Friday 19 June 1987

…Just 10 more days left at primary school.
I have been at school for seven years, 20 terms, six summer holidays and
10 school trips.
There have been three headteachers, I have had 14 different teachers, some of
them temporary ones, and have been in four classes – although it would have
been five had some teachers not left.
I have also been in trouble four times, as in having to see the headteacher,
which I think is fairly low…

I’ve been trying to remember what these were. I’ve got as far as:

1) Ripping up a piece of plain paper and sprinkling the little bits on the head of the person standing in front of me during a school choir rehearsal.

2) Using a staple gun to implant a staple into the top of a wooden desk belonging to a teacher.

3) Something to do with the school fish tank.

4) Swinging from the climbing frame in the playground after having been told not to.

All of these happened when I was younger, well before any of the entries featured in this blog – indeed, well before I started keeping a diary.

I’ve a particularly grim memory of 4), because I was physically lifted off the climbing frame by the headteacher and carried, kicking and crying, into his office.

You could argue that it taught me a lesson, for I never again had to go and see him or any other headteacher throughout the entire rest of my life at school.

However it was far from pleasant at the time. I’ll never forget the school secretary giving me a tissue to wipe away my tears.

Monday 18 May 1987

…Back to school today and because of last Friday morning we all had to
sit by people we hate…

Throughout my time at school I was regularly struck by something.

It was a blackboard rubber.

No no, it was by how childish teachers could sometimes be. They would accuse you of being immature or juvenile, then promptly go into a sulk, act out of spite, or behave in a thoroughly selfish fashion.

You can’t help being immature and juvenile when you’re 10 or 11. You can help being that way when you’re an adult. Or rather, you can better disguise being that way when you’re an adult. Why was our teacher failing to do this, and in the process just making all of us even more fed up?

It was around this time that I remember mentioning to my mum and dad how unhappy I was becoming in class. All the events of the last few months had crystallised into a persistent dislike and distrust of my teacher, feelings I also believed to be mutual. Nothing ultimately came of it, as I was leaving in a few weeks’ time anyway. But had I been in the year below, I think I might have ended up switching schools. It was certainly discussed over the kitchen table.

Wednesday 8 April 1987

…Last PE lesson this term today – last basketball lesson, last gymnastics too.
YEAHHHHH.
Because of this, everybody was messing around, especially the 4th years.
[Our teacher] got cross.
He said: “It was a sad note to end the term on,” but it’s not really the end of term
so he got that wrong.
He also said: “With a sour taste in my mouth…”
Huh.
Afterwards he went off in a sulk and ran round Southfields Park by himself
goodness knows how many times…

I’d have treated such an admonition with more gravity were it not related to sport. But going off in a sulk is always a bad move on the part of a teacher. It subtracts, not adds, credibility. Especially when it culminates in behaviour that, to our 11-year-old eyes, seemed slightly loopy.

Tuesday 31 March 1987

…[Our teacher] grabbed me and Edward this afternoon and virtually
threw us into the staff room.
He gave us a talking to about sport and our attitude.
He said he wanted to be fair with us.
The results are that swimming will be made a lot easier – we won’t have to be in
the top group anymore.
However for PE we are now going to be expected to help teach the infants
as well as doing our usual lesson.
That increases PE to THREE HOURS A WEEK!
How is this fair?…

Imagine my fury at being compelled to do this, and just days after moaning that the rest of my class gave the impression that all they wanted to do was play sport. Yet here was I getting landed with more PE, while the rest of my peers just carried on as before!

Worse – my “attitude” was supposedly to benefit from helping five and six-year-olds learn to catch a ball.

Had I taken the long view I would have wryly accepted this silly arrangement, knowing it would all be over in three months when I left primary school for good. But I wasn’t good at the long view 25 years ago, and instead merely raged inwardly at having mounting attention drawn towards my inadequacies.

Naturally, none of this improved my “attitude” towards PE one bit. I’d been doing it for seven years and still hadn’t found a sport I was a good at. Surely I’d suffered enough?

Wednesday 21 May 1986

…Did dictation, PE and SMP.
In the afternoon we wrote a story about the most exciting time of our life.
At dinnertime two-thirds of the class (not including me) had to do 50 lines for messing and talking…

I tried to make it my business to stay out of trouble at school, though anybody who chose to write the phrase “two-thirds of the class” instead of the less poncey “most of the class” or simply “a load of people” was always going to fall in with the swots rather than the rabble. Anybody using the phrase “two-thirds” within earshot of the rabble, however, was probably inviting several buckets of scorn, not to say punches.

I did get sent to the headmaster’s office a couple of times. I think one of them had yet to happen. The other had occurred a year or so earlier, when I was caught giggling during recorder practice – a travesty of justice, naturally. Especially as I was one of the few who could actually play the damn thing.