Thursday, May 21, 2009

Old school days

Something about being a teacher makes me look back on my own school days with ever-increasing fondness. Although I had lived in a large metropolitan city where high schools generally had more than a thousand students, I was lucky enough to be at a school that was small, with only about ninety students total, spread across grades eight to twelve. No one had forced me to attend that school. I had to get up early and take two buses in order to get there, but I knew that was where I wanted to be. I still wonder how I would have turned out had I gone to the high school in my neighbourhood.
My school was a liberal arts school, one that emphasized citizenship, political and social awareness, and personal responsibility. We had five teachers, all of whom went by their first names. I remember loving my teachers, not having any of the jadedness that I see in the eyes of my students nowadays. We devoured our teachers' stories, and felt a part of their lives. Our Social Studies teacher invited the entire school to his wedding when I was in Grade 8. My class went for dim-sum with our Art teacher. Every Tuesday, the entire school would gather in the Drama room for our weekly school meeting, where we would discuss pertinent issues such as school trips, plans for our annual school bazaar, ways to spend the money raised, and donating to our favourite charities.

The activities we participated in would be nothing short of scandalous in this day and in this town. For our English class, we took an end of the year "literature trip" to our teacher's cottage on beautiful Saturna Island. We had to take three ferries to get there, and on the last leg, we were the only passengers on board. For three gorgeous days, we sunbathed on the lawn, traipsed through the woods, climbed the rocks by the beach, scooped up purple starfish, and breathed in all the beauty that surrounded us. In the evenings, we would venture to the meadow where the blind horse was, and we would cling to each other, so dark was the night and so unused to the darkness were our city-eyes. We would walk down by the pier, reciting poetry the entire way, seeing how much of "The Lady Of Shalott" rolled off our tongues with ease.

In Drama class, our favourite game was "murder in the dark." We would fumble around that classroom with the lights off, all of us blindfolded. The teacher would select a "murderer" by tapping that student on the shoulder, and the "murderer" would "kill" his/her victim by a little squeeze on the neck with icy fingers. The victim would then give the most blood-curdling scream and fall to the ground. The game was at its most intense if there were two murderers in our midst. The two would often bump into each other and reach out to touch each other's necks, only to realize with slight annoyance that they were accomplices with the same goal of wiping out the rest of the class. After a few encounters, the two would come to recognize each other's footsteps, and would no longer target each other, but somehow psychically join forces against the others.

One of the older students was an aspiring film-maker, and would recruit the entire school, students and teachers alike, to star in his movies. We even used a teacher's house for the set. Another student created a community haunted house every Hallowe'en, and the school would show up in support.

We watched Disney movies en francais. We borrowed the school guitars from our Science teacher and picked at them in the hallways. We packed picnic lunches and walked the two blocks to the empty lot by the old abandoned house to have our meals.

I miss my high school days, but never as much as now, when I've become a high school teacher. I wonder what kind of memories my students will have of their time here. I hope that they will find those special moments to look upon fondly. There's so much more to school than the things we're supposed to learn in classes. And it's always the seemingly trivial that become so important later upon reflection.

1 comment:

  1. The "murder in the dark" game sounds like a blast. I don't think I played it back in school but I wish I had!