High School – Take 1

High School – Take 1

In 1986 I changed schools from New Horizons to St Michaels Convent School. Yes, I went to a convent. I only have a handful of memories of my time there, most of them surrounding my boyfriend of 3 months in 1992, but the years prior to that all blend in to one. However, today I had a memory. I remember the punishments they would dole out for various indiscretions. If you talked in class too much, or didn’t do your homework for a damned good reason (a signed note from your parents was enough to excuse the homework issue) they would make you stand outside the classroom by the door for the whole class period. For some it was a mark of shame – for others, it was a sign of how truly bad ass they were. I believe for a few years you had to kneel outside the classroom, but I don’t think that lasted very long.

They didn’t get rid of being on your knees entirely though, that would have been too easy on the kids. At the beginning of every day, you were required to stand in lines according to your class and section in front of a designated big white stone block (it was considered very badass to go stand in a line that wasn’t yours) and your teachers would walk down the line and make sure you were at attention. There would be a few “Attention! Stand at Ease!” commands, and then we would sing the national anthem. After the national anthem came the school song (which is worth taking a look at if you have the time – it’s at the end of the post) and then we would all file in to the building from various entrances. One staff member (sometimes two) was posted at each entrance, and they studied us to ensure that we were appropriately attired and had not in any way deviated from the assigned uniform. If you were found to have some problems in your uniform, you were pulled out of line and various punishments were devised.

Transgressions included (punishments in brackets):
1) Long Hair on boys (having your hair cut off by the staff)
2) Wrong Shoes (confiscation of shoes and walk barefoot the rest of the day)
3) Wrong belt (confiscation of belt)
4) Nail Polish (hand was smacked with a bladed ruler)
5) Make up
6) Wrong Uniform
7) Wrong Veil type thing
8) Jewelry of any kind
9) Loose hair for girls
10) Being in a line of the opposite sex
11) Wearing the wrong sweater in the winter (confiscation of sweater – bad news)

We were segregated so being in a line with a boy was a big no no. But all of these could have additional punishments tacked on to them. The favourite of which was having the kids kneel in front of the school on the concrete (or sandy) ground for an unspecified amount of time. The sun could come out, it could rain, but you had better stay out there on your knees and suffer otherwise they would make you stay out there longer.

My purpose in recounting this isn’t so much like, “Woe is me and my punishments” its more about remembering an aspect of my youth I had forgotten and thinking in astonishment how much like prison that school seemed to be. Astounding.

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