Monday, October 11, 2010

Elementary School, by Nora Szechy

While I had an intense desire to learn, I hated school. I attended Goldenbridge Convent School in Dublin, Ireland. It was an all-girl school run by The Sisters of Mercy.  Some of the sisters were kind and others were mean to the point of cruelty.  We were caned if were late, if we talked, if we laughed or if we didn't know our lessons.  We were ruled by fear. 

There was no use complaining at home as my mother always sided with the nuns.  Classes were overcrowded and had an average of 50 students.  We walked to school in the rain and sat in wet clothes all day.  There was no place to hang wet coats.  The main source of heat was a small turf-burning fireplace.

The only classroom equipment was a blackboard and chalk and a holder for the chalk so that it could be used down to the very last scrap.  There were no overheads, slides or any of the modern teaching tools.  There was no cafeteria; we walked home for lunch.  There was no picture day - I have not one school picture.  There was no school nurse and there were no field trips. There was no P.E. - the walk back and forth to school four times a day gave us as much exercise as we needed.

Every class started with prayers and we had to know our catechism backwards and forwards.  We had to know The Ten Commandments, The Seven Sacraments, The Seven Deadly Sins etc. - all by heart.  Most subjects were taught through the medium of Irish. I still say my multiplication tables in Gaelic. History and geography were the worst.  How could I ever find cities and countries on the map or name events in History if I only knew the names in Gaelic? 

For handwriting we had headline copy books; nib pens and inkwells were built into our desks.  I would have enjoyed this exercise except for the fact my hands were always so cold I did a poor job and often got rapped on the knuckles.  We had a lay teacher for elocution and drawing and she was much kinder than the sisters.  We had cookery classes on Saturdays which I enjoyed very much.  We also learned sewing and knitting.

Children were required to attend school until the age of 14.  For many, that was the end of their education. Most had to leave school and find some sort of unskilled job to contribute to the support of their families. The sisters were aware of this and did their best to ensure that they left with at least a good foundation in the Three R's.

For more about Nora, click here: Nora's Website


  1. This story makes me realize how very comfortable my life has been!

  2. This story saddens and reminds me of how some people use religion to exeercise their own control. These "reglious" people forget that God is love. Thank you for your courage.

  3. Nora if kids were disciplined such as you were we might not have some of the problems we have in our society today although I don't believe those methods were right nor do I agree with them. The pendulum has swung too far from what you endured but we need to get back to more discipline in our schools, certainly not what you went through. You grew up in a different era and it seems other countries have always emphasized strict eduction more so than here in the USA. Perhaps the hardships they have been under which we were fortunate not to have made them feel the need to do so.