GORDON SANITAIRE by Gordon Urquhart

Back To School

What a joy it is to see all the little kiddies toddle off to school for the first time in their sunhats, holding mum’s hand, shoes shining and backpacks on. Of course there’s the occasional tear, sadness at saying goodbye to mum, but that never lasts long, and new friends are made pretty quickly too. The schoolyard is where our littlest men and women will meet and mix and have their characters formed.

It never did us any harm. And we had more rules to contend with than the latest batch I observed this morning through the window of my study. These little ones won’t be in fear of transgressions about hankies and combs in socks and dreaded raincoat inspections. They will also operate in a corporal punishment free education system, which shows we’ve come a long way from smart alecs being hauled out of their class for mucking around at lineup after recess. Many class mates from those days have told me how much they appreciated their time in the Deputy Head’s office and the lessons he taught them with his cane. It never did them any harm. But times change, and my daughters-in-law tell me that we’ve moved on and primary schools are more civilised now.

Lineup isn’t only about punishment of course. When my youngest boy was called out it usually meant an announcement about his latest musical achievement. He was entering so many violin competitions in those days, and we were so very proud of him. Lineup announcements became award presentations at full school assembly as Marcus got a bit older, and pretty soon he was performing and touring, and there was barely time for school at all. How he managed to fit it all in, I’ll never know. His mother was a source of energy. She drove him.

And of course there were all the other things the children did, playing representative hockey and rugby, swimming in state squads, cricket, skiing, and cross-country running. All those extra-curricular activities complemented and supported their school work. How they loved their drama and their art classes, but they never lost sight of the academic rigour which was needed to be a good student and to get on. I recall Jeremy studying an economics textbook while we were on a family holiday in Tuscany. He and Marcus argued about Keynes and Hayek around the little rustic kitchen table as Signora cooked in a big pot and gave them bread and olive oil to eat as a snack. The twins were then eleven.

Many of the little ones who had their first day at big school this week will never realise how lucky they are and how this time in their lives cannot be repeated. Some will find a note from mum in their lunch box with their Vegemite sandwiches and piece of fruit. But they’ll soon forget all about that as they take up watercolours and mountain climbing and dissection, like we used to. I must say I envy them.

Published in: on January 30, 2012 at 10:53 am  Leave a Comment  

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