Matthew 4 v 23 – 25
When I was a Lad at School
During the COVID pandemic arguably the most controversial aspect has been the education system and the disruption to our schools. My daughter, who is a teacher, was explaining to me her new role of teaching on line using her lap top and the internet rather than the classroom. While we were talking my grandson was addressing complicated mathematical equations on his lap top as part of his school on line studies.
I started to think about my recollections of school life in the late 1950s. My lap top at that time was a chalk board which was kept in a box by the classroom door, (no health and safety considerations, anyone by the chalk board box was in danger of being battered by the door). Next to the chalk boards was a biscuit tin full of white chalk sticks which we used to copy the letters of the alphabet, written by the teacher, from the blackboard at the front of the class. When we had filled our chalk board with letters we would clean it with the sleeve of our jumper or leg of our short trousers, and we would start again. At the end of the lesson the chalk board monitor would collect the boards from everyone and put them back in the box, dodging the door.
That brings me onto another point, who decided who the classroom monitors would be? It was always the same people but never me. Every time a monitor was required we went through the same procedure, the teacher would say. ‘We want two strong boys to carry the milk crate, two to give out the bottles, and two to give out the straws’. I think the selection process was unfair as no matter how hard I thrust my arm into the air I was never picked. The two boys would bring the milk crate into the classroom and place it in front of the radiator, two other people would hand out the bottles and two more would hand out the straws, (who know where the fingers had been before handling the straws). All this gave the school milk its particular school milk flavour similar to wall paper paste.
There was a multitude of class monitor jobs, pencil monitor, book monitor, milk monitor, but the favourite job was undoubtedly the bell monitor. This person had the job of ringing the bell at playtime, and it was always a girl, never me. This obviously left me with a complex for the rest of my life against bell ringing.
Sometimes we had a visit from the school nurse and we all had to que up in the hall and file past her while she rummaged through our hair, looked in our ears and at our finger nails. The school nurse always had a funny look on her face as if she had encountered a bad smell.
Play time was good and we could run around and let off steam. It was a favourite to fasten the top button of our coat under our chin and let it flow out behind as a cloak. This immediately transformed us into The Lone Ranger or Rob Roy or whoever was the hero of the day.
Some of the older boys would bring something into school from home and start a ‘craze’ and everyone would want one like it. One such craze was a whip and top but the teacher eventually confiscated them as they were too dangerous even with the relaxed attitude to health and safety. The next day the same boy brought in a magnifying glass and started to melt the paint on the school fence using the rays of the sun. The teacher confiscated the magnifying glass as well.
We did have Conker competitions in autumn and there were many scientific ways of treating your conker to make a winner over all the others. Marinating it in vinegar was a favourite or baking it in the oven, but none seemed to be effective.
I always found it strange that at the end of the day, before we could go home, we had to lift up our chairs and place them on top of our desk. Any other part of the day this would have been a criminal offence but at the end of the day it was permitted. It never entered my head that it could be to help the cleaner who came into school when we had gone home. I thought it was some ritual like saying a prayer and singing a children’s hymn to mark the start and end of the day.
In Paul’s letters to the churches in Rome and Corinth he stresses the importance of learning from the Gospels and emphasises to the believers that their faith cannot be strong without the knowledge and wisdom attained from the teaching of Jesus Christ. There is no better source of Jesus’s teaching than in the Gospel of Matthew.
Matthew was a Jew writing for the Jews explaining Jesus’s teaching on a way of life that will be righteous in the eyes of God. These include the Beatitudes, teaching about the Law, teaching about anger, adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, love, charity, prayer, riches in Heaven and possessions.
Most important are Jesus’s teaching of salvation and the Good News of everlasting life in the Kingdom of Heaven.
No wonder Paul puts so much emphasis on the need to learn through the Gospel.
The great thing about school was that you mixed with all sorts of characters, some who were a good influence and some who were not so good. It is part of the growing up process to separate the two extremes and feed from the positive while rejecting the negative.
One thing that is certain that learning is not a process that is just for schools, it is a process that continues throughout life.