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Commentary: School is in session

What do you remember about your school years?
Memorable moments in the school system. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

Another school year is underway. It seems only a short time ago kids anxiously waited for the last day of class in June so they could run screaming with glee from the hallowed halls of learning, and fling themselves on the sofa at home to moan, “I’m bored.” 

One of my favourite jobs is to help kids learn spelling, punctuation and sentence structure. Needless to say, it’s not their favourite job. Before the term ended, I went with a small group to a nearby town for an Industrial Arts class. There was already a large class of kids busily tapping on computers as we entered the room, and I wandered about the area looking over their shoulders.

Pausing beside one boy, I leaned in and spoke to him, “None of your sentences begin with capital letters. Please change them.” He twisted round slowly and deliberately to peer up into my face with surprise.

“What?” he asked in a disbelieving tone, a frown forming over his eyes. “This is shop class. It doesn’t matter.”

“It always matters,” I replied crisply. “Please correct it.” Moving away, I overheard him whispering to one of the boys from my school, seated nearby, who then turned to him and sighed deeply. “Look, we call her the grammar police at my school so you might as well do what she says. It’s easier that way—trust me.”

As I assist them in editing their writing, I often find sentences interesting in more ways than one. I’ve jotted down three:

1. My grate grandmother died of oldness.

2. Are nayber had a hard attack.

3. His granny lives in a nursery home.

Of course, we all hope to, one day, die simply of “oldness” and who can dispute the fact heart attacks are a hard bloody business? Furthermore, perhaps if, when reaching a certain age, we were allowed entrance into nursery homes, complete with colourful plastic toys, a sandbox and boxes filled with wax crayons, our declining years might be a whole lot more fun.

As my bus pulled away from school one day, I noticed a young lad pause at the closest intersection and assume a rather distinctive pose. Without a moment’s hesitation, he dropped his drawers and aimed a thin, yellow stream at a stop sign that stood, minding its own business, on the corner. Was this rash behavior a premeditated indictment upon traffic laws and restrictive signposts everywhere? Was it some anti-establishment act of rebellion against school and its overbearing authority in his young life? Or was it merely a small boy of six caring not for the conventions of society and the niceties of indoor plumbing? A boy disinterested in finding the concealment necessary to disguise such a deed; a boy unconcerned with the condemnation of an unwilling public forced to witness this performance (namely, a busload of kids yelling, “EEEW!”). Alas, we shall never know.

Helen lives on the family farm near Marshall, Saskatchewan. She is a writer, columnist and works in education. To contact her, or learn more about her books, go to or write Box 55, Marshall, SK. S0M1R0