Early education

As already mentioned, my first school (for a few months in 1983) was Meadowburn Primary School, in Bishopbriggs, Glasgow. (We still have an old Meadowburn Primary schoolbag, which I’ve photographed below.)


I have some memories of it, but they’re fragmentary, like trying to remember a dream. This post was originally going to have a wider scope – a few words about all the educational establishments I’ve attended – but as I sat and thought about it, various bits of memory about school in Scotland came back to me and so I’ve decided to list them. This isn’t really about education; it’s more about memory, and how odd it is that we remember certain things and not others.

  • Instead of a kindergarten, there was a playgroup on the premises: in effect, a grade zero. I don’t think I was happy when the time came to graduate from playgroup to grade one; I think I was playing with a toy of some sort and didn’t want to be interrupted.
  • I also have a very faint memory of Mum helping me to find the right classroom. I think this involved asking for directions and observing that kids in at least one classroom looked too big.
  • There was no outdoor playing equipment, but under the teacher’s supervision, the class would sometimes play games indoors – e.g. Hide and Seek in the cupboards. There was also a musical chairs variation which involved getting everyone’s coat off the coat rack, putting them in a big box, and pretending to be a washing machine or something like that while the music played. When it stopped, you had to put a coat on – any coat.
  • Students left the premises to go home for lunchbreak.
  • Rowdy students were given dummies to suck. Or something like that.
  • The numbers from one to ten were listed on the wall; one day, the number eleven was under discussion, and the teacher pointed out its absence from the chart.
  • One class exercise involved inventing examples of words made to look like the things they name. I found it difficult, on account of being a perfectionist and not being able to come up with examples as good as the one (the word “bed”, made to look like a bed) that the teacher used as an example.
  • The teacher used Paul Daniels’ catchphrase “not a lot” when explaining how much glue one should use when sticking two pieces of paper together.
  • The teacher once made a rather sweeping generalisation to the effect that all Australians, or perhaps all Australian women, like to develop a suntan at the beach.
  • There are a few other memories, but they’re even less coherent. I have difficulty explaining them to myself, let alone anyone else.

One final memory, which deserves a paragraph to itself. I had a habit of dragging my schoolbag very low to the ground, and on my way home from school one day I was interrupted by an older boy with a gun, and some mates. I now believe the gun was a toy, but I didn’t know this at the time. I was ordered, at (toy)gunpoint, to lift my bag up, and then to put it down again, up, down, and finally I was ordered to run. I did so. I also ran, for some time afterward, from any student I thought I recognised as belonging to that little crowd. (One of them later claimed to be on my side, which confused me: “But you were one of them!“)

[Update: I forgot to mention the time that I was interrupted on my way to school by some older students, and asked, “What’s one plus one?” “What’s two plus two?” “What’s four plus four?”, etc. I was able to answer everything up to “What’s sixty-four plus sixty-four?”. I mentioned the incident to Dad that afternoon, and he tried to teach me about carrying. I don’t think it stuck, at the time, though.]

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