Saturday, November 12, 2011

No school like the old school

I got a message on Facebook this week to say that my old secondary school is being demolished, and they're having a party and drinks to celebrate. Or commemorate. I'm not sure quite how that works.

I have mixed feelings about my alma mater. Thinking back, most of the teachers were terrific. There were the occasional terrifying ogres of the rugby pitch, but I was blessed with enthusiastic, genuinely interesting and interested teachers for mathematics and english throughout my time there. When I was preparing for university, I had a teacher who took on tutoring me in philosophy after school, and another gave me advanced maths lessons when I was attending lectures at the Royal Institution at the tender age of eleven.

In fact, when I think of my school experiences compared to what we usually see in the media, it seems almost odd that I had such a good time, academically speaking. There was never a time that I was bullied or singled out for being not very good at sports and preferring to read books. If I think of my brother's situation, it seems almost miraculous that he was set on the path to professorship, given his apparent lack of academic leanings when he first arrived there.
On the other hand, I remember feeling tremendously sad and lonely as a teenager. I think that's a lot because teenagers tend to be tremendously sad and lonely. I'm not saying that my teenage years were a uninterrupted vale of gloom and despair, but there were times when I felt very clearly different to others, but incapable of expressing how, and at the same time, chafing at the discipline of the school.

I'm not sure if the same strict rules which meant I couldn't have hair longer than collar length (and how trivial that seems now) also contributed to keeping children well-behaved and not beating me up for reading books. But I do remember how the figure of my headmaster was someone who I saw as a moustachioed monstrosity, forever catching me in corridors and telling me to get my hair cut.

Then again, he left his post under a sizeable cloud, which left me feeling rather confused, because when a figure that you've defined yourself in opposition to turns out to be an imposter, what were you ever battling against?

So it's a shame I won't be in England that weekend for the reunion / destruction of the old school. Part of me is worried how all the teachers would look after all these years - and part of me is scared as to how all my classmates would look to me, and me to them. Maybe it's better to leave the past in the past sometimes...


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