Last night we went on a secondary school open evening. The boy is in year 6 now. Somehow he has changed from a small boy looking belligerently at us to an almost secondary school aged boy who still manages to look belligerently at us. Time passes for us all.
The opening even was interesting. It was full of portents and omens for a start. As we sat down for the heads speech, the music department and choir did a rendition of Shine on You Crazy Diamond from Wish You Were Here, my favourite album. They even did a pretty good job of it too. Auspicious indeed.
Going round all the departments, it was clear that while the fabric of the building didn’t seem fundamentally any newer than the school I left in 1993 (that’s 24 years ago now), the overall approach certainly was. My class at Broxbourne School was so ill behaved, we never progressed past the recorder in 3 years of music lessons and the opportunities afforded us in basic education don’t seem as expansive as they do today for our kids, even in a climate of swingeing cuts and austerity.
I was anxious as a school pupil. If you knew me now, you’d find that hard to credit but I needed university and experience to deconstruct and rebuild myself into something I was happy with. As our lad chatted happily with teachers yesterday, I was left thinking that at his age, had I attempted to talk to a teacher I didn’t know my throat would have constricted and my eyes would have started watering too.
I still have this recurring dream, a nightmare really, about being late for 2nd year French. It was the first year that they set up according to ability. I began my slide from the top set to the 4th towards the end of that year (I was bright, exceptional at maths, english, science, history and geography but poor at languages and art, they initially assumed I was good at everything and I got top setted for the lot until they realised their error) but what it meant was I wasn’t walking from one classroom to another with the same group of people. I’d forgotten my homework diary which had a timetable of lessons and classrooms in it, so I had to guess whether I was in room 214 or 216 for French.
In my nightmare (based on reality? I can’t remember it was a long long time ago now), I stand outside the classroom with sweaty palms unable to decide which door to try, terrified that if I open the wrong door, 32 pairs of eyes would all look up to see me make the mistake. I usually wake up at this point, unsettled to the point of wakefulness.
I had echoes of this dream walking round the school last night. Reassuringly, there were some teachers there who looked like they were old enough to have taught me- most I come across now are in their early 20’s as technically young enough to be my kids- and overall I have to say secondary school seems a lot more “professional” than primary school. I guess once you reach a certain capacity, it has to be run more professionally otherwise it just wouldn’t work.