“How was school today?”
”It was alright. There was a fight.”
”Another one? What happened?”
“The arts window got put in. Well, it got broken.”
”It must have taken someone big to have gone into it to break laminated glass.”
We discussed what size a person might need to have been to have been in collision with a glass door and break it. We agreed that it might have been someone from almost any of the years because there are even Year 7 students who are taller than my five feet and seven inches.
Perhaps it was always the case that the moments that boys most remember are the atypical ones. If I had been asked for the single most memorable moment from schooldays, I would have said the time some of the boys set far to one of the classroom buildings. The fire would not have spread very far, it was started in the store of the arts room and caused smoke damage in two adjoining classrooms. The classrooms were at a distance from the main school buildings and there was never any danger of damage to anything other than the rooms directly affected. Nevertheless, the episode was remembered as the time boys tried to burn down the school.
The trophy cabinets, certificates and photographs that greet visitors to a school when they step into the entrance hall might be the official record of the school’s highlights, but most students would probably have other memories. Schools tend to focus on achievements that are measurable, that merit mention in the local press. Schools celebrate the athletic and the academic, and, sometimes, those who have shown courage or perseverance in the face of adversity. Students remember “characters.”
Characters are unconventional, sometimes they are the anti-heroes. Characters rarely conform to school rules or expectations. Characters may have stories attached to them as the years pass. Imaginings and half-true tales are woven into a picture that may bear little resemblance to the person who inspired them. Characters are frequently loners, mavericks, idiosyncratic individuals who can be arbitrary and unpredictable. Characters are uninterested in the affirmation and rewards that might be offered by educational establishments.
Most people can remember such characters during their schooldays. Sometimes those who were unconventional and subversive during schooldays went on to become models of success and respectability. It is probably unlikely that the person who propelled another against the arts window was character – a character would have done something far more subtle.