Cloverdale Public School
I started kindergarten in 1966 at the age of four since my November birthday was after the school year began. This was both good and bad. I barely spoke English, although I learned fast from a combination of TV shows and school. The issue was that I barely spoke. Even as the communication issue dissolved, I stayed an outsider, being younger, smaller and much shyer than my peers. I stayed painfully shy all throughout my school years.
Although I was, of course, toilet trained, I was too shy one day to ask the teacher to excuse me to go to the bathroom and had a #1 accident on the floor of the classroom. The kindergarten teacher Mrs. Bagshaw (who I realized later – after I had a larger sample size – was the meanest teacher I ever had, perhaps the meanest teacher any Canadian child ever had) immediately blamed another child, a little boy, and slapped him.
There were a lot of rules in Mrs. Bagshaw’s classroom. Toys could only be played with in the middle section of the room (as demarcated by taped lines). Naptime was at the back of the room, near the coat closets, on the floor on bath towels we brought from home. (I did so love my cheerful orange and white striped towel, which I unexpectedly found in the bathroom of my mom’s condo about five years ago when I was visiting). Snow boots and coats had to be removed, the coats hung on the right pegs in the closet with the boots placed neatly below the coats.
One time I sat down on the floor and started playing with a toy in the “wrong” part of the room. The teacher’s face grew pinched and purple. She grabbed me, angrily spitting out, “That is NOT! where you play with that toy!” as she dragged me by one arm across the room to the “right” spot near the play house. In those days, kids didn’t tell their parents about events like that at school (what happens at school stays at school) and, even if we had squealed, parents supported the teachers’ right to corporal punishment and applauded rather than litigated. If you were bad enough to go to the principal’s office, you might find yourself at the receiving end of a cane to the bottom. Apparently, teachers or principals could slap, drag, or cane children with impunity in the public school system of that era.