No more weird teachers?
Tracy Engelbrecht sends her child off to school in the hope there are no teachers like her own Grade 3 nightmare.
So it’s back to the grindstone this week. School’s been out for what seems like a decade and I wonder if any of us still know how to get there.  Backpacks have been fumigated; a gazillion pencil crayons labelled and dusty setwork books rescued from under my bed.

After my little visit this weekend, Ackermans now faces a dire shortage of white school socks size 12-3. I bought nearly every pair in the shop, much to the chagrin of the lady who marched in after me, Stern Sock Mission Face on. She left empty-handed and panicky. Oops. 

Back to school is always a little sad for me. Long lazy days of sun and endless chatting are replaced with bleary-eyed morning grumps and too much crumpled sandwich wrap; I miss our days together and it twinges a little to watch them go off back to their own separate, secret school lives.

To be honest, I’m also a little jealous. At the risk of sounding like an old fart, I just have to say that school sure ain’t what it used to be. Did you know, for instance, that teachers these days give hugs? Actual hugs?  And jelly babies?  There’s a noticeable lack of having to Do Phys Ed In Your Broeks, something which happened with frightening regularity Back In My Day.

Teachers actually like children

Shockingly, the teachers today actually seem to like children, and not in a Roald Dahl’s witchy sort of way. They care. They listen. They enjoy what they do and they aren’t so scared of losing control that they have to crack the whip at the first sign of kiddy-happiness. Us lowly parents may even enter the building without feeling like leprous intruders.  School secretaries smile and know your name, and don’t appear to want to eat you at all.

It just seems like way more fun these days.  Much less, I don’t know, terrifying? Or am I looking at school through the rose-coloured glasses made especially for parents, the ones called “I’m sure it’ll be fine”?

As Layla starts Grade 3, I remember when it was my turn, 23 years ago. My teacher was a kooky but forbidding grey lady obsessed with shave-shading, something I was never able to do to her satisfaction. Oh, how I wished for the 24 piece Colleen pencil crayon set, convinced it would make a difference to my scratchy, blobby attempts. 

I remember having to redo an Afrikaans worksheet about “Die Pappegaai” three times, simply because I’d coloured Outside The Lines. All the actual work was correct, but those damn crayon-shavings just went all over the place, as hard as I tried. I couldn’t do it like those perfect girls with their pink pencil cases. I recall the burning humiliation, eyes pricking with tears, fingers smudged blue and green, that sad musty primary school smell. I tried again while the whole class watched me and waited.  And the treacherous angry thought kept popping up “Why am I doing this? I got all the answers right every time. What is the point of this? What am I learning here?”

I learnt something that day, but it wasn’t Pappegaai-related. Eight years old is kind of young to realise that not all adults who are in charge really ought to be, and that when you’re that small, there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.

As my little girl goes off to meet her new teacher this week, I hope she has a few more years before she has to learn that lesson.

Are teachers today more human and less likely to get obsessed with irrelevant details?

Read more by Tracy Engelbrecht

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