‘Surviving old school days: The crud expectations our teachers had for us’

Aug 16, 2020
Do you remember your school days fondly? Source: Getty.

Yes, I am writing today about ‘our generation”, the over-60s. I drove past our old childhood street one day, where the heritage red-brick schoolroom had been flattened by progress. “Good!” I thought. I did not experience too many happy memories of the school system there.

We seemed to have been educated with crud expectations for us by our cranky teachers. They appeared to be so old, set in their ways. We were only kids, hair in plaits, or with nylon headbands. We would start off with great optimism in February, but it soon ground down in the classroom.

For example, we made it to Grade Six, top of the heap in primary school. Horrors! The teacher ran the days with a strap for cheeky children. I lived in fear, determined to succeed and not get beaten. Here, to add ambience to daily school life, were our teachers’ expectations. Children, in those grades of over fifty pupils, sat in Row A—Above Average. Or in Row B—Barely There. Or in Row C—Could do a lot better. Or in Row D—D for Dunce.

I must comment that these ‘D’ children met the crud expectations, failing most tests, and getting most strap. It didn’t seem to faze them much, they carried on being overgrown cheeky boys and girls. Did you survive corporal punishment too? Some of them never got promoted to secondary level, they were still sitting in Grade Six, crammed into school desks with ink wells and ink blotters, until they could leave school to gain a job.

That was “Our generation”. Children could all leave school and gain employment. We wish young school leavers nowadays had job opportunities too. Over to the politicians to make employment growth for our grandchildren.

Along the way, baby boomers, like my late husband, told more horror stories. In his classroom, somewhere over the other side of town, his cranky teacher strapped him every time he tried to use his left-hand for hand-writing. Sad, but true, like my old father, who was caned for attempting to handwrite with his left hand. The crud expectations of a molly-dooker!

Despite the expectations of their teachers, such survivors made it in a right-handed world. Nowadays, Australian classrooms have left-handed scissors, and appropriate strategies, so children can write naturally if they are left-handed.

If the D-for Dunce row pupils made it to our ‘deadbeat’ secondary school, they were promptly assigned to Form “1E”. Here, their cheeky, rebellious ways continued. They learnt no foreign language or Higher Maths, while their energies were channelled into ‘manual’ subjects.

Crud expectations continued for everyone at that year level. All girls, who had no attachments, learnt a lot of cookery, with features such as suet pudding. Boys of young teens or tween years, because they were males, were proudly forced to make ashtrays. This taught them more of a smoking habit than perhaps they had already acquired. Ah, political correctness!

This was what ‘our generation’ survived in Australia’s education system. We could not wait to grow up. These days we have wrinkles, but not in our hearts. We have supposedly matured.

Why did we hurry through those ‘crud expectations’?

Sue's sassy!

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