Many children who attend school and do not easily conform to the expectations there, begin to find disillusionment within themselves and this is so heartbreaking to me. This very easily could have been me if not for my parents, who had nurtured a strong sense of self through respect and trust. Instead of seeing my inability to adjust as a flaw within me, I began considering the flaws within the experience of school.
Although this could not insulate me entirely form the effects of schooling, it did afford me a buffer from some of its most damaging aspects.
My awareness didn’t happen all at once but as far as I can trace back, it started with this moment and gathered momentum…
I was in grade three and I had marriage all figured out. You see, every married couple I knew shared a last name so I assumed that whoever you were meant to be with, you’d know because they’d have the same last name as you. And lucky me, this boy in my class and I had just that in common.
I wanted to get to know this boy better. I mean, if we were going to be spending our lives together then it made sense for us to start working it all out now. But school did not leave much opportunity for this. With a limited lunch time that he spent busily moving from space to space kicking a ball with friends, I just couldn’t get a moment with him.
And then opportunity struck. There was a school wide assembly on the cards and we were in the middle of the test. As I observed other children passing in their test and proceeding to line up to be seated, I realised that I could manufacture myself a chance meeting with my beau to be if I just finished my test right after he did.
Problem was, I had finished my test and I could feel my teacher’s eyes on me. As I snuck a glance at my future mister, I realised he still had quite a bit to go. I needed to look busy, I needed to look like I was still meant to be here.
So I began duplicating an answer. Where it originally read neun (German for 9), it began to read neun neun neun neun neun neun. And I just kept writing neun until it was time for me to sit next to this boy.
My plan worked perfectly.
Until I got my test back the next day and saw a big red cross next to my stream of neun. Yes, I had written it about 20 times but was it not completely obvious that I knew the answer? What was the point exactly in marking this wrong? What was the point in this test at all if it wasn’t really about determining that I knew this work they’d required of me?
I soon learnt that people who marry, can decide to share a name. But I never did learn a satisfactory answer to my other questions.