Before the 11 plus our primary school classroom would be full of the sound of children’s voices chanting their times tables, and other important facts, such as length from inches up to miles, depths in fathoms, areas in hectares and acres, weights up to tons….but most of these facts are lost to me, partly I suppose because of decimalisation, negating the need to know in so much detail. I didn’t find rote learning a useful tool, quite often finding myself speaking the ‘Nine eights are…’ then mumbling the rest. I do know of course now know my most of my times tables and have strategies for checking my memory! What I remember from those classroom days are random things like the texture of the speckled paint, the smells, the anxieties, the friendship inconsistencies, the risk of having one’s head knocked sideways for not knowing the value of a minim….
I wonder if any of the Charioteers can remember the wordings for rest of these classroom chants…. this is to do with a poetry project I’m working on. Interweb searching has not yielded results!
And just to prettify the post, here is a picture.
Mist drops on Alchemilla mollis, (Lady’s Mantle)
Mr Vaughan presided.
The divided classroom looked strange, opened up,
and rearranged into lines: individual desks
so no one could look over anyone’s shoulder.
We sat alphabetically: I was a G.
It started with ‘turn your paper over’
ended with my last page incomplete
and a little gallop in my chest.
When the playground boasting began
I pushed the thing into a lidded box,
along with Dad’s crossness, worries that I would
somehow always disappoint and my inability to sing.
Weeks later, back in our twinned desks,
with scratched lids and holes for inkwells
I opened up my book, Anne of Green Gables
and read, waiting for the usual: registration
and a tirade of some sort.
I read until I became aware of laughing,
Mr Vaughan asking, had the bookworm
heard the results? I hadn’t.
When he told me, my question was
‘who else has passed too?’
and he read the list again. 11 out of 30
way above the National Average
of 10 or 11% he said, blowing his own trumpet
and I looked to my left to my best friend,
cleverer, prettier, I always thought
and she was smirking along with everyone else.
And now, was she thinking what I was thinking?
Maybe I had passed, but I was a fake, a fraud, a fluke
that had somehow been, squeezed in.