It was so Dickension – the moment I headed off to the paper supply office at my school.
I had gone back into the public system after being in a small alternative school and this was my journey back into the mainstream system.
I was on what was called the ‘free list’ which meant our family was now so poor I was eligible for free paper.
The office shop lady gave me her usual once over disdainful look and said ‘And why do you need more paper so soon? Weren’t you here a short while ago’
After causing her usual amount of discomfort through a quick draw ‘you sure you need this paper’ stare. She handed it to me anyway, but I went away wondering how to write smaller and squeeze more into less space.
It wasn’t my fault I had so much to write for my assignments.
I was doing well with my book reports, social science and English projects and poetry. ‘More paper please,’ was all I could say.
I just kept going back for paper and writing more stories.
Our year 6 teacher was a former football coach and he believed in applying all his footy coaching tricks to his students. He liked to coach us in life. We ran laps of the school every day to stimulate our intellect by having our bodies fit. I remember doing ten laps I was that keen to have my brain work well.
He was imaginative, and had us deck our whole classroom out as an Egyptian scene, complete with pyramid to read in. I wrote poetry about Egypt as we were studying Ancient history and performed it at the school assembly. This was one of my highlights of year 6.
He encouraged us to make our assignments well presented in terms of how they looked, as well as the content. This was the year I learnt how to use pencil shavings to colour my paper. It was the year I mastered my cod cursive handwriting and went up 4 years in spelling age. As a treat if we did well in class or finished work early we could go and collect a mind puzzle from the school office and then solve it for the rest of class.
I collected many fun puzzle times.
One of my proudest moments was winning a big maths puzzle, that was set for the upper grades. It was a number find I think. I won a Rubics cube, back when they first came out.
Year 6 was an amazing school year, and although that office lady and I never saw eye to eye, I began to realise that there was a power in being able to write, speak and present words.
I had many opportunities, but was unable to afford school camp. Instead my memory is of two other girls from that year staying back from camp also, and we had to plan an interstate trip we would make with travel brochures. We had to do all the costings and list the places we would visit. I miscalculated some of my travel time, and was told I would be booked for speeding, but apart from that my assignment was sound.
At the time I had never been across the Tasman, to what Tasmanians call the mainland. Yet my Mum came from a far away land, Papua New Guinea and I had come out from PNG when I was under two. I didn’t know about travelling anywhere but Tasmania.
There were many other adventures and wisdoms learnt in year 6, but most important of all it was definitely a time I came to see the power of the written and spoken word.
I didn’t know that the future would hold many travels and I would make some the journeys in that assignment. Yet, even though I adore the power of the written word I often wonder –
How much of the eternal spirit can we capture on mortal paper?
(c) June Perkins