In the Netherlands children enter the schoolsystem at age 4. They start when they turn 4 in classes where you mostly play, with some playful education thrown in, until the children are about 6 years old, when they enter the class where you start to learn how to read and write. At my school, Het Kompas, there were three of these ‘not-quite-school’ classes, class 1, class 1.5 (I’m still not sure why we had this class and not every child went here) and class 2. The teacher of class 1 was Miss N., I have no idea who the teacher of class 1.5 was, except that it was a woman, and the teacher of class 2 was Miss M. You stayed at this school, called primary school, until age 12. Then you’d go to high school until graduation at age 16, 17, or 18, depending on what level of education you were getting.
My first memory of class one is from my very first day there. It was a kind of introduction day and I only spent a few hours there, if that. My mother was also there that day. I had grabbed a jigsaw puzzle and turned it over, not realizing it was a special puzzle. Instead of the normal, one layer, it had three layers. The bottom one was a caterpillar in several pieces, then on top of that there was a cocoon and at the very top it was a butterfly. It was much too difficult for me and I got really frustrated. I think in the end either my mother or Miss N. helped me? I don’t really recall.
What is perhaps most vivid in my mind from this period is my friend E. We met at school and were best friends. As long as I’ve known her, she suffered from cancer. When she started school, she’d already been fighting it for over a year, if not two, and had lost all of her hair due to chemotherapy. She always wore headscarves or hats. One of the things I remember most vividly about her is the fact that she always brushed her teeth after lunch. All of the other kids I knew, including myself, only brushed in the morning and at night. I do know her Mom was really strict about it. Now, looking back on it, it probably had something to do with her weakened immune system, but at the time, it was just a weird quirk, nothing more.
Another very vivid memory of this year is connected to E. There was a boy in our class, I have no clue what his name was, who was teasing E. He pulled her hat off, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. In those years I had a pretty explosive temper and now I was very, very angry. I grabbed him by the throat and pushed him up against the wall. Basically, I was choking him. Our teacher, Miss N., told me to put him down but she had to say it several times before I did, that’s how angry I was. I’m sure I was punished for it, but I don’t remember that. I do remember that Miss N. was very shocked, but honestly, it wasn’t that hard to shock her. I also remember that boy never teased E. again.
The last memory I have from this class is a P.E. lesson. I know it’s from this class because my friend S. was there and this was the only class we were in together, seeing as that he skipped class 1.5 and I didn’t. We were indoors and had to walk/run a track with obstacles. I jumped of a higher level, as required. Unfortunately, I ended up literally jumping on top of S., who was running below. I hit the top of his head with my chin, resulting in a teeth through my bottom lip for me. I never liked P.E., perhaps this was where the hate started?
I have no memories of this class whatsoever. Isn’t that weird? It must not have been very memorable. I can’t even remember the teacher’s name. I do know that S. skipped this class, marking the ending of our time of being in the same class. We kept and still keep in touch, but we never again shared a class.
Class 2 was led by one of my favorite teachers from my primary school, Miss M. She was always cheerful, always willing to listen, and later on, one of the very few teachers who I felt was on my side. One of the vivid memories I have of her is that she would always sit on the bench near the sandbox on a cushion during recess, on the schoolyard for the classes 1, 1.5, and 2.
In this year, there was a great party at our school. I think it was because the school existed for a certain number of years. There were a lot of different activities. E. and I sang (playbacked?) a song from the band Kinderen Voor Kinderen, called Groen (Green). It was a lot of fun! But at the end, someone forgot to stop the tape and the next song, Lege Plekken In De Klas (Empty Spots In The Class) started. So we sang that too!