My son had an interview at his new school last week. A chance to sit down and talk with the deputy principal about starting next year. This guy was amazing. My boy left the place inspired. It struck me how much better New Zealand schools are now than when I was 10.
They create great learning environments these days. Teaching is contextual. Supportive. Children are taught how to research information for themselves rather than just simply memorise what they're told.
Many of you probably think this progressive educating is a load of bollocks. That horrible, terrifying and boring schools build character. That our country's problems stem from kids not having their arses regularly whacked with sticks and bits of leather.
But would you really allow your child or grandchild to be hit by another adult? Personally I don't care who you are, stay the hell away from my child's bottom or I'll come at you with a metal ruler.
My son is smart and eager to learn. The system is great for him. But what about a dangerously thick and bratty child at an old school ... school. That was me at 7 years old. A real turd. One who deserved a hiding and got some real good ones.
I had a teacher who hated my guts. Largely because I followed him around yelling "Hendy where do you lay your eggs?". Pretty clever. "Hen" was part of his name and hens lay eggs. Brilliant.
Anyway over time the egg enquiries started to ruffle Hendy's feathers. Finally it boiled over in class. He cracked like the eggs I had been accusing him of laying. Rushed at me.
Violently grabbing the front of my desk and flipping it over. Felt tips went everywhere, The pencil groove smashed hard into my face, sending me flying across the room.
The back of my head banging hard into the desk behind me. Jesus it hurt. I was stunned.
Probably concussed. My head ringing. But Hendy wasn't done. He stood over me yelling about respect while other kids scampered away in fear.
I wish I had said something cool. Like "don't be a cock Hendy". But all I could do was cry and protect my face from the ongoing attack. Eventually poor old Hendy realised he had overshot the mark.
This kind of brutal child assault was frowned upon even then. Strapping and caning had only recently been outlawed.
I remember Hendy's hands shaking as he sat me back on my chair. He was worried and asked me to stay after class. Where he apologised. So I didn't tell my parents. Instead claiming I'd fallen over playing bullrush.
The next day was great. Hendy's public hiding made me hugely popular among my peers. Best thing that ever happened to me. Still makes me smile to this day.
Did I deserve what I got? Definitely. Did it make me respect authority more? Hell no. I hit him with a "where do you lay your eggs" from behind a hedge just a few days later.
Sadly old Hendy is no longer with us. He will be missed. Handy too. Because he probably remembers this whole thing very differently.
Going back to last week. One of the first questions my boy was asked at his school interview was "what do you think makes a good teacher?" He answered "a nice fun one, who helps us learn lots, like the one I've got, He's really cool." I feel very lucky good people stand up and do their best for our children. They're heroes.
There is no way my boy could even comprehend a bottom whacking, hand strapping, desk flipping teacher. Equally he would never run an egg-laying line of humour on an authority figure. It's a two-way street. The truth is most teachers and students are better than they used to be.
The past is full of missed educational opportunities. If only Hendy had just told me where he lays his eggs, we could have been friends.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.