY got to enroll on the last day but you would be kicked out if you did not change classes?

  3. That’s sad, it’s amazing how something that seems so logical to adults can be so damaging to children. I’m glad your survived to tell the tale.

    Christine

  4. It is so hard as a parent to know what to do … should I send my child to a private or public school … should I keep my child in a school where he is being bullied but is desperate to stay … how much should I intervene if my kid doesn’t get on with her teacher …

    It’s not easy. Your mum probably thought – as I might have – that being in the higher class would extend you…

    In the end, you became Snoskred, and we are grateful you are who you are. :)

  5. And that right there is my ongoing concern about the system always expecting you to accommodate it, even if it means crushing you beneath its wheels.

    I agree that you are you , also because of in addition to in spite of this experience, and I can’t be sorry about that.

    But I can be sorry about you having to go through that.

    Julie
    Ravin’ Picture Maven

  6. That’s so sad how bad decisions of grown-ups, made in the name of doing what’s right for everyone, can do so much harm to a child. It brings to mind why I’m not as musically talented as I am. I showed such promise in 3rd grade with the recorder, but wasn’t allowed to pursue that talent any further.

  7. The first thing that I thought of was how in the world could the school have put all of you into that position – move or get kicked out? It certainly doesn’t sound like you got a fair shake in that deal. The part the really spoils the lot is that they had to move 5 kids to make room for 2 latecomers?

    As it is, I remember when I was moved into the first grade from Kindergarten, it wasn’t a decision based on class size or anything – it was something that the school decided (and my mom agreed with) would help me out as I was so far ahead of the Kindergarteners.

    So, for a few weeks I would go to school a couple of hours early, attend 1st grade classes until they had lunch, and then go down to Kindergarten. After Easter, I went to first grade full-time and stayed with that same class all the way through to Graduation.

    And by the way, no homework until Year (well, in the normal case anyway) 6? Wow, you were lucky! Some kids in my class had to start taking work home during 2nd Grade – I started having homework in the 3rd grade. I’ve heard that there are 5-year-olds going home with work now…

    Sephyroth
    http://www.sephyroth.net

  8. I was very admiring of your clinging on to the fence and landing the headteacher a kick in the face and see that same spiritedness in you now (as in going after the scambaiters etc). Appalling story – mixed grades don’t work for so many kids that they shouldn’t be allowed. It happens in the UK sometimes due to staff shortages caused by lack of funding, but it’s no fun for the kids.

  9. I disliked school in the 60’s and now you reminded me of how unkind, and in sensitive school can be when you have idiots running the place. I’m sorry for your experience. The truth, you never do get over it and it can effect you for a long time. What I’ve noticed about your blog, however, is that you have risen above the bad break you were given and are able to share a genuine gift of teaching and helping others. You can also be a watchdog for others who encounter an unfairness in school. You had that time in your life, to help someone in your future. Good luck and we think your great….

    Dorothy from grammology
    http://grammology.com

  10. That story just put a pit in my stomach. School was so very different then and that’s why I find myself fretting every day about what’s going on at my daughter’s school while I’m not there. It’s that motherly “protective” instinct. We try to do what we think is best while at the same time trusting those who are in charge, in your case, the headmaster.

  11. River – I wish everyone understood it. ;)

    Teeni – Hi! Welcome to my blog. I’ve seen you over at Opal’s, I’ll check your blog out when I find a spare moment. ;) Mrs Sunney was completely uncaring that her mistake caused so much hassle. She was a real Mommy Beyotch. Thanks for de-lurking!

    Christine – Mother was pretty upset and really didn’t know what to do. I think it was a horrible time for the whole family.

    Emily – Exactly what I have thought all these years. They simply should not have been allowed to enrol. They were in Grade 3 – which meant 5 students from every level upwards had to be moved a year higher so the class sizes would be legal. :( It wasn’t just us five who were affected, in total there were 20 students shifted around.

    Christine and Faz – I am glad I survived it too – thanks for commenting! ;) Love your blog.

    Cellobella – having been bullied, I would always opt to move the child. Children rely on adults to do the right thing by them, and allowing them to remain in a situation where they are bullied is not the right thing. :(

    You are right, it made me who I am today and I do still suffer some of the after effects. Including being terrible at maths!

    I could have been so much more than I am, if I’d had that chance when I was a kid. That’s my biggest regret.

    Julie – It’s difficult to think of who I could have been if not for this. I think the worst part was the weight gain. Up till then I had always been a thin child. I have struggled with my weight ever since.

    Maybe I would have become an athlete if I’d kept going with sport. Maybe I would have achieved my dream of being a pilot if I’d done better with maths. Maybe I’d have become a teacher or a nurse, two other dreams I had.

    But coulda woulda shoulda doesn’t help anyone, especially not me. :(

    Kirsten – I was playing the Viola since grade 4, and I had shown a lot of promise. However with the change and me not wanting to do homework, I also didn’t want to practice anymore. ;( I loved the instrument but I gave up.

    Sephy – I don’t believe kids should have homework. I think school hours should be extended to mean they can finish their work at school. I don’t believe the majority of adults take work home with them every day, why should kids be forced to? :(

    Julie – He was a nasty piece of work and he truly deserved that kick. He should have listened to the parents who wanted to give us time to calm down at the very least, before throwing us into the deep end.

    I think this was one thing that made me a more compassionate person. I suffered a lot and I cannot stand to see anyone else suffering. It breaks my heart. I want to fix the world. :)

    Dorothy – Exactly. You never do completely get over it – something like this changes you fundamentally. However you can take the bad experience and turn it into something you learn big lessons from. :)

    Lynne – I think parents should try to be as involved as possible at their kids schools so they can have a good idea of what is going on. Note I say as possible.

    I wanted to be involved with my nephew’s school because I had that protective instinct with him as well, and I lived not far away. I ended up going in one afternoon a week and doing arty, fun and creative things with his class. The teacher loved it – they used the time to get some of their other work done, and the parents loved it because their kids came home with such cool stuff.

    One time we made glitter balls. I did the pre-work, gluing pretty gold and silver ribbons to the balls. The kids then painted their Styrofoam ball in Christmas colors – they could choose from green, red, silver or gold.

    The next week when the balls were dry, the kids got to cover them with clear glue, and then roll them around in glitter. It was a blast! Messy, but loads of fun.

    I got to spend time with the kids, see the dynamics of their relationships in action, and encourage the ones who didn’t get as much encouragement as they deserved for whatever reasons.

    I miss those kids, they were all so much fun. I think maybe when I move to my new place, it’s just a short walk to the school, and maybe I will volunteer to help out there.

    Thanks for the comments all! ;)

    Snoskred
    http://www.snoskred.org/

  12. One thing I HATE being a teacher, is that we still use composite classes. (I teach a 2/3 class, so I’m definitely allowed an opinion on this subject!) I’m always fearful that my Year 3 kids will be alienated from the rest of their friends, but so far they seem to find time to hang out on the playground. Kids become a little less tolerant as they get older though … and being someone who was in four composite classes myself all through primary school, I know how it feels.

    I felt a pang of happiness for the nine year old principal-kicking Snoskred though. You go, girl!

  13. My daughter Kathryn has been in a composite class twice. In a year 2/3 class where she was officially in year 2 but did the year 2 work and also the year 3 work with ease and later in a year 4/5 class where she did both years work also with ease. when we moved from Victoria to South Australia she was allowed to skip year 5 and go to year 6.

  14. Ahhhh Snoskred. Your story saddened, but unfortunately didn’t shock me. Which it should. This should never happen.

    My son got his dream teacher for his year 3 class, and it was to be his first ‘straight’ rather than composite class. It lasted 2 whole days. Then the parents of the child Seb had babysat for 2 years, insisted their child be transferred to Seb’s class as he wasn’t coping with being separated from his friends. In truth he had only 1 friend, my son. The child has Asperger’s Syndrome and Seb had become his obsession. Any child who wanted to play with Seb was aggressively fought off by this child, and Seb was showing signs of serious depression. I got onto the school principal and requested that the other child be moved to a different class, and I was told Seb would have to move not the problem child. It was heartwrenching to make the decision to move him, but move him we did and he sobbed himself to sleep for a week. He went to another composite class, but thankfully it was with a male teacher who was unconventional and FANTASTIC, so thankfully it had a happy ending, though Seb still feels sadness at not having the teacher he was originally allocated.

    Oh, and the parents of the problem child tried to have their son moved to Seb’s class again, but I think I’d let my willingness to go to higher authorities be known clearly enough for the principal to resist.

    Often it is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil, and that is so unfair and wrong.

    Ali

  15. Coming in late on this, but it really brought me back to when I was in year 3 – in a 3/4/5 composite class. The girls used to ask me whether I had my “pyramids” yet (at the age of 8)! All in all though it wasn’t a bad experience. Miss Nash was American, and full of life. Still remember her….

    BTW “dumbing down” is a very common tendency in bright girls. They learn at an early age to compare themselves with their peers, and learn how not to be “different”. Little (and not so little) girls can be so mean :(

    @ Ali – I think you did the best thing, as hard as it was at the time. You’re right about being the squeaky wheel.

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