Stepping back in time


The horror attic clean-out has begun. Husband started the job while I was transporting the chooks to Port Stephens. He sent me a photograph of a little gem that he unearthed: the youngest’s first report card, from her New York Montessori school days.

The message he attached said: “Recognise this little girl? I do.”

The youngest was only two at the time, but he’s right, it’s remarkable how much a child’s character has already formed at such an early age.

The report described her as a “friendly, happy and cooperative child” who “maintains a positive mood throughout most of the day” and is “sweet and gentle with her peers”.

It went on to say she was “very active physically” and “likes to run, jump and dance” and is “very independent”.

All those things are so true of her now. Even when she was battling a horror flu last week, her smile was never far away. As for the physically active aspect, her obsession with skipping shows that’s still her bag.

Yesterday I unearthed a plastic folder containing my primary school report cards and got to take a walk down my own childhood memory lane.

Recognise this little girl? I do.

I adored my year 3 teacher, Mrs Malinowski. She was like a second grandmother to me and I was heartbroken to leave her. I remember my second biggest obsession being the Scholastic Book Club. Oh how I loved that monthly catalogue (my fondness for catalogues persists to this day). Mrs Mal kept it short and sweet on my report: “Excellent results from a conscientious student.”

In 4C, I reached my scholarly peak under the tutelage of Mr Coombes, who gave me the nickname “The Walking Dictionary” and made me his teacher’s assistant in class. I remember him being mercilessly teased by kids when he lost his hair during cancer treatment – even at that young age I was mortified by the cruelty of the children. Mr Coombes gave me four A+ marks, which I was extremely stoked about because it was more than the gorgeous and talented Susan Bailey got (poor Susan lost a battle with cancer a few years back, come to think of it). Mr Coombes wrote: “Alana has achieved exceptional results in all aspects of her school work. Because of her literary maturity Alana has made many invaluable contributions to the class, both orally and in the written form.”

My fondness for the written word was evident way back then so I have no idea why I wanted to be a pharmacist when I grew up – to please my science-degree-holding dad, I think.

I didn’t click with my year 5 teacher, Mrs Watson. I thought she was old and mean, especially when she tried to make me switch from writing with my left and to my right. Hello, it was the ’70s, not the ’50s. She grudgingly gave me lots of As, but stiffly wrote: “Alana doesn’t seem as interested in the mathematical subjects as the language subjects. However she is making satisfactory progress.”

Me and maths were never going to be a thing. Case in point: my terror when the tax department called.

I’ll always cherish my year 6 teacher, Mr King, for teaching me Jabberwocky. The other snippets I remember about year 6 are smelling garlic for the first time on the breath of Helen, my Greek desk mate, and sneaking into Mr King’s storeroom to find out the results of my IQ test. Sadly it was lower than my friend Megz. Damn her. Mr King – who never discovered my crime – wrote in my report card: “A quiet, hardworking lass, Alana shows a special language ability with a very wide vocabulary.”

(You can never trust the quiet ones.)

Funnily enough, those exact words could be written about my eldest, who shares my quietness, wide vocab and titian tresses. Mind you, something we don’t share from primary school is our stature. I recall still proudly squeezing into a size 6 singlet and weighing around 34 kilos when I was a year older than she is now.  But Husband informed me yesterday after a visit to the doctor that the eldest is 161cm tall and weighs 50 kilos, which sounds more like me at 21.

Blardy hell!

There were plenty of cards and messages between Husband and I in the attic as well, threatening to mess with my head. But I’ve stepped away from the teary ledge I was teetering on earlier in the week. So my main thought was: who the hell were that couple? I didn’t recognise them at all.

Who was your favourite teacher in primary school?

Song of the day: Kylie Minogue “Step back in time”



13 thoughts on “Stepping back in time

  1. u were lucky… i had mrs watson (remember dorrie & her deafening dummies??) in yr 3 & 5… mr coombes was the shining light between 2 horrid years… i remember the question ‘how do u spell…?’ & he always said ‘ask alana’… lol… i sooo wanted to b in mr kings class… relegated to the lowest coz my parents wouldnt repeat me (or thats their conspiracy theory)…

    • I arrived at Belair in Year 5 and only remember my year 6 teach Miss Stevenson. I thought she was soo mean because she would make us sit with our hands on our heads for ever “oh the pain”. I remember Mr. Coombes nicknamed me “Smiley” every time he walked past me and to this day I still get that nickname from various people.

  2. I’d love to be able to say Mrs King but the best thing about her was that we had penpals in your class and got to do an exchange visit to a school with trees and grass!
    My favourite was Mrs O’Meley though she left half way through year 5 and we got a teacher who shouted so much he was known as Megaphone Mahony!

  3. Ah, Belair. Brought back memories of taking my daughter to buy the uniform to start kindergarten there. No way, was she going to wear a ‘gween’ dress, lol. She still hates green.

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