Back in School

Convent (left) Church(middle) and School (right) from above

I watched the news last night, saw the pictures of our “new” old schools and I while I am glad they made them safer, I feel saddened at the same time. Many of the schools now look like prisons. The school shootings have left marks. Locked and guarded doors, steel walls, double entrees and armed security guards on duty are now the norm in many schools.

I can’t help, but think about the boarding school I went to so many years ago. Back then it felt like a prison but now, after so many years I can’t help but smile when old, treasured memories came back to me.

There was a big double door at the entry to my boarding school. An older nun welcomed the students, teachers, and guests from all over the world. She was easily distracted and we all took advantage of it.

The gate to the outside world

Right across the street, there was a small Mom-and-Pop store, and to this day I truly believe they made their living solely on our allowances. The store was stocked with sodas, candy, sandwiches, pastries and the teenager magazines we couldn’t live without. Even cigarettes could be bought, the laws in Europe were not so strict when I was young.

Right under the eyes of the nuns and teachers, we run out and hid behind the bushes. That’s where I smoked my first cigarette, with other kids who longed to be all grown up, just like me.

The fourth window from the left right under the roof was my room. I shared it with three other girls.

All kids were asked to go outside to get some fresh air, during our morning break. Summer or winter, rain or shine, we spend 20 minutes in a small garden that was surrounded by walls that seemed to have eyes and ears.

We never knew if a nun or teacher was watching through one of the big windows. We were willing to endure our punishment with grace -if caught. The smell of warm sandwiches and pastry was too strong, and a piece of buttered bread and a fresh apple -the snack food that was offered- couldn’t hold us back.

Leaving school unallowed was a test and we were eager to pass. Failure was not an option, the consequences were brutal. The poor souls that got caught had to weed the garden for weeks, or they worked in the kitchen in the afternoon and helped to prepare our dinners.

One of us distracted the nun, while two of us were hiding, just waiting for the right moment to run.

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The guarded entry back to school

The store owners knew we would come by. Sandwiches were ready for pickup, pastries were lined up right at the register, so were the cigarettes and the magazines.

Of course, I got caught and since I am a farm girl, I got garden duty. Smart little me, knew what plants to pull, and I got thrown out of the garden and got promoted to clean the bathrooms instead.

I could fill books with my stories about my time in boarding school. Treasured memories of my youth.

It was a great school and it guided me and educated me in so many ways.

What I thought was a prison, was paradise compared to the school here in the U.S. today. We had the freedom to roam under the guarded eyes of teachers and nuns, who cared for us.

They knew what we were doing most of the time, they had an eye on us at all times. We just thought we were smarter!

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A beautiful view of the gymnasium!

 

8 thoughts on “Back in School

  1. This post made me consider, possibly for the first time, if it’s better to be educated in a public vs a private school. I generally know the prevalence of each in the US, but am curious as to weather one type of the other was then (in your youth) and now more prevalent. Each has its benefits and drawbacks in my mind.

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  2. I enjoyed reading about your boarding school experience! I was always a little curious about what boarding school would have been like for me. In some ways it always appealed but all I knew was from novels. Schools today are indeed a whole different experience for students. My young granddaughters speak openly of “active shooter” drills and other security measures. They’ve never known anything else so they don’t think much of it., but it makes me so sad that this is now expected and “normal,” as though that word could ever apply!

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  3. What wonderful memories beautifully told. It is so sad that so many children really are being imprisoned for their own safety in their schools. I wonder how many will look back with delight at the iron walls that enclose them. Though, I suppose in the end it is the friendships, the teachers and the learning (both curricula and not) that we imbibe to the memory banks and look back at fondly. Nonetheless ….

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  4. I think of the freedoms we had as children, it makes me sad for today’s child. We had the freedom to BE a child, explore, get into mischief. Even though I actually liked school, I still thought of the building itself as a prison of sorts and today’s schools are starting to resemble them 😕

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