Stretch

Another essay (around 900 words) about my experiences in primary school as a 5 - 8 year old. I describe the struggles, emotions and personality changes I went through. This is strongly based on the truth, but due to my young age at the time, not all of the finer details stayed with me. Hope you enjoy reading!

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1. Stretch

 

Time seemed to slow as the ball left my hand. I imagine a single heart beating in the background as the blue plastic sphere crunched on the concrete playground in front of me and bounced high into the air. Maggie and Nick’s dinner plate eyes followed the ball as it arced higher and higher, and reached it’s peak. Nick began to run forward, hands extended, as the ball started to fall, but the attempt was futile. It fell and fell, beyond them both; beyond me, still standing proud on the railing; beyond the school fence. We heard a gentle crunch as the ball struck the grass of the neighbor's lawn. All was still for a moment.

    Suddenly time caught up. The bell rang and I ran to class.

 

I always found school hard. Stressful. Painstakingly slow, all the teachers painstakingly thick - well, that’s what it felt at the time. Something I've identified whilst thinking of those years is the constant undercurrent of unfairness. It’s there between the kids; between the teachers and the kids; the school and the parents. I’m not sure if this is just the local primary I attended, schools all over the world, or all of humanity. If it really is everywhere - if humans are fundamentally unfair, as a basic trait of human nature - then why aren’t I accustomed to it like I am to people loving and hating, being sad and happy? Why does something that seems to be the norm anger me to the point of tears, to the point of all those things I did?

 

    Reception. Playing with toys, whoever gets to the classroom first gets the legos. Learning spelling, who ever gets the highest score is the best, the smartest.

Year 1. Basic maths: exercise, question, test, repeat.

    ‘I understand the concept now! Can we move on?’

    ‘No!’

More spelling. If you can spell, you are the best.

    Year 2. God, year 2. Kids start to form hierarchies: cool kids, weirdos, nerds. They get a taste of power, and how to abuse it. The definition of ‘cool’ is decided upon and respected. Playground rules are laid down: Your ball, your rules; whoever gets to the court first gets to chose who plays with them; Sport is more important that academics.

    ‘Have you ever got to the regionals?’

    ‘Yes, I got to regionals for public speaking.’

    ‘No! I don’t mean that! Running, swimming, soccer?’

    ‘No.’

The times tables. Always being pitted against the others.

    ‘Quick! 8x9!’ You’re fast, you’re smart.

    ‘72, Miss!’

    The boredom. Doing silly things in class to entertain myself. Getting into trouble.

    ‘Jack! You need to concentrate!’

    ‘No I don’t.

    ‘You need to learn!’

    ‘Already have.’

    A week to try grade acceleration, a chance to work at the level I should be. A week with the year 3 class. Really, it’s a ruse to scare me off the idea, to save themselves the trouble of all the paperwork. My mother was barred from talking to the teachers, and myself flung into a new year group with no friends, no support or introduction. I didn’t even have same break time as my friends. Disaster.

 

    Stress. Broke me down.

I’m 5, angry because Nick has just claimed all the legos for himself, and the teacher doesn’t care. I’m 6, sitting In the principal's office for writing some innocent ‘naughty words’ on some paper as the other kids in my class finish the 50th ‘3+5’ exercise, which I’d grasped by the 5th. I’m 7, crying in a corner of the playground after the kid with the shiny football has found another ludicrous reason why my goal can’t possibly count.

I’m 8. Sitting on a bench near the toilets in recess as scary year 4s are coming up to me like I’m an exotic animal in a zoo.

    ‘You’re a year 2. Why are you here? This is our recess. Not yours.’

 

    Slowly my personality warped. Schools do that to me. Change me. I become something I'm not, to fit in. This is inevitably a worse self. Naughtier, louder, ‘cooler’. This seeps into home life too. Argue. Argue. Argue. Constant. After school, before it, during holidays. I found myself enjoying playing with my parents. Saying no for the fun of the fight that would inevitably entail. Being a pedant, an idiot. Just what the ‘cool kids’ did with the teachers. Little things. Nicking that, drawing on this, defacing that. Not myself. Some representation of the warped school boy definition of ‘cool’. Stretch. Sstttrreetttccchhh.

 

Snap.

 

A lunch break. Nick’s got the ball, Maggie’s secured a court. We’re set for a game. Four man court. I’m fourth.

    ‘Jack, we don’t want you to play.’

    ‘What?!’ Confusion, betrayal, hatred, surprise. I’m on the court, so I have to play. That’s non-debatable etiquette.

    ‘Run!’ They sprint to a 2 man court. I’m two. Four man court. I’m four. Two man court. I’m

I’m three. They grin.

    ‘Sorry Jack, no subs for this game.’ The other kids moan and go off other games. Maggie and Nick start playing. Bam. I run in, stealing the ball. Powered by the stress I’d bottled and adrenaline flowing through me, I run and jump onto the handrail. I hold the ball high above my head.  That’s when I do it. With all the power I can muster, I throw that ball, Nick’s ball. I intend it to go into the neighbor’s. And it does.

 

Soon after, I left that school for another.

That’s a story for another day.

 
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