The institutions of my youth

Last updated 12:31 14/09/2012

Before yesterday I'd never really considered what it might be like if the schools I went to no longer existed. It's just not something that has ever occurred to me. I mean, I don't in the course of a normal day spend much time reminiscing about my school days, unless I happen to be having one of my infrequent catch-ups with high school friends.

But I suppose that yesterday wasn't exactly a normal day.

When I saw the headline that said dozens of schools in Christchurch would be closing or merging, I did what any normal person does. I scanned the list for the names of the schools I went to. With some dismay I learned that I'd scored a full house. My primary school is to be merged. My intermediate is to close, and my high school is to be relocated.

I haven't been to any of these schools in years and yet I felt very sad. I hold great fondness for my primary school, I cringe at the thought of my intermediate and I belatedly have come to appreciate my high school. And despite having nothing to do with any of them for a long time, I still think of them as mine. Schools do that to you, I think. They put their mark on you. They are the places in which you find out who you are and what you can do.

For instance, it's not for no reason that I avoid the colour bottle-green at all costs. It comes from wearing the colour every weekday for five years, excepting holidays when strategically ripped jeans, fluoro T-shirts and kung fu shoes were the garments of choice. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe the bottle-green wasn't so bad?

School. It scars you for life (and teaches you to have better taste in casual wear).

Much is often made of the Christchurch propensity to inquire as to which school you might have been to and it's often given as evidence of a certain kind of snobbery.

I'm sure that's probably true of some people. There is an old boys' network that presumably needs some mechanism to identify its members beyond the wearing of the school tie and a smug facial expression. But most Christchurch people aren't in the old boy's network. Take me, for instance. But then I went to Linwood High. We didn't have many people we could justifiably look down on so snobbery was never a motivating reason for asking what school people went to. Usually the answer to that question was followed by "oh, were you there at the same time as...?" There are only a couple of degrees of separation in Christchurch, after all.

I'm not going to claim to be nostalgic for my school days. I remember them as a time of unpredictable skin, awkwardness and insecurity. I wouldn't go back even if I had some magical ability to do so. Being a teenager sucks and serves as a "things could be worse" perspective keeper as we struggle with the stresses of adult life. The "at least you don't feel weird about your body/sexuality/place in the universe/missed opportunity at being Mrs Johnny Depp" mood enhancer, if you will.

But it's fair to say that a lot of the memories of your early life are made at school. A school is more than just jungle gym equipment and classrooms. It is greater than the sum of its parts.

And that's why people in Christchurch are feeling unhappy today. That's why they're angry and upset. I don't work at a school, or have kids who attend one and even I am surprised at how disappointed and aggrieved I am by this turn of events.

Part of this is down to the fact that we've lost so much already. But we'd mostly come to terms with that. All the buildings we'll never be in again - so many you could spend all day listing them - all the familiar things we miss, the people that we've lost. We've managed through that and it hasn't been fun but earthquakes can't be reasoned with. We were at the mercy of natural forces.

But how much more do we have to have taken away from us? Just how "resilient" can we be expected to be? I don't know a person who can stand to hear the word "resilient" any more, by the way. We felt like we'd got through the worst of it, we really did.  The earth has settled significantly. I actually can't remember the last time I felt an earthquake. That statement in itself feels miraculous. But now, for a lot of the city, the world has suddenly and unexpectedly turned topsy turvy all over again. And we're not resilient actually, we're bloody fed up.

We don't understand why this is happening the way that it's happening and I personally am not best pleased that the Minister of Education doesn't seem at all inclined to actually answer reasonable questions as they are put to her by journalists. It strikes me as a touch disrespectful, actually. In fact, it makes me furious.

So here's to Linwood Ave Primary, Linwood Intermediate and Linwood College (formerly high school). It seems that things are about to change for you, the institutions of my youth. We didn't always get along but I'll miss you when you go (if you go).

Christchurch question: Which school did you go to? Person question: How would you feel if it wasn't there any more?

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- Stuff

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Anne   #1   12:44 pm Sep 14 2012

I totally agree Moata. What is going to happen when te families that left, start retuning? How are the children from Linwood Intermediate and Bromley Schools going to all fit into Linwood Ave? There is no room to expand!

samm   #2   12:54 pm Sep 14 2012

"How would you feel if it wasn't there any more?"

If it was my high school (a certain catholic boys college near Upper Hutt), I'd be first in line to volunteer to drive the bulldozer.

His Lordship   #3   12:55 pm Sep 14 2012

This Papanui High old boy (class of 93) feels your loss.

Davo   #4   01:00 pm Sep 14 2012

I don't really know what to feel about this. The primary school, intermediate school, and high school, that I went to are all merging into one Year 1-13 "superschool". I am sure there must be other places where this has happened, but i havent heard of it, and I am not sure how it would all work. I understand it though...the east has less people, they need less schools. Whereas the area I am in now is growing rapidly, and has been earmarked for more schools. I guess it makes sense when you look at it like that, and try and remove some of the sentimentality. But i agree...for some it will gurt. The way I look at it, I lost all the things dear to me in the last few years. This is just a continuation of that.

Davo   #5   01:02 pm Sep 14 2012

P.S. One more thing...I had family who went to the three schools you went to, and would be about your age (not that I actually know your age of course, somewhere in your thirties?). You probably know them!

linwood chick   #6   01:05 pm Sep 14 2012

I also went to Linwood Primary, Linwood Intermediate and Linwood High - in the same year as you Moata. I haven't really given them much thought either but I too feel really sad at what has happened. There are always good and bad things about your school years but the fact that the schools will no longer be around is upsetting. Thankfully my eldest child's high school hasn't been affected by the changes but we are waiting to hear about my youngest's primary school and my heart goes out to all the parents, teachers and student's who face more disruption.

Joeyjo   #7   01:14 pm Sep 14 2012

Down here in Dunedin 3 schools were 'merged' into one to all be on site of one original school. Over a year later from when the 'merge' was due to happen building hasn't even begun and all schools are still operating with students from the 'offsite' schools having to be transported back and forth from the school 'site' as there is no room. No building has begun and these children and parents have been (and still are) stressed, upset... and this is ongoing with no end in sight. To contemplate doing this to children who have already suffered enough is beyond me and makes me very angry. Two of my schools no longer exist which makes me very sad. To be a christchurch child who has lost so much already, to lose their school,part of their identity, unnecessarily would be heartbreaking. The Ministry of Education needs to front up and be honest.

rumpelsnorcack   #8   01:17 pm Sep 14 2012

I didn't grow up in Christchurch so the 'where did you go to school' question doesn't really work for me. But my kids are growing up here and they are going to a school that is 'firmly proposed' to be merged with another. We are all extremely upset. It's part of us, it's where the community gathered to get water and to catch up during the terrible time after the earthquakes. It's a school where a group of parents set up a home school after Feb so the kids would have some normality in their lives. It's a school we all care about deeply; it's a school the community goes in to bat for regularly. Most parents would walk over broken glass for the school. And now it's going. For all the spin of this as a 'merger' we will be moving to the other school's site. They will still have their grounds, their classrooms, their identity still around them. We, our community, our kids, we don't get that. We get to go into an alien place where things already have a culture and we have to fit in, a culture that is markedly different to the one at our school.

Listen to me 'our' this and 'our' that. But that's how it feels. It's our place, our school, and now we will lose it.

m   #9   01:18 pm Sep 14 2012

Thank you for putting my thoughts in to words. Couldn't agree more.

Rose   #10   01:22 pm Sep 14 2012

Although I have lived in Christchurch most of my adult life, I have been able to follow this story as an outsider as I didn't go to school here. As I also don't have any children, it hasn't personally affected me. It's beginning to sound like I don't have any ties here at all! I did move here as soon as I had finished school (an area school in rural Nelson), and have lived here long enough to find the idea of Boy's and Girl's High merging with Shirley and Avonside quite amusing, due to the whole school snobbery thing. It sounds like that is very unlikely to happen though.

It would be strange if my old school was closed down. That is unlikely though, as it is an area school miles from any other schools. It has shrunk a bit since I left, and when I went for a look a couple of years back, it was strange to see that all the relocatable classrooms that had been there the whole 13 years I was there had all been taken away.


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