School Daze…

School uniformA few days ago, I had a ‘time slip’ moment: a glimpse of my past. 1978, to be precise.

A writing pal, also called Helen, who blogs here (and who, importantly,* was at school with me in sunny Staffordshire), recently found a letter at her parents’ house, from our school days and emailed me a copy.

It was a grovelling note from our old Home Economics teacher, (let’s call her ‘Miss D’), to Helen’s mother, apologising for sending her the wrong end of term report. In fact, the report the poor woman had received was MY report (the teacher got us two Helens mixed up).

Apparently, in the report-that-went-astray, ‘Miss D’ comments: ‘Helen spends too much time talking to her friend S. E…’ .. and in her follow-up letter, regarding the mix-up, she says, “Dear Mrs B, what can I say? Helen Yendall would certainly recognise the report as her own, for I have been trying to impress upon her that she does not reach her potential standard. Especially so, as she intends to continue into the examination stream…”

A few thoughts struck me:

1. I only have a vague recollection of this but it sounds about right. My friend ‘S.E’ and I did an awful lot of chatting and giggling at the back of the class. (Especially in Latin! Eek. I am ashamed. I got 5% in the exam).
2. Miss D sounds very ‘Jane Austen’ in her letter! Impressive.
3. Miss D – if she’s still around – would no doubt be very surprised to hear that I still count ‘Home Economics’ as my most useful ‘O’ level. (Which, despite her misgivings, I passed). I made a very edible lasagne and rhubarb crumble**, only the other day, for example! And I am, ahem, well known for my rather delicious quiches…
4. Even over 30 years later, I still don’t think this ‘episode’ is something I’m prepared to admit to my mum. (She thinks I was a model pupil!)

So, what did your school reports say? (And if you can’t remember, make it up!) Could you write about your school days, or the good/bad teachers you had? (Helen, do you remember that terrifying German teacher we had – Mr M – who made everyone in the class cry? Including the boys..?). And what about the main character in that novel you’re writing? What would his/her school report say? (If you don’t know, maybe you don’t know your character as well as you should…. )

*everyone’s allowed one adverb!
** Please note, not a lasagne-and-rhubarb crumble. That would be horrible. No, a lasagne. Full stop. And then, a rhubarb crumble (rhubarb kindly supplied by my next-door-neighbour whose wife will not allow him to eat crumble because it’s fattening).

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17 Responses to School Daze…

  1. Edith says:

    It’s always more than a little surprising when we are suddenly brought face to face with evidence of a past we had all but forgotten about! Loved this post…sounds very familiar!! :0

  2. Wendy Clarke says:

    I remember distinctly my first day in sixth form when the teacher walked in and said, “Call me Roger.” I’m sure you can just picture him. Needless to say I never called him that!

  3. susan jones says:

    I wrote about fictional schooldays in High School Blues, it’s published, and I’m proud of that. Fiction of course. I wasn’t a fan of school at all, especially when the teachers all said I don’t know why she’s bothering, that made me try really hard to pass exams and annoy them….. I’d lived in this house a while before I realised my maths teacher lives next door!!!!!!

  4. bob says:

    Hope the lasagne and rhubarb crumble weren’t in the same pot 😉

  5. Yes, Helen, I remember Mr M only too well, especially the board rubber flying across the room in the direction of the lastest victim of his wrath…can you imagine that happening these days? However, I can still recite ‘der, die, das, die/den, die, das, die etc’, so something about his methods must have worked.

    Funnily enough, now I’m the chatty one, who won’t shut up…

  6. Christine Steenfeldt says:

    That made me laugh! 5%? That’s a good mark- I once got 3% in a Latin exam and only did that well because I copied an answer from the girl in front! Coincidentally, we had a female German teacher who was vicious. (I don’t mean she was German, just that she taught it!) I hated school, couldn’t wait to escape!

  7. P Douglas Hammond says:

    We had a great trick with the board rubber, in Junior School. It had a felt and a wooden back, If we pushed the back hard against the wall and slid it slightly, it would stick there. Don’t know how, but it would stay there all day.

    Was great to watch the teacher looking for for the board rubber, when we could all see that it was just a few inches behind him.

    This is precisely the sort of thing that I told my son not to do.

  8. Clare Banks says:

    I was expelled from a posh boarding school at the age of 13. I admit, I was no angel, but I don’t think I was any worse than a dozen or more other pupils whose behaviour was as wild as mine. A psychiatrist who was brought in to examine me told my father that I was just “high spirited,” but said he thought the headmaster was off his trolley. Recently, I found the school report which followed my departure and it made me cry. It was an horrendous character assassination, some of it written by teachers whom I trusted and thought cared for me. At the time, I remember feeling a little betrayed, but now that I’m all grown up and responsible, it just hurt me to the core. Strangely enough, I was contacted a few years ago by one of those teachers, who’d heard I was presenting TV news bulletins for the BBC, and he said he couldn’t remember me being expelled or writing a bad report on me. I’m glad I turned out OK in the end.

    • That sounds horrendous, Clare. As for the teacher ‘not remembering’, it’s amazing how our memories can be selective, isn’t it? (and I’m not being sarcastic!). I have diaries dating back to when I was 11 and when I read some of the things in those I just cannot remember them happening AT ALL. It’s like I’m reading fiction or they happened to someone else! Glad you ‘turned out OK’ too!!


  9. Linda says:

    Oh this made me laugh and triggered a few memories too. Like my French teacher who said I’ve never pass my French OLevel but I did. And then there was my German teacher who said I would never pass that subject and he was bang on. Mind you his style left a lot to be required! He had a comb over but in the day before bicycle helmets, by the time he got to school, the comb over bit would be dangling down twice as long as the other side! I wonder if he knew how much we used to laugh at him.

  10. madkraut says:

    Interestingly, quite a few language teachers, especially the Germans, have made an impact. Same with me, albeit in Germany. My school report said: “Michaela failed her cycling test”. I was sent away to an island in the North Sea to fatten up as I was underweight. My class teacher also told me that if I were to continue my behaviour, I’ll always be an outsider. Well, that sentence is still staying with me, but nowadays I am quite comfortable with that. If he’d had his way, I wouldn’t have even made it to middle school. Oh, I have many words for him…not nice ones. Just glad he is six feet under.

    • Seems we’ve all got strange school experiences! and they say they are the ‘best days of your life’!! My crazy German teacher (the one who made everyone cry), was actually a Brit, not German. But the teacher I had after him – the wonderful Mr Shirley (yes, I am naming him, because it’s all good!) instilled in me a love for the language and was the main reason I went on to study German at University. So there are some good teachers out there. (I like your new name, by the way ‘madkraut’!)

  11. Think Pigeon says:

    I really enjoyed your post Helen. The bit about Miss D sounding like Jane Austin made me laugh out loud. I’ve been indulging in some mental time travel back to my school days in my latest blog post:
    I was surprised how vivid the memories I did have were but also how few I had. I think if I spoke none stop about every memory I’m maybe be able to fit 7 years into 2 hours. Odd! Denise x

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