I’ve decided to do a little mini series over the next few months of the key stages in my life, starting today with ‘The Kylie Days.’ I was lucky enough to grow up over a couple of decades where music was out of this world. From the age of about 3 – 6 I was obsessed with Kylie Minogue. She was the first famous person I ever ‘fangirled’ over and to this day I continue to think she is an amazing role model for children and adults. I guess you could say she was the person who got me interested in dancing. At every opportunity you would find me dancing in the front room – either naked, in a swimming costume a leotard or some kind of fancy dress outfit. I would copy the dance routines on the TV for hours on end and then go off and make up my own little routines to the music that was in the CD player at the time. When I look back at home videos of this, there’s a part of me that doesn’t recognise the girl staring back at me. I was very outgoing, confident and not camera shy at all! To be honest, I look at the clips and feel irritated at how annoying I come across!
I find it fascinating that many children find it so easy to let go of their inhibitions yet as some they get older, as they learn what’s socially acceptable, they begin to close themselves off and become timid and shy. Of course we aren’t all the same and there will be some children who were shy as children and become outgoing as adults – there isn’t a rule, I’m just basing this on me and my life. I guess in many ways I do have confidence because to teach I think that’s a personality trait you need, but I am a worrier and I care almost too much about what people think, even when it’s people I don’t know.
What hits me most about my childhood is the lack of technology I engaged with. Yes, I was in love with my first ever cassette player, my first portable CD player and then later on my Game Boy and Tetris but part from them, my childhood days were spent colouring, playing with Lego, making perfume in the garden from flower petals and water and using my imagination to play for hours with my toys. I absolutely loved writing stories and having stories read to me. There are of course children who still do all of these things but a lot of children also have so much “screen time” everyday and that makes me sad. I am aware that there are many educational apps and devices out there but for me personally, as a teacher and a grown woman, I don’t think there is anything better for a child’s development than to be making things,playing with their peers and families, exploring the world around them and by spending time by themselves with toys that evoke imagination, promote problem solving and above anything else provide them with happiness; after all, you only get one childhood so spend it taking in the world around you rather than staring down at a screen.
My imagination was always quite out there! We have never had pets in our household (allergies!) but when I was younger I was always desperate for one, and you know what they say, desperate times lead to desperate measures! I would tie rope around the handle bars of my stabilised bike and pretend it was my horse and then position all of my teddies, (who became farm animals) so that I could feed them from my basket! The all time low though was what I came to do to get over the fact that I didn’t have a dog. Goodness knows who’s bright idea it was but somehow I ended up having a ball in a sandwich bag with a long piece of string tied around it which I would then walk. Not just around my house and garden, oh no! I would also walk it around the park and down to the newsagent!! One of the worst days of my life was when one of the balls popped and technically my dog ‘died.’ I was so upset and we had to go out and purchase a new ‘dog’ ASAP! Granted I was very young and I didn’t see anything wrong with it but that don’t mean I don’t laugh uncontrollably about it now! When I was 18 mum and dad bought me one of the battery operated dogs that flip and walk because they thought I was entitled to one after my deprived childhood!!
I loved Primary School, I guess I have always been known as a bit of a geek. I was never the popular kid in the class but I always had a great circle of friends. I never felt like I properly fit in with the cool kids, it didn’t really bother me because I have always been quietly reassured that being my own person is okay. Primary School is where I made my first ever best friend – Kayleigh. We did everything together, we crimped our hair, had sleep overs (some of which I wimped out of half way through the night! I was a home bird from such a young age!) went to swimming lessons, trampolining lessons, we sang, danced and looked out for each other. We ended up at the same Secondary school too which was amazing and like some things do, sadly we did drift apart but we are in touch now which is so lovely. Seeing her become a mum, even though we aren’t close anymore made me so happy. There will always be that bond there, in a way it’s like a first love. When you look back at your childhood and you school days there will always be that one person who shaped those years for you and Kayleigh is that person for me.
I had some wonderful teachers at school and I reckon this is one of the main reasons that almost from day dot, I knew I wanted to become a teacher. School seemed so much different back then, I know I am remembering it from a pupils point of view and I am sure that even back then teaching had its troubles, stresses and strains but I just remember it being so much freer than it is now. We had time to actually make topic books and make the marble covers using ink in water. We spent ages at different times of the year doing big arts and crafts projects, we did PE in our knickers and vests to a certain age without having to worry about the teachers being inappropriate or that boys and girls should be separate to get changed. Yes we had spelling and times tables tests which terrified me but school was, on the whole fun! Everyone enjoyed watching a film in the hall at Christmas and having big parties. We loved assemblies where we would sing hymns and giggle at the boys trying to make underarm farts! Year 6 always seemed so exciting because you’d get to sit on the bench at the back during assembly and not on the floor – you’d really made it then! Although the world has changed over the past 30 years, fundamentally, children have remained the same, they want to be accepted, they want to learn and they want to have fun.
And then there were the toilets, namely the toilet roll that my school used. It was literally like using greaseproof paper to wipe your backside! Playtimes were always great fun – rolled up socks were banned at one point (the start of health and safety?!), but we loved playing IT, stuck in the mud and bulldog. In the summer when we used the field we would continue to play these games but would also spend time making daisy chains and later on pretending we were in The Spice Girls! Practising cartwheels and round-offs always occupied us and in Year 6 we all had to take it in turns to muck out and look after Guinness the rabbit! Guinness was the only pet I ever had and one holiday I got chosen to bring him home to look after…it was then I realised that the reality of having a pet wasn’t actually for me!
Birthday parties were always a talking point at school, like they still are today. Bowling parties with the big bear in Bexleyheath were always popular, as were swimming parties with the magician at the end at the Lido. Time was always made for birthday cakes to be brought into school, mum always brought in ice lollies for my class as May tended to be hot which was always a novelty! My birthday cakes were always homemade and were always incredible – how mum and dad discovered the recipes and had the time to create such amazing cakes is beyond me. They always took the time to make me feel special, not just on my birthday, but everyday.
We had the most amazing trips at my primary school. I had three weekly trips away which was so exciting – getting to spend a week away from your parents just to do fun things and hang out with your friends is every child’s dream! All three trips were to farms or activity camps, the most memorable being the farm that Michael Morpurgo owns in Wales. As a book lover, that was such an exciting week for me. Michael Morpurgo came one evening to actually read from his book to us and then signed copies for us to buy. We then spent the week learning how to be farm hands and I loved every second. We got to share rooms with our best friends and stayed up late to go and watch baby calves being born. I was so lucky to be able to do those things and have those experiences because they were the things that started to mould me into a well-rounded human.
I was always busy, something that continued into my teenage and adult years. I was never good at being bored but then that was a very rare occurrence as I could easily think up activities to do or be happy to just sit and read a book. I was so lucky to be part of a family who were able to support my hobbies and encourage me to try anything and everything. Dancing was my thing and from a very young age I joined New Eltham Dance School and there I remained until I left for uni at 18. Without any doubt in my mind, that dance school was a main contributor to who I am today. Miss Sandra, Miss Yvonne and later Miss Amanda treated us as their own children. Both Miss Sandra and Miss Yvonne were original Tiller Girls which I always thought was so impressive and would talk about with my friends at school! Those wonderful ladies taught us about discipline, encouraged us to have fun and also taught us about dedication, working towards a target, improving on a skill and about the importance of being a team. I made so many friends at dancing, it was an extremely special community. We did exams and annual shows which I adored because we got to play at dressing up, wear make-up and have posh hairstyles! I do look back at the dance show videos and laugh at some of the costumes though – one year I was a glow-worm with a torch stuck to my head! My main style of dance was tap although I loved modern and did try my hand at ballet for a few years but was rubbish! With tap I reached the stage where I was ready to do my teacher’s qualification but never finished it off, maybe I will one day. I was so sad when I left to go to uni but have stayed in touch with NEDs and enjoyed a little reunion a few years back. What a special place that I am so lucky to have been a part of.
Holidays were always fun – most of them being spent between Norfolk where Dad was born and Swansea where mum grew up. Langland is the beach of choice, still is to this day. We’d spend every day with Andy – who is like mum’s sister and is my Godmother and her son Adam. Ad and I didn’t always get on but we did have fun most of the time! Jack and I were both lucky enough to go on skiing holidays throughout our youth which I did enjoy but wouldn’t necessarily be my holiday of choice now! I’m more like mum, carrying those skis and wearing those boots are not a fun thing! We also got to visit family in Canada where my uncle, niece and nephew live. All of these experiences at such a young age for sure started my love for travel. The infamous moment in Canada is when we drove all the way out to Niagra Falls, one of the most awe-inspiring places in the world, and all I was bothered about was seeing the floral clock!!!
But the best thing about this stage of my life was receiving the thing I’d wanted more than anything – a little baby brother or sister. I was never lonely as a child but I just knew that being a sister was a job I could be good at. When Jack was born, all of our lives changed and I simply loved it. I loved being old enough to help mum and dad feed, change, bath and burp him as well as treating him like a play thing at times! We formed such a strong bond and I do think in part that’s because of the six, almost seven-year age gap. To this day he remains one of my best friends and is someone who I know I can always rely on. He has turned into such an amazing man and I couldn’t be prouder of everything he is and everything he does.
My childhood ‘Kylie Days’ were so much fun looking back. Yes I had incidents, who doesn’t?! – two involving my bottom though(!) one where I fell off a stool which flipped and I sliced it open and the second when I jumped off the end of a bed landing on a portable radiator and burnt, quite badly my poor little butt cheeks! I would cry when life didn’t go my way i.e when I wasn’t allowed to watch Neighbours and an episode of 999 scarred me for life when I saw what a grizzly bear was capable of! But even those experiences are part of my history which I wouldn’t erase, even bad experiences have hidden agendas, for me – learn how to scare off bears if you’re in their territory!!
Our childhoods shape us more than we know, I have always felt that as a teacher. I may not have children of my own, but each child that I teach becomes so very important to me. I look back and thank all my teachers as they gave me, alongside my parents, the life skills that I have needed to succeed in my life thus far. I think everyone has that one teacher who they hold dearly in their hearts and mine will always be Mrs Counter. She was the kindest, most caring lady and teacher in our school and I idolised her. She is the reason why I have Jessica teddy in my classes because that’s the name Mrs Counter gave our class bear. As well as Mrs Counter I was lucky with every teacher I had, they prepared me for how to cope with failures, they taught me how to be careful in potentially dangerous situations, they taught me how to read, write and solve problems. But they also instilled in me the importance of trust. I always knew I could talk to my teachers, I learnt how to build relationships and trust my peers and that is what I have always strived for as a teacher. It’s a profession that holds so much responsibility, more than we realise probably and that is why I have always taken my role so seriously. Yes, I want all my pupils to do well academically but I also want them to look back and remember all the fun, crazy things we did in class but mainly I want them to look back the way I do and be thankful that they had me as a teacher and as part of their life.
So that’s my first trip down memory lane – did it spark some memories for you if you grew up in the 80s and 90s? Maybe it’s made you think about how your childhood shaped you – let me know in the comments below.
Have a really lovely weekend,