First Born has now been at school for five weeks. He’s already broken one lunchbox, started using hair product and has requested ‘a big hair spike like Astro boy’. Just this week, he read a book all by himself, sounding out his letters, pointing at the words with his finger. In just five short weeks he’s transformed from an oversized pre-schooler to a boy who is all legs, arms and eyes underneath a gigantic school hat.
First Born’s prep classroom is across the corridor from my own prep classroom, where I attended my first year of school nearly 30 years ago. The shell of the prep building is the same as it was in 1985, a ‘portable’ made of aluminium boards and tall timber steps with a metal hand rail. The building has undergone some minor modifications: in the long corridor there are now fixed shelving units for school bags, instead of hooks, each cubby hole carefully decorated by its owner. The classrooms are still divided by concertina walls, their alabaster vinyl slightly tatty at the edges; the classroom sink is fitted out with wood veneer doors and an orange laminate bench top that reminds me of pungent curry powder.
There are now five prep classes, there were only two back in my year. In the last 10 years we’ve seen a southward migration of families from the cramped, over-priced inner city to the bigger, shrubby blocks of this once sleepy, now swelling, seaside town.
Where trees once dominated the school landscape, the yard is now crowded with colourful towers of play equipment. The big old pine trees that used to creak, moan and sway above our games of Star Wars and ‘mothers and babies’ have all been cut down. I presume it was for safety reasons, although I honestly can’t remember a single pine cone related injury in my school days. In place of the pines, there is a sensory garden, a small plot dedicated to herbs and native shrubs. While I roll my eyes at the title, the preps are completely unaware of the trite name of the place: here, they still play wild. On most days, they’re still playing Star Wars and ‘mothers and babies’.