My father cut my hair the day before the school began, because having long hair in Saudi schools is against the Ministry of Education rules. I was happy about attending school but at the same time I was not that excited because I did not want to get my hair cut. I did not go to pre-school, I was directly enrolled in primary school. In the first grade, my goal was to get the most attention in the class. There are many techniques that I used during my primary education to gain attention.
Phonics is a system of learning to read by sounding out the letters of the words. In Saudi schools, it is common to use phonics to study the English language in the primary grades. Many of the English words have funny sounds. I learned that just randomly making these sounds in class when I got bored was amusing to me and the other students. So, when the class was dull, I would liven it up.
“Ooooo.” I would say in class.
There would be snickering from the students.
“What was that?” the teacher would ask.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I was just thinking about phonics. Ooooo.”
Laughter would erupt.
“We are in math right now. Please focus on the task at hand.”
“Sorry” I would reply.
The teacher never figured out for the whole year that this was a game to entertain myself and others. The “sssssss” and “shhh” were among my other favorite sounds to practice. I never even got in trouble since I was being “studious” and “interested in my studies.”
Somewhere over the couple of months between second grade and third grade something happened. I stopped growing and everyone else had a growth spurt. I started the school year in the same clothes that I had worn to second grade and everyone else had new stuff since their old stuff had gotten too small. I tried to stand on my toes, but it made my feet and legs ache. My neck was getting sore from looking up at everyone all of the time. I was getting picked last for sports since I was now slower than everyone else. Something had to be done.
Birth of the “fun-sized student!”
I decided to market my size as a cute and adorable, fun-sized package that was unique since no one else in the class was as small as me.
It actually worked! My super positive self-image transferred to others and my size became a positive commodity!
Fourth grade began in a new way in school. Ms. Da, a student teacher, was available to help any student who needed assistance with grammar or math basic skills. Well, I was able to figure out that this had to be done during boring drill times or the stupid activity periods.
How does one assure time with the incredible young, pretty, and super-sweet Ms. Da? Fail the beginning of the year assessment tests!
Even though I did well in third grade, it is quite amazing how I remembered less than anyone else over the holiday break. I needed to spend quite a bit of one on one time with Ms. Da to be brought up to speed with my grammar and math skills. I also had to participate in review games and activities with peers.
All of my hard work won me an award after the first assessment period which included being the first to be served lunch out of the entire fourth grade! Hard work does pay off!
Whoever thought that it was a good idea to let drill sargants teach the fifth grade was stupid. One day one of the school year we were taught to march into our classroom to our seats and stand at attention until we were told to sit down. I learned that this was not the time to joke to a friend about being paid to go to class since we were in the army. That was trip one of hundreds to what became my corner for the year. The drywall actually got an indentation from my nose being against it so often. The floor sags where me feet so often stood. My desk was barely used. No last day of school could have ever come as fast as that one needed to come or actually crawled as slowly as that one actually did.
All of a sudden the amount of homework received has tripled. Something has to be done. Labor unions, organized labor unions, rallies, protests, strikes, these are the answers! We can become “involved” as our teacher says, in our studies and use what history has taught us and take a stand and demand less homework.
I organize the troops, rally at lunch, and get everyone to sign a petition! This is really going to send a message where it needs to be sent, to the class tyrant, the teacher. This Tuesday will go down in school history.
Wednesday morning I can hardly wait until it is time for the teacher to do our homework checks and we start our rally and stand united as one! We enter the class, and the teacher calls for all homework to be put on the desk. I smile and sit back, and wait. Everyone else digs into their book bags and pulls out their homework! What happened to our united front? Some look at me with pity, others shrug. I sit, alone, with an empty desk. When the teacher gets there, I try to explain that we were supposed to use our social studies lesson to unite and demand less, but I become a coward and say I was sick. I get detention. So much for a social phenomenon for history, instead, I get to sit for just another hour in a desk.
Jocks. Popular kids. Dweebs. Nerds. Whoever came up with creating a social hierarchy in schools? Why do we live by them? Why do we care? Can I be the one to bring it all down?
Somehow, I can interact well with all of the different groups and no one seems to mind. I do not think that I actually can be placed into a particular group. That is another good thing. Why is so much time spent in school worrying about this social nonsense rather than on school work?
There are too many kids in my class that are upset by where they are placed, grouped, live within the hierarchy. Just last year, it did not seem to matter. I wish it would go away.
Finding out who one’s true friends are is so important. It is amazing how one can think that someone is their best friend one day and the next day that same person acts as if one does not even exist. It seems as though much of the literature that has been read in school is there to help support us though these difficult times and help us find the strength to make these tough choicces.
Finding out who you are is essential. Whoever would have thought one assignment in one class could make this so real. The assignment had two parts: the first part was write you epitaph and the second was to write your eulogy and decide who would deliver it and why. Wow. That really makes one think about priorities and what one does in life that really is important.
Realizing that the years are flying by, knowing that I have much I want to accomplish before I finish secondary school, I realize I need to prioritize because I thought I could do everything but now I realize that I need to make choices in order to just make it through. What needs to be done? What can wait to see if there is time? What really is not important at all? These are tough but important questions.
Narrowing down the choices about where I want to go in life and what I want to do with my life is difficult. I used to think the possibilities were endless and time was infinite but now I am staring reality in the face. College is just around the corner. I cannot study everything. I need to make some decisions. I need to decide who is best to help me make those choices. Most of all, I fear making mistakes that I will regret.
Having doubts about my decisions and many questions is something that I agonize over every day. The choices and decisions that I make now will impact the rest of my life. Undoubtly, I can go back and make some changes to some things, but not everything will be able to be undone. In some ways I feel like an adult, but in others I remain a child. These choices are confusing, difficult, important, and essential.