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In the last few days I’ve been afflicted with a wave of nostalgia for grade six. I’m not sure what did it. Actually, I know what did it, but I don’t get how it works. I was typing something about forced labour, and then I remembered that year we did so much hard labour that on one occasion my hands were left injured and bleeding (but don’t worry, I volunteered!), and then for some reason I thought, “Wow, I miss those days…”

See, I told you it didn’t make sense.

Grade six really was awesome, though. My best friend and I were determined to be different. Whatever everyone else did, we had to do the opposite. We were hyperactive and creative and we did what we wanted. We took an admirable attitude to everything we did: do everything you’re told to do, and do it to the best of your ability. I’m sure a lot of my teachers would appreciate it if I still had this attitude now.

They’re clearly not as inspiring as my grade six teacher, though. My grade six teacher was awesome. I mean, okay, so half our English work was about sport, and a lot of our other work was also about sport, and he was kind of sports-obsessed, and he liked growing horrid hairstyles (I still remember the moustache… and then the mullet!) to piss us off, and it was practically his life to make fun of students. Oh yeah, and then he had those hare-brained schemes about helping the community. But come on, it was ALL in good fun. And despite all of that he WAS awesome.

The most memorable of his hare-brained schemes was “save the grassy knoll”. Basically, there was this hill that had once been grassy. Then one day, a ton of gravel was dumped on it and the grass died.

My teacher decided it was my class’s duty to clean up the whole area for the benefit of others. This meant moving thousands of pieces of gravel, BY HAND.

Everyone else in my class thought this idea was the most horrible idea they’d ever heard. But like I said, my best friend and I were determined to be different. We decided to stand out from the crowd. “HELL YES, MOVING TONS OF GRAVEL BY HAND!” we cried. And we were determined to be the best gravel-movers there ever were.

It wasn’t the first time we volunteered for a task like that, either. Grade 5/6s at my school had two duties: bell duty, and bin duty. The former involved ringing the bell at the start and end of every class, and there was MASSIVE competition for who got control over that. EVERYONE wanted the authority to decide when classes began and ended. The latter chore involved carrying stinky rubbish bins between the bike shed and their proper locations before school, and vice versa after lunch, and NO ONE wanted to do that. Teachers usually had to force people against their will. But not my best friend and I; we volunteered.

Furthermore, we were determined to be the most efficient, cheerful bin monitors the school had ever seen. And we succeeded. The school was so overawed by our selflessness and our commitment to duty that they rewarded us with textas at a big assembly, so they could show off our selflessness and try to inspire everyone to be selfless like us. I don’t think it worked. Everyone else thought we were insane.

Returning to the story of “save the grassy knoll”, our teacher kept dropping subtle hints about how good it would be if people “saved the grassy knoll” in their own time, rather than just when it was compulsory. This gave my best friend an idea, and one lunchtime, we spent it trying to be the best grassy knoll savers there ever were. We worked in a frenzy, picking up sharp pieces of gravel as rapidly as possible and running them to the bin. We chatted and raced each other to see who could work fastest and laughed, and it was really great fun.

The only problem was that afterwards, we realised we’d managed to cut our hands on the gravel so badly that we were going to have trouble doing silent reading. So we explained ourselves to our teacher. “Well, we were saving the grassy knoll, and…”

Not that he minded, God no. Instead, he BEAMED with JOY. “REALLY?” he asked. “A hundred house points to each of you!”

At this, one of my classmates perked his head up. “We get a hundred house points just for saving the grassy knoll?”

“Not YOU, cretin. Only if you mutilate your hands, as these girls did, do you get a hundred house points!”

“Oh. I don’t think I’ll try it, then.”

Seriously, I’m not sure why all these memories came floating back so suddenly, but they did and now I just don’t feel right until I’ve rambled at length about them. Which I’ve now done, so yay! Mission accomplished.

It is pretty funny to compare my attitude then to my attitude now. If a teacher NOW tried to tell me it was my duty to move thousands of pieces of gravel by hand, or to drag around an army of rubbish bins, I would tell them they could dream on. IN FACT, even when I was SUPPOSED to be cleaning the school gym in detention, I refused.

It’s not that my positive attitude to such work is entirely gone. At school, our common room is trashed by lazy, inconsiderate fellow students all the time, and a few other people and I have taken it upon ourselves sometimes to force the room into some semblance of cleanliness. It’s done even though it’s a thankless task and it’s just going to be equally trashed the next day. It’s not really unpleasant either, although that’s mainly because it’s my choice. If I were being forced, I can see that I’d resent it.

So I don’t know what I’m nostalgic for, really. Maybe just the mad energy with which my best friend and I worked at times. Or maybe the days when the ideas of “selflessness” and “duty” didn’t make me dissolve into cynical laughter. Or maybe I just miss the fact that I never injure myself through selflessness any more…?


One Comment

  1. Aww, that is so cute. I love those little bouts of nostalgia. Thanks for sharing your stories. ❤

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