It’s like a prison. They lock you in at eight thirty in the morning and you lose your freedom till three fifteen every day. Five days a week. Year after year.
Holidays? Don’t talk to me about holidays. They’re never long enough, and you spend most of them dreading the ordeal of the term to come. Will everyone hate you? Will anyone talk to you? Will they all have spread some kind of rumour about you, given you an unbearable nickname that you’ll have to live with until the bullies go elsewhere for entertainment.
Sunday nights are the worst. That sick feeling in your stomach when you know that it’s all over. Your freedom curtailed for another five days. Five days which stretch ahead in front of you like eternity.
And have you done your homework? Are you prepared for the week? Prepared. How can you prepare for that?
Monday morning finds you shut up in a classroom of thirty kids – any sense of individuality is stamped out. Even the noise of thirty kids breathing is oppressively loud. Maths. Always maths first thing on a Monday, like a punishment for daring to dream over the weekend. For daring to think you have a life outside this classroom.
Maths, then English, then break. Break is all too short – barely time for all out with shoes changed before it’s back in again – all noise and confusion and the scraping of thirty chairs against thirty desks.
Then History, or Geography, or Music. It doesn’t matter what the subject is, you’re looking out the window wishing you were anywhere but here. Wondering who imagined individuality could survive this, much less imagination. Who can call this education? Who can learn anything when the herd mentality prevails, when Key Stages are all that count.
The bell for lunch. Forty five minutes respite. Grey roast beef and soggy cabbage. Something unrecognisable and custard before being launched out into the playground. And no one wants to play with me. I stand alone. By the wall. If anyone approaches me, it’s not to be friendly, but to ridicule. To whisper that nickname I’m trying to pretend isn’t mine. You know how cruel kids can be. And I can never get in with the “in” crowd.
The afternoon drags by, shouting, spelling, drawing – even drawing turns into a bun fight – a confrontation “my mum says I can’t lend my pencils”.
Anything good turns to rubbish by two thirty as the class unites in our disillusion of another day – begging for the escape that only a burst pipe or fire drill or major national emergency can bring. Looking for someone to blame, anyone to blame for this boring prison. Wanting to rebel but lacking any meaningful means of protest. How can ten year olds protest in a meaningful way? Isn’t that the problem. Ten year olds can’t seem to do anything in a meaningful way.
The spirits lift slightly as the clock idles its way towards three, but even as the bell sounds at three fifteen, you start counting the hours till eight thirty, and wish no one had taught you to tell the time, and realise how little life there is left in between this daily grind.
And I’m the teacher. Imagine how the kids feel.