School itself must be so different these days than it was when you were in school. Certainly, having kids helps, but is that ever an issue for you when you’re writing?
I was reading about this phenomenon in television and film writing, which is that the references to school are always at least 20 to 30 years old, because writers are really writing about their own experiences, so these movies are hopelessly outdated. What I’ve been surprised with is that school seems a lot safer and more benign than it was when I was in junior high. You know, for me, junior high was like the Wild West. There must have been one teacher for 35 kids, and we were completely unprotected from the bullies, so the experiences I’m writing about in my book are actually very watered-down from real life experiences.
Stories set in schools haven’t been the same for me since my teachers’ college year. Dead Poet’s Society ceased to be a story about an inspirational, enthusiastic English teacher and more a demonstration of an egotistical lover of attention who would have served his students better if he had tried a bit of group work. (Jumping around on desks is also considered uncouth in a country where even sitting on desks is a no-no. This was New Zealand.)
I grew annoyed at the number of fictional teachers keeping individual students behind after class to speak to them about various misdemeanours — mostly young men in fake horn-rims who, had they been of truly innocent intent, as we were meant to believe as the audience, would have made sure never, ever to be in a room alone with any student, and that the classroom door was always open.
STORYBOOK SCHOOL SCENES
This Little Golden Book depicts the storybook version of kindergarten: the female teacher on the piano, the one black child among a middle class neighbourhood of white, toys lying all around as cosy as the home environment.