Reflections at 40 – School – 1/40

To celebrate turning 40, I’ve challenged myself to blog for each of the 40 days leading into my birthday. This is post number 1. You can read all 40 posts here.

My Grade 1 classroom had old wooden desks – the kind you could carve into with the tip of a sharp pencil if you were that way inclined. Now, defacing furniture wasn’t something that would ordinarily have occurred to my five-year-old brain. But, evidence it had occurred to those who’d gone before me lay in the veritable alphabet soup etched into the surface of my desk.

Yes, it seemed five-year-olds lacked imagination when it came to graffiti – their initials were the best they could come up with.

I was busy adding my own to the mix one day when the teacher called my name.

One can only assume when my eyes lifted to meet hers, that they contained a mixture of both guilt and outrage. I couldn’t believe I was about to get in trouble for something 100 kids before me had done!

But I wasn’t in trouble. Quite the opposite in fact. I was being promoted. From Grade 1B to 1A.

(It may seem weird to you that our Grade 1 classes were streamed A and B but school in Trinidad (where I was born) was incredibly competitive.)

That was my earliest memory of a ‘gold star’ and school would go on to provide me with thousands more over the next 12 years. Which is to say, school and I went together like peanut butter and jelly.

Tests, assignments, exams, rhetorical questions from teachers during class – these were all opportunities to feed my addiction. Remember the episode of The Simpsons where the teachers are on strike and it drags on and on and eventually Lisa falls to her knees in the kitchen and begs Marge: ‘Grade me, grade me!’. That was me.

All good things come an end, however. Moving out of school and into University proved to be quite the shock to the system.

Tests – non-existent.

Assignments – few and far between.

Lecturers – didn’t know who you were and could care less whether you attended class or not.

Most shockingly, however, no one seemed to care what score you got on the end of semester exams, and indeed, what grade you got at the end of the year. And, even if they did, who knew a D beat a CR and an HD beat them all?

No one.

This wasn’t working for me. I needed my gold stars.

It was time to find another outlet …