The Assignment: Write a 500-1000 word essay about memories of your mother or childhood growing up.

My daughter recently started preschool, and this exciting milestone has me thinking about my own experience with school.  I loved school and I learned a lot of academically, but the moments that stick out most in my memory are not necessarily the pleasant, happy experiences: they are the experiences that taught me about life and about myself.

Noddy in his car

courtesy bbc.co.uk

Some of my earliest childhood memories occurred at school.  I went to Noddy Nursery School when I was three or four years old.  I clearly remember lying down on a mat for naptime every afternoon, and painting and colouring.  I remember playing outside with my friends and I’m pretty sure I got at least one skinned knee on the playground.  This early school experience taught me about following directions, getting along with my peers, and the value of a predictable schedule.  I’m still very good at following directions and getting along with people, but I tend to struggle a little with discipline and scheduling.

My first strong memory of Kindergarten was not as positive.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved Kindergarten; but there was one particular incident that haunts me.  One of the other children was being disruptive in class.  Our teacher had asked him several times to be quiet, and he kept acting up.  Finally, she yelled at him and sent him to the principal.  I was a sensitive kid, and was pretty sure that it was not a good idea to get yelled at in school.  I started crying.  I knew the teacher wasn’t angry at me, but I felt the embarrassment and fear of being  “in trouble” as if she had been shouting at me directly.  Memories of that feeling have stayed with me ever since, and I still do my best to avoid being “trouble” for others.

One of the few times I did misbehave in school was in grade 4.  I was outside in the corridor working on a school project with a classmate.  Our teacher had warned us that the privilege of working on our own outside required our solemn promise to stay there and focus on our work.  After working for a while, we heard noises coming from the auditorium.  Despite our promise to our teacher, curiosity won the battle and we went to investigate.  We were caught snooping around and lost our freedom to work outside.  I was mortified.  I wasn’t the type of kid who misbehaved, and I certainly didn’t want my teacher to think any less of me.  Once again, my foray into rebellion was quashed quickly and I returned to being a “good girl”.

world map

Our journey home from Botswana to BC in 1986

Grade 5 was another interesting experience for me; it was the year we moved back to Canada from Botswana.  In Botswana, the school year starts in January; we left Botswana in June, so I had already had 6 months of fifth grade before starting again in September.  The curriculum was quite different in my new school, but even so, I found that first year of school in Canada to be a breeze.  Making friends wasn’t too hard, and I’m pretty sure I was in the “cool kids” group.  The culture shock that so strongly affected my mother didn’t seem to bother me much.  In our move from Africa to North America, a pretty major shift, I learned that I adapt quite easily to change, and that I can adjust my behavior to help others feel comfortable with me.  My mother used to tell me that I would come home from playing at a friend’s house, and I would talk like that friend for a while before slowly reverting back to my own cadence and tone.  I was a social chameleon.

My admittance into the “cool kids” group didn’t last long, however.  In grade 6, a new student joined our class from another school and she was instantly disliked by my group of friends because she was different.  She was a year older than us and had failed a grade in school.  She was overweight, a little strange, and from a poor family; exactly the kind of hard luck case I have trouble resisting.  I was raised to be kind to everyone; Denise was lonely and needed some kindness.  I took her on as my friend, and was immediately dropped by my “best friends” as a social outcast.  Another quiet Indo-Canadian girl joined our crew and we were a threesome; totally inseparable.

I have some wonderful memories of hanging out with my new best friend, Denise.  She introduced me to the Monkees and we made up dance routines to Bangles songs.  When we joined the Jive Club after school, we were the two odd girls out, so we learned to Jive with each other, taking turns with the “boy” steps.  “Rockin’ Robin” will always bring back memories of dancing on the school stage with Denise.  These memories are important to me because they are the result of following my heart instead of what others thought was best.  I was true to my values, and that has been an important theme for my life.

My early memories of school are an integral part of my childhood.  School was important to me: it contributed strongly to my identity and self esteem, it was where I learned much about myself and others, and it was where I started to figure out how to interact with other kids my age.  In fact, I can’t reminisce about my childhood for very long before a school-based memory pops to mind.  Sure, I worked and played at home and out in my community, but a good portion of my childhood was spent at school, and it was a valuable experience.

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