Monday, 8 September 2008


I went round to my mum’s place today and picked up a bag full of school work and reports. I’ve read it through and deposited most in the recycling. TBH, most of it was exercise books of neat writing covered in ticks and reports that said I was clever and good. All a bit sick making! I kept three things.

The first is a report from what is now called year three, but which was my last year in something called first school. I went through the system during a brief period when they chopped the years about a bit round here. I kept this because it is dated July 1979 and, though it is very brief, it contains this:
Language – Good at all aspects of this subject, but writes particularly interesting stories.
It pleases me that twenty nine years ago, at the age of eight, I was doing something that I still love to do today. I guess it’s in deep.

The second is my English book from what is now called year seven, but which was my last year in middle school. That year I had a teacher who clashed with my emerging political awareness. He had a large union flag on the classroom wall and a poster of Churchill. History with him involved copying down accounts of battles and weaponry and so on! In English, I wrote a lot of opinionated pieces and he hated them! In the back of the book is an essay called “To make a change in the country”. I can remember taking a deep breath and writing a piece that advocated unilateral nuclear disarmament. It was 1983 and my family were very involved in local CND activities. I didn’t do a bad job. I answered the deterrence argument and talked about the money spent on weaponry that could save starving people and included stats about the proportion of the population against the placing of US cruise missiles on UK soil. He gave me a B minus and a page of rant about how I wouldn’t like to live under a totalitarian regime! I’ve kept that to remind me of the power of a teacher and the start of my frustrations in the system.

The third thing I have kept is the front page of my school report for 1985/6 – the school year that followed my sister’s death and the year in which I came to recognise my lesbianism. That was one of the hardest years of my life. I have blogged before about my feelings in school at that time. I’m not exaggerating to say that I was clinging on at times – counting minutes, seconds, until the school day ended. I was keeping my head low and often despairing. My form tutor had this to day about me,
“Annalie is a quiet, hardworking member of the form. Always neatly dressed.”
So, there we are. I might have been falling apart inside but at least I was neatly dressed!
My head of year noted,
“Attendance could certainly be improved”.
Actually, it couldn’t be improved and no-one ever took the time to ask me why I was ill so much – what was going on. I did have one teacher who supported me wonderfully but this was all done on a personal basis – in spite of the system. She is someone I count as a friend forever. But I’ve kept that page as a reminder of being in a bad place – a place where I had no control over my day to day life and where I felt battered by the end of every day. I never want to be in such a place again.

Most of my old school work and reports reminded me of what it was to be so approved! So many pats on the head... Why didn’t they help me more when times were hard? Why did they mean so little inside? I guess because they weren’t for the real me. They were for the facade.

I had some good teachers along the way and some who were kind people. When my maths teacher said I deserved an “A in my O level as few he had ever taught” I realise now that he wasn’t talking about the way I’d applied myself to maths, but the way I’d struggled to get through the last two years of school.

There’s nothing in those teenage reports that touches the reality of how I was living. The gobbing and shoving and bra strap tugging that was the reality of every lesson change. The foul, violent language littered with homophobia and shaming sexual comments. The horror of the showers and the baying mob that pursued anyone ‘different’. There’s no mention of that in my secondary school reports and so I think I’ll chuck them in the recycling. Just in case I start believing in the fiction of that neatly dressed girl who was “working hard”.


Gill said...


Typical. Sucky system :-( But glad you found some humanity in there too.

Hmmm... must keep to my side of the bargain now. Well, mañana... ;-)

mamacrow said...

oh gosh Allie, (((HUGS)))

I did a lot of hard thinking before finally going ahead with the home schooling to make sure I wasn't living vacariously and trying to 'right the wrongs' of what I experienced.

There is still an element (minor) of protection about the desicion though. And rightly so.

one hartening story - when we selected GCSEs I chose Art - I was already doing Music (talented) and HATED geography and history (how they were taught, I'm actualy mad on history and, it traspires, the archilogical aspects of geography but the teachers and curiculum was dreadful in my opinion at the time)

So I wanted to do Art as a relaxation more than anything else, as I had a heavy work load with all the science, maths, lots of english etc etc.

The art teacher said I had no talent, it would be a waste of my time and hers, and simply knock my confidence. I explained to my dad my reasons for wanting to do Art, and that I was unconcerned about getting a low grade. He, my dear old dad, (I do miss him sometimes) marched up to the school (it was a small private school btw) and INFORMED them I would be taking Art.

Shortly after that, other things happened that made my parents even more unhappy with the school so I switched schools to a convent school in St Leonards, where I got on with Art teacher funnily enough (hardly anyone else did).

I got an A


First art teacher (who was a talented painter, but,I believe, never a professional artist) was right - I have little or no talent in drawing from life.

What i do have, as art teacher two (who was a professional graphic designer as well as qualified art teacher) recognised, was a talent in design and an almost inexaustable pit of inspiration. (ah, what it is to be young and never short of ideas!)

It was sweet to ring up Art teacher one (whom was known to the family as my sisters also went to school 1) and tell her of my results!

She of course was very sweet and congratulatory on the phone. She wasn't a bad person, just awfully tempermental - looking back, probably a dire case of PMT.

We also had a maths teacher, an ex brilliant mathmatician who was a drunk, but that's another story...

sorry, have rambled on greatly... memories memories...

Dawny said...

gosh darlin you so reminded me of all thatcrap in the showers at my school too. ((((((((((hugs))))))))) isn't it great that our children haven't got to go through it. x

peri said...

That bought back some unpleasant memories. I often fell foul of the baying masses - forever a member of the square peg gang!

I count my blessings that J will never have to deal with that kind of mass bullying in that environment.

Nic said...

That had my heart racing and a huge lump in my throat. I was certainly never so bullied or had such huge things going on but I have had periods both at school and at work where I felt equally hunted and trapped.
I also have a couple of old exercise books and a school report from various periods in my school career and a couple demonstrate how well a particular teacher at the time 'got me' and inspired, coached, developed and supported me in things I was good at. The rest sadly demonstrate how much heed was paid to unimportant things and how far from the truth the facade I was presenting really was.

Have some hugs for the younger you xx

'EF' x said...

I was stunned to silence after reading this post. So much of what you explain you went through in those years at school echoes almost identical experiences I had. Except that I was a gibbering wreck in my hardest year at school, the teachers were seeing with their own eyes the bruises on my back etc, it was common knowledge I was crying a lot, lots of attention seeking going on, and they just sailed past me (and my problems) like I didn't exist. I often wondered if they had made a pact to ignore me, the teachers, because they just left me to my own devices, which was to go down the plughole.

And the only inclination I got that they were paying attention was when the reports came in, twice a year, and they wrote such malicious comments in detail that I was always shocked. oh, so they are watching me at least.

And the bullying, and the baying crowds, and the cruelty of the other kids 'just because' I am 'different'.

And all through that was the minute counting, the isolation.

It doesn't heal what happened to know that I wasn't the only one, because at the time, I was so alone with it. But all these years later, well, to read that you know how it is too, it is some sort of reassurance. I mean, you are still standing, it is possible to weather such times, but no, we don't want our kids to go through that.

Just so soon as people get a sniff of the fact that my school life was a bag o shite, we get the 'vicarious!' accusation because we home educate. I'm not trying to right the wrongs I experienced, but the wrongs I experienced mean that I won't take any chances. It would be foolish to do so, since I know the seamy side of schooling,some would say the 'reality' of schooling and the schooled life.

When I get people suggesting that I am living vicariously I am not afraid to say: yeah, and? In this case, the vicariousness is a good tool to deliver the education our kids need. They don't need to be educated about school - I went on ahead and did that. Why make them suffer the indignity?

Sending you big hugs Allie, and suffice to say I would have stood up for you in school if I had been there at the same time.

Allie said...

I wasn't bullied any more than the general throng - not really. I saw far worse things happen to other people than ever happened to me. I had friends and that saved me. But it was a generally vile and violent place and I was not in a state to stand it.

I too think it a bit rich if people say "you home ed just because you hated school." Because, as you say, wouldn't I be a damn fool not to take my own experiences into account? If my children want to go then that's fine but if they're happy, healthy and thriving then why decide to put them in such a potentially hazardous environment? I am planning a post about the whole happiness thing and how all our lives are altered by the option to home ed.