It was the first day back after Christmas holidays and at Sutherland Primary school the air buzzed with excitement. Who would be my new teacher? Would I be in the same class as my friends from the year before?
Mrs Pretty, the beautiful blonde teacher guided us to our seats from the year before. While Mrs Brains, an ancient relic who had taught at the school since before its inception, fussed about looking very busy. The air smelt of new shoes.
We each sat wearing shades of grey, waiting for our names to be called and for our futures to be sealed. The two-person desks still had ink wells and fancy wrought iron legs from another era. Etched into the solid wood were the initials of many forgotten children who had all tried so hard to be remembered. I sat beside Scott. I have forgotten his last name.
The principle stood before us and announced that when our names were called we would leave to take up our places in our new class, in our new lives. Those who’s names were not called would stay seated, they would be ‘held back’ or ‘repeating’ year one. As if it would make some difference to the outcome both Scott and I sat straight in our chairs with our hands clasped together in front. The word ‘repeated’ had been wielded as freely as the feather duster for my whole scholastic life. As the youngest in my year it was an incentive, a threat, I had heard the word ‘repeat’, repeated too often.
The names were called and the room slowly emptied. Scott and I sat straighter with each passing moment. They made it clear that ‘repeating’ meant no shame, but we knew what it meant. I prayed that I wouldn’t be one of the stupid kids, I prayed that I would not be separated from my friends.
Only five of us remained, Scott and I sat so still that we trembled. My name was called and I jumped to my feet and scurried towards the door. Before I left the room I looked back to my friend Scott, but he did not look at me. His eyes were fixed to the front of the classroom, he wasn’t even going to blink. As I left the room I heard the Principle announce that the children who were still seated would be ‘repeating’ first grade.
My new teacher was Mrs Gardener. At recces I gathered with my old class mates to discuss who was in our new classes. Scott joined us for the last time, before the day was out he was no longer one of us. I watched him as he tentatively clung to his new group of friends. I don’t remember Scott’s last name.
Today was my eldest daughters first day of year two.