Category Archives: Education

Mind The (Dress Code) Gap

I attended a public school my entire life.  Regardless of public, private, Catholic or Non-demoninational school — all have to wear a uniform.

One of my most favourite colours to wear is grey.  Slate grey.  This is 60% intriguing and 40% amusing to me.  You see, twenty-nine years ago, I stepped into a school uniform for the very first time:  Slate grey skirt, white shirt, grey cardigan (even though it was August) and a black blazer, complete with a carefully sewn on embroidered school badge.  My tie was red and black thick diagonal stripes.

It was a curse and a God-send.

You see, ask any non-assuming Secondary School kid these days and they’d say they’d love to get the chance to wear anything they wanted to school, like the majority of their American counterparts.  If truth be known, the stringent uniform standards had slackened within the first five years after I’d left 6th year in high school.  Girls were suddenly allowed to wear trousers in the colder weather (so, basically, every month but 2 weeks in July if you ask me) and I’d also see open neck button-up shirts with a knotted, loosely draped tie.  It looked fine, but I know if I had done it, I would have been verbally reprimanded.  There had been occasional instances where people in my class would be sent home from school to go change — home being two miles away from high school, just for me.  But I was never sent home, of course.  Non-one drove to school either, the legal age to drive is 17, and by then, most have just months to go before they leave.

Looking back on everything though, I am grateful I had to wear a uniform five days a week for 13 years of my life.  I knew what I was going to wear to school that day, except maybe varying which standard issue skirt style to go for in the morning.  There were no school clothes and play clothes, they were all mine.  My vanilla uniform (with the best intentions) was (supposed) to be taken off when I got home for me to change into my skivvies.  On the flip side, I am on the brink of experiencing this with Ian.

In September he started his second year at pre-school, and, like my own experience in Nursery, gets to wear what he wants.  I would love that he could wear a uniform.  We are up to three pairs of jeans, two pairs of ‘smart’ trousers and a pair of dungarees with the knees ripped out.  I can no longer mix n’ match play and school clothes.  Then again, it definitely trips me out that next August he would be in P1, and very likely wearing a full-blown uniform.  Of course, small kids have it a little easier these days, they can don polo shirts with the embroidered school badge on the left breastage along with the option of the starched white button-choking shirt.  They also have sweatshirts in the matching blazer colour with, right, you guessed it — the embroidered school badge on the left breastage.

Back in my day . . . spit, smack, slap, knee to the groin and the complementary headbutt...

But I’m not bitter, no really, I’m not; because I walked away (mumble, cough) 16 years ago with a memento, a wee shiny thing most others don’t have:  A little blue badge.  This blue badge brought me respect amongst the terror-ridden 1st years (in HS, 11-year-old’s).  I (amongst a dozen or so others, but really, it was all me.  Gillian, if you’re reading this, shut your dirty mouth) was the connection between the staff and the pupils.  We watched out for them, kept them in their queues at the stagnated lunchtimes and helped them to class if they were lost.

The Oxford English dictionary states:

prefect: noun chiefly Brit.
A senior pupil authorized to enforce discipline in school.

Now, if I could just project my prefect powers on my small children, I would be a happy woman.

And let me just say this, I am very glad my scanner died an untimely death, I am spared from posting a high school photo.


Mind Your Grammars, Please

I used to be a great speller. I could rattle off the letters to long words without a second thought in Primary school. Before I even got words to paper, I could tell if it looked wrong in my head. The longer words were my forté, whereas the shorter, less complicated words would confound me for hour-long minutes.

I distinctly remember having a written spelling test in Primary school and working my way through every word the teacher uttered. (We don’t have Spelling Bees in the UK.) Then she said, “flew”. I stared at my paper and the tip of my pencil, perhaps hoping for some sort of inspiration. Then my eyes floated out the window as I concentrated in the word. Floo. No, that looks wrong. Flue? No, that’s not it either. What then? Flou? Long after that word was gone and the test was almost to a close, I remember whispering to a classmate, “how do you spell flew?” Having given her many answers to tests before, I felt bad for having to ask her, but not bad enough to feel guilty. She pointed to the word and suddenly the moment of clarity hit me like a ton of bricks.

That was one of only a few tests that I truly aced at the age of nine. I was the only one in the class to get 100%, and suddenly the girl who constantly copied me was furious that she had helped me get there.

I’ve never been much of a fan of misspelled words. There’s a school teacher in me somewhere brandishing a red pen and pursed lips. I remember for part of my graphic design course in College, we had to take English and Maths classes. I handed in a paper and when I got it back, he had crossed out a word I had misspelled and corrected it for me. I was mortified! What was the offending word? Embarrassed. He’d lined mine out and penned in ’embarassed’ directly above it. I privately called him out on it, stating confidently that he was wrong. He took it to the class, but no-one else was willing to back me up on take him up on the challenge. So I persisted. “Look, I know I spelt it right and I can prove it.”

I was freshly out of high school and wondered how much slack he would give me before setting a boundary. Undeterred and determine to vindicate myself, I ran down the flights of stairs to the library and grabbed the dictionary, photocopied the page and took it back to class.

“Looks like I’m going to have to change some papers I marked over the summer…” he remarked sheepishly.

Admittedly, there was one word I had been spelling wrong for years and never really realised it until I looked it up. Definitely. Too many rules and too many words spelt similarly. So, until I was 21, it was definately.

Since arriving in the States almost nine years ago now, I’ve noticed the sudden decline in my ability to spell correctly, especially off the top of my head. Is it my own demise from not using a pen and paper so much and ultimately relying on a instant spell checker as I type (and not realising it)?

I also think part of it is living in a nation where common – and perhaps not so common – things are spelt differently than Britain. I lived through three-and-a-half years in the American workforce and was compelled to spell things wrong – or different or remove hyphens where they once were.

You probably already know about words like realise, colour, harbour, honour, armour, behaviour, centre, theatre, litre, themometre and aluminium. But did you know about:

Theorise, Socialise, Analyse
Cosy, Practise (verb; noun is practice)
Defence, Licence (noun; verb is license)
Cancellation (lots more like this of adding double consonants to final roots)
Co-ordinate and Co-operation?

And don’t get me started on words I have to completely change, just to be understood a little better. It’s no wonder I can’t articulate my words as easily as I used to when I get in a group of people.  With constantly keeping the words and spellings of two nations straight in my head, I’m not surprised confusion has set in, but more surprised my brain hasn’t imploded.