Thursday, November 4, 2010

I don’t wanna go to school

I don’t wanna go to school.

That’s a phrase that I’ve heard my son utter a lot since he started in daycare at the beginning of this year. It’s also a phrase I used a lot during most of the time I was in grade school, so I think Michael and I probably share similar fears and anxieties. I think that both of us dislike change and we are very stubborn about giving into it. We both also seem to get very shy and reserved when we first get exposed to new situations or people. The difference between us is that Michael is quicker to warm up to people than I am, so hopefully he’ll have a much easier time dealing with change as he gets older. Unfortunately for me, I had a bunch of bad experiences in school that led me to be less trusting of people and so it takes a lot of time for me to get comfortable around new situations or people.

See, part of my anxiety about going to school came from the fact that I went to Catholic School. The school district that I grew up in was the same one that my mom went to and for 12 years, they managed to completely miss the fact that she had learning disabilities, so even though she never had passing grades, they just kept moving her through the system. Because of that, my mom wanted to make sure that I got a good education, so she worked hard to get me into the local Catholic School. This was both a blessing and a curse. See, several of my really good friends started at the school at the same time as I did, so I had a group of kids that I could hang out with and talk to when school started, but once the bell rang, the demons dressed in nuns clothes were let loose and I entered the first level of hell. Many of the teachers that I had in school were mostly intimidating, negative, angry women known as The Sisters of Our Lady of Charity. The teachers used mass discipline and fear to keep the classes in line. So when one kid acted up, the whole class would get punished. This caused me great stress because I feared getting in trouble, but I had no control over whether or not someone else’s actions would get me yelled at. I think I see some of this in Michael. When I pick him up from daycare, he often talks about the kids at school who were bad, who weren’t listening, or who got yelled at. I can’t tell if it bothers him, or if he’s just very aware of what’s going on.

Now the tone of this posting has been pretty negative, and thinking back to my time in grade school, I do tend to focus on all of the horribly nasty teachers I had (the ex-nun with the peg-leg who hit kids with a yardstick, the nun with the missing finger who bashed kids heads into the blackboard when they got math problems wrong, the teacher with the bullwhip in the closet, the ultra-crazy nun who threatened to kick several kids asses). I basically was scared into getting good grades so that these nut jobs wouldn’t notice me and leave me alone. But believe it or not, I did have a bunch of good times at school. They mostly involved arriving to assembly early enough to hang out with my friends. You see, the school made all the kids gather outside in the back parking lot for the morning prayer. So a lot of us would show up a half hour early so we could play games, talk about sports, TV shows, Movies, or girls. Because the teachers hadn’t arrived by then, we didn’t have to worry about them coming around to yell at us and mess up our good time, so I remember those morning assemblies more fondly than recess (which we weren’t aloud to run or do anything dangerous). Of all the memories of grade school, those were definitely the best. When I try to talk to Michael about what school was like for me, I want to focus on those memories so that I can help him realize that school can be a good, fun experience as long as he opens himself up to meeting good friends. The classes and the learning are important, but we get lessons all through life, but the friends we make as kids can turn out to be some of the best relationships that a person can have at any point in their lives. Plus learning to build friendships early in life can make it easier to make friends as one gets older.

P.S. Most of my negative school memories are from grade school. Once I got away from those crazy nuns and got into High school, I had a blast.


  1. Nothing like having a common enemy to bring kids (any people) together. Those friendships that you had in elementary school were no doubt deeper because of the terror of the nuns. I bet that you are still friends with some of those guys.

  2. I'm still friends with a couple of the guys I went to grade school with, and most of us have stayed in contact so we can reflect back on how we survived those 8 years.