It’s back to school this week for hundreds of thousands of children. There are so many mixed emotions - excited, worried, relieved, doubtful - and that’s just the parents. Among those of our family starting
at a new school are grandsons Faris (now a Junior School boy) and James, joining his older brother at high school. I’ve been busy making “New School” cards for them and others of my acquaintance.
Ken the Gardener and I were discussing the whole “Back to School” business this morning over mugs of coffee, while his lawn-mower stood expectantly in the back garden. My Foursome always scold me for taking up
with idle chat the valuable time of the many people who come to help us. I am, they remind me, paying for their time which includes all the many wasted working minutes we spend in discussion of this and that. I am completely unrepentant because, in my mind,
chatting has always been one of life’s pleasures - even more so in these strange Coronavirus Times, when hardly anybody seems happy to stop and pass the time of day with a natter.
Ken and I have both been watching the news programmes on TV showing the new way in which classrooms will now be set up. No more sitting round large square tables all facing inwards; in future the pupils will sit, two or three to a
table, all facing forwards. That is, of course, far from a new way of working - Ken and I both remember sitting at desks, in rows, facing front where the teacher and the blackboard claimed our full attention. It’s back to the future as well as back to
school, we agree.
Then we are in fits of laughter as we remember the dreaded blackboard rubber. Teachers in what my grandchildren like to call “the
Olden Days” didn’t tend to wander, encouragingly, around the classroom checking on their pupils’ progress - should any children appear to be day-dreaming, several well-aimed pieces of chalk would wake them instantly from their reverie. Should
they be seriously misbehaving, it would not be unusual for the chalk to be followed by the blackboard rubber...
I am still laughing when I headed back indoors
(leaving Ken to tend the lawn and the flower borders) so I had to explain myself to Mr B and the Delightful Donna, his carer. Donna wants to know if either of us ever had the cane - I am pleased to say that, goodie-two-shoes that I was, the worst punishment
meted out to me was being made to stand in the corner, my teacher telling me that I was “getting as bad as my brothers...” I had no idea what she meant by that. Mr B confesses to having been caned on a couple of occasions, though he can’t
remember what naughty deeds brought this about. He does recall that it hurt...
Nobody made us wash our hands and none of us carried hand sanitiser around with
us. I am not at all sure hand sanitiser had been invented when I was at at school. At my Junior School, the loos were housed in two separate brick buildings at one end of the playground; in the depths of winter the pipes froze and in the summer - well, let’s
not go there. The most exciting thing that ever happened in my Junior School days was when one of the Big Boys (who must have been eleven years old, so virtually grown up in my eyes) set light to the boys’ toilets. It was the talk of every classroom
It would have been impossible for our classes to be divided into “bubbles” in the interests of social distancing - there were fifty
children in my class all through Junior School. That was just one of the results of being a “baby boomer”, born in the years immediately after the Second World War. We did have our fears of illness though - my greatest fear as a small child was
catching polio and having to be encased in an iron lung, photographs of which I had seen in the newspapers. An effective vaccination programme has ended the scourge of polio in all but three countries across the world - therein lie our hopes for defeating
There is another family member going back to school this week - grandson Jack, taking on his first teaching post. I can assure his new pupils (not that
any of them are particularly likely to read the Daily Blog) that he will be the very best kind of teacher, kind and caring when needed but well able to check the unruly.
He won’t need a blackboard rubber either...