This is the beloved school I attended for nine years. Over the entrance was a stained glass window that read “Non scholae sed vitae.” I hardly ever missed a day and was always eager to go and learn for life.
We started with 45 girls in grade 5, and after nine years, only 15 of us graduated. Our homeroom teacher was called Mr. Meckenstock. He mentored us for the entire school time. We fondly nicknamed him Mecki after our generation’s beloved little stuffed hedgehog toy. Mecki faintly resembled the little toy because he had lost most of his hair. However, he was very strict (like almost all German teachers) and also kind and warm-hearted. Above all, he was a unique character full of contradictions. He taught us English and French with lots of enthusiasm. He was proficient in both languages, even though he had never studied them in his native country. He had never been abroad until we went on a field trip to Paris with him in grade 11. The comical adventures of that memorable trip I will never forget. But I will talk about them in detail later. Mecki laid great stress on oral participation in classroom discussions which I liked. I enjoyed sharing thoughts and opinions on ideas or books we had to read in English and French.
Our math teacher, nicknamed Ata (father), was also popular; this short, round, red-cheeked jovial man was a wizard with numbers. Every math lesson he magically turned into a fun experience by engaging us in group math competitions on the blackboard. He cared that we understood and freely helped us when we had problems. We tried very hard not to disappoint him.
These two outstanding teachers probably had the most significant influence on my academic achievement. I will talk more about other teachers soon; teachers at my time were highly respected. When they entered the classroom, we had to rise and greet them in unison. Whenever we volunteered an answer, we also had to stand up. In their presence, we had to act and speak politely and respectfully. But life is full of paradoxes. We girls were not as docile and disciplined as was expected.Before concluding this post, one more afterthought on our school building. As I mentioned, the boy’s high school was adjacent to ours. The schools were so close that we had to cross the boy’s schoolyard to go down some rock steps to our yard. We were not allowed to talk or interact with the boys when walking to our yard below. The boys would stand at the retaining wall and look down on us. Maybe that reflected an attitude symbolic of that time.
We are home again at our beloved Arrow Lake. We had a wonderful family reunion on Hornby Island and celebrated our granddaughter’s second birthday. Behind our luxurious cabin there was a semi-wild flower garden, where bees and butterflies were in cloud 9 visiting the abundant floral guest houses. One butterfly let its guard down and allowed me to take a picture at close range. My sincere apologies go out to all my blogging friends for not being able to comment as much as I wanted. Thank you for your understanding!
My wife and I travelled to the coast to participate in the celebration of our granddaughter’s second birthday. Breathing in the refreshing ocean air was also a relief for us, escaping the extreme heat of the interior of BC. There is also little time to respond with comments to all the posts my blogging friends published in the meantime. Below is a photo of the beach with a wave causing a dramatic explosion of water over a promontory.
Biene and Her Twin Brother Attending Separate High Schools
Biene wrote this post.
When my twin brother and I were at the end of grade 4, my parents had to decide if they wanted us to attend high school. After successfully concluding grade 13, we would obtain the senior matriculation certificate, Abitur in German, a prerequisite for post-secondary education at a university.
Only a tiny percentage of students would enter high school. Your elementary teacher had to recommend you based on your performance, and you had to pass a stringent entrance exam. While all children by law received eight years of free elementary school education, high school students had to pay tuition fees and finance their books and other educational materials. It was an honour and a privilege to attend high school. You belonged to an elite group if you passed your senior matriculation. Only about half the number of students that started high school would accomplish that goal.
There were scholarships for top students who had financial difficulties paying the tuition fees. My twin brother and I, plus my best friend Gisela, were the lucky recipients after completing grade 4 with top marks.
My twin brother and I would attend different schools for the first time in our life. The two high schools in Velbert were segregated by gender and academic orientation. I went to the modern language branch for girls and my brother to the science and ancient language branch for boys. While the school buildings were nearby, we had no contact with students of the opposite sex for our entire high school life except for a short extracurricular ballroom dancing course in grade 10.
While our school had a high percentage of male teachers, my brother only once, for a short time, had a female teacher teaching at his school. She enjoyed a special status that was “sensational” for the boys. The boys “adored” her like a queen.
To my relief, the school year came to an end about two weeks later. Our new teacher in grade 5 quickly restored my faith and trust in teachers. Although he was very strict, he never lost his temper or control. I loved his exciting lessons, fairness, warm smile, and sense of humour.
This teacher decided to take us on a field trip to meet Vater Rhein or Father Rhine, as it is fondly called the longest and mightiest German river. On a beautiful sunny spring day, we went by train to Cologne. Cologne is the fourth largest city in Germany, situated on the Rhine river. We visited the awe-inspiring cathedral, which towers majestically at the river shore. We went down to the banks and immersed our hands in the water to greet Father Rhine. He was starting to get polluted. When revisiting the Rhine river, my friends prevented me from putting my hands in the water because of the dangerous pollution levels. Now Father Rhine is clean and safe again.
Towards the end of our excursion, we walked through the Altstadt, the picturesque historic part of the city. We did window shopping and were allowed to buy some small souvenirs in the romantic boutiques. I remember the fun we had reading the ornate and artistically designed shop and pub signs hanging on beautifully crafted cast iron brackets. We laughed at the often funny and clever names. A butcher shop was called The Jolly Fat Pig; A wine pub was named The Bottomless Barrel. In the Busy Bee Bakery, we bought some honey-sweetened pastries.
Back at school, we had to write about our excursion. Our teacher told us that the best report would be published in our class journal. We all had to read out what we had written and then voted on which one we liked best. I was the proud and happy winner because I described all the humorous signs and other fun impressions of our exciting trip.