Celebrating Cultures, Promoting Integration
From unforgettable school tours to the almost over-joyed level of excitement when a non-uniform day came around, Irish primary school life was and no-doubt still is quite eventful. Words that I would typically associate with primary school life in Ireland would be healthiness, happiness, and a whole lot of fun and excitement. Let’s get into it then! A little insight into what makes Irish primary school life an experience to cherish for the rest of your life.
Who remembers the excitement surrounding those oh-so-special non-uniform days? Impossible to forget. With the majority of these special days typically falling on a Friday, this primary school treat most definitely added that little bit extra of that Friday feeling.
For me personally, and I’m sure for all of you reading as well, there was an adrenaline-rushed sense of elevated anticipation before walking in through those school gates every single time these morale-boosting charity-fundraising initiatives took place.
Oh, did I mention it was all in aid of charity? Well, would ya look at that! It’s a win-win for all involved then. On the one hand, the teacher’s job became that little more rewarding as they encountered happy (pretty much delirious) children. And you might think: how on Earth is this a good thing for primary school teachers?
Especially seeing that, to the common eye, these non-school-uniform days may have been (understandably) mistaken for thousands of extremely hyped-up kids reenacting explosive fireworks through a game of charades. But let’s be real here: even the grumpiest and most evil-of-all teachers would have been touched by the beautiful excitement unfolding before their eyes during these no uniform allowed days.
I’m not forgetting about you, charity! Come on now, it just wouldn’t be Ireland if we didn’t include charity in our fundraising initiatives, whatever shape or form they may come in. Irish charity Trócaire, which was established in 1973, was the beneficiary of this day of Irish childhood liberty.
Not obligatory of course, students who did not wish to wear their “normal” clothes, as we so innocently used to say, could opt to don the school uniform, but those (the absolutely overwhelming majority) who chose their cool clothes would then have to pay the hefty fee of two euro for a whole school day of freedom. Freedom I tell you! A price definitely worth paying for this liberty-filled event, especially because your parents would have paid.
Neatly organising your pile
Let’s not underestimate the simplicity but absolute thrill of stacking your core primary school books on your desk. Although most might be quite reluctant to admit it, a whole lot of jealousy and competitiveness would come into play in relation to who’s pile was the biggest and neatest in the class.
In my primary school days (2000-2008), the science book would have been the biggest, and therefore the most responsible for holding it (the pile) all together so to speak. Twelve years later, I still vividly remember to this day my pocket-sized English and Irish dictionaries sitting pretty at the top of this carefully put-together masterpiece of a typically Irish primary school-based pile.
Weekly/monthly changing of places
Butterflies. Excitement. Nervousness. Tension. Just WHO was the múinteoir (teacher) going to place you beside? Maybe your crush. Or perhaps you’d cruelly be placed next to the (don’t want to sound harsh, but there’s at least one in every class) smelly one. Maybe if you were lucky enough you’d even get the chance to sit beside your best friend.
Whatever the outcome, something that added that bit of exhilaration to an already-overflowing-with-excitement life of a typical Irish primary school student, was undoubtedly each and every moment the changing of places took place in the classroom.
School Sports Day
You just know the summer holidays are near when the school Sports Day comes around. Typically taking place between mid-to-late June, the school Sports Day has given Irish primary school goers the chance to not only impress their peers but so too their parents.
This special school day dedicated to sport, was, and always has been, a social outing for the whole school. A day that always seemingly fell into place to mark the start of the Irish summer season, there was, in my experience, always a real sense of togetherness and community. Parents and fellow classmates cheered and roared you on as you stumbled past the egg-and-spoon race finish line covered in either freshly-cut dry grass or rain-poured mud.
Primary school, in Ireland, would simply not be the same without school tours. Whether it be a not-so-exciting trip to a farm or a tour of an important historic museum, school tours were the definition of social mischief.
Starting the day by excitedly packing your special, unique, once-a-year school tour lunch; which would typically include a good aul pack of Irish Tayto, a mars or crunchy chocolate bar (or both), a packet of Haribo sweets, a bottle of Lucozade Sport or Coca-Cola and pretty much anything else that had sugar; you would arrive to the school gate full of anticipated excitement, ready to ask your best pal if he or she wanted to sit beside you on the bus.
The magic of primary school though, in Ireland, at least in my experience, is that division doesn’t or didn’t exist. In other words, everyone was your best pal, and so no matter who you sat beside on that bus trip, you were almost always guaranteed to have a hell of a good time.
The gossiping, the singing, the needing to pee but desperately trying to hold it in and your friend getting a laugh out of your despair, the pass-the-parcel-like passing of sweets, the free time allocated to shopping and buying whatever you felt like buying. Blissfully happy days with absolutely no hint of any worry whatsoever. Just magic.
Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I sure was a fan of getting the chance to practice Irish dancing every Friday throughout my primary school stint. Not only was it physical exercise and a more than welcomed break from the books, but it was also socially thrilling. People would fall to the ground, trip over shoelaces, swing each other about like toys. Chaos galore. And we all know chaos in a primary school child’s dictionary means only one thing: fun!
Undoubtedly the best days of my life. Any kid that experiences an Irish-based primary school life should most definitely count their blessings.
Be sure to check out more articles from the Babylon archives in relation to education in Ireland here.