Sunday, March 25, 2012

My schooling experience (dorky photos included)

Do  I think school has value?  To quote JTG, School may have value, just not supreme value. School could be just a waste of time til you are an adult, can work and not burden other adults. Schooling is not so much about education as it is about obedience and learning only the basics.

I started school at 6 years of age in 1986, after 2 weeks in pre school. Sharing fruit is what I remember about pre school. My cousin took me and she then went to school. She is 6 months older than me.
In WA, school started at grade one. I was excited about starting  school. I really enjoyed school,learning to read and reading to the teacher before school. At my school, there was a junior and senior campus.
I obviously learned how to read, write and do basic math. I also remember being called 'Fatso' and believing that I was fat though  wasn't. Some time in grade 2 I did put on weight during the holidays and I was conscious of that. I was very quiet and always felt like an outsider. I was a lunch monitor once and after being trampled by the big kids at the canteen I cried and ran away, which resulted in me falling over and I have school photos with my knees with bandaids.

I had friends and we would often bring our dolls to school. I learned about this, that I was poor and most of my friends were not. I never had the latest toys, we couldn't afford it. My Mum was single and was not working. She was caring for three children, one was severely handicapped mentally, our father had left us when I was about 5 and was not a part of our lives at all since (and not much before either.) My two closest friends were only children and had an abundance of toys which was amazing when I visited their homes. They also both cried about attending school.

Another time I remember being locked into the toilet with a friend which was scary as a young child.
We were free range kids, roaming our local neighbourhood, building cubby houses in the bush (back when there was common land in suburbs).
In grade 4, we moved into the senior campus.  The grade 4 teacher would kick me in the backside.  I would say "Don't" rather timidly and he would laugh and mock me. It was at this time that I started to get frustrated with my friends who would boss me around and I had enough and from then on I started to not have regular friends.

In 1988 we moved to Victoria and I was glad in a way to leave that school. My brother and I spent a great deal of time at the local shopping centre as it was near the end of the year. We loved being free. He was put down a grade only because of his age. He repeated grade 4 and I was in grade 6.  At the new school I was bullied and teased, again probably because we were poor. We were living with my grandfather and my great grandmother and uncle in a small house my grandfather built.  I slept in the loungeroom with my brother. I didn't think my teacher was that smart but then she didn't think too much of me either. She never heard of the word 'fiend' and always corrected it with a 'r'. I was made aware she didn't really read my writing. She had her favourite students who were put up as an example to the rest of the children.  We  saw computer in our class to play Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? but I didn't get to touch it. My PE teacher was mean, always getting upset with me for my lack of co-ordination and skill in sport. She had us run backwards on asphalt which ended  with me suffering concussion.

I was told later the level of education was higher in WA than in Victoria. It is believable.
I went to several high schools as we moved around in Victoria. I met strict teachers, kind teachers and some just plain mean teachers.  My weight was an issue for some. I didn't mind school    so much til about year 10. I had issues with so called friends so moved to another school and my teachers believed I would do better there because it was an academic high school with status. I was not happy there, the teachers didn't care or notice me much. So I was free to spend time in the library reading when I bothered going to school. My Mum never got notice that I wasn't attending class, or that I was failing. I started smoking, drinking, doing other things that were against the law. For a school that prided itself on academics and being the best, it housed very many unhappy students- anorexia, drugs,  general unhappiness with themselves and with others, was very noticeable to me.  I passed 3 out of 6 subjects. I don't know how I managed that as I was rarely in class. For one subject, the teacher cared enough to keep me in class for one lunchtime to complete the entire semester in less than one hour.  So I know school is mostly a waste of time if you want  to talk about learning. I went back to my old school after 6 months.

They accepted me into year 11 to do VCE.  It was a struggle and I failed 3 subjects in the first semester even though I did pass a year 12 subject. It was difficult because I didn't have access to computers - year 12 students always had preference. I dropped a subject and I did better as I had more time. I grew up believing that I would drop out at year 10 and go on the dole, as was the thinking for most students who came from a low socio economic background. But at that stage,  people changed their thinking and people especially as the VCE was fairly new and seen as helpful. Since everyone was doing it, maybe it didn't hold as much value anyway, especially compared to those who were actually getting work experience. This was a problem for many people who were studying trying to help themselves get work, without experience it wasn't enough to stop you from joining the dole queue.

TAFE was my only option so I did a writing and journalism course. Though it was interesting, there were many assignments I couldn't complete due to not having access to computers and I dropped out after a semester.
Growing up, I would be asked what I wanted to be. A teacher, a youth worker, some occupation relating to children. I really wanted to be a mother but that is not valued and not classed as a career. It didn't matter what I wanted to be, there was always someone who thought I was not good enough to do what I thought I could do. I was too shy, I was not suited to it and I wasn't a  people person.

I love to learn. I like to research and I like to think about things in an in depth way. I learned far more outside school. People would say that school days are the best days of your life. Actually no, it was always the time outside school that I remember in a positive way. For me, school was not about getting good grades, learning or socialising. It was wasting time til it was  all over and it was a memory of days I rather not go back to. I left school incapable of doing much , still very shy and without much to look forward to. I wish for better for my children. I love the idea of learning as a family, despite all those years of schooling, I still appreciate, welcome and adore learning.

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