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School Days in the Past

By Various Young Poets

One of the places we visited at Ferrymead Heritage Park was the old school. The stories we heard and the artefacts we saw inspired these wonderful poems. You can probably guess which artefact had the greatest impact!

1860s Child

Gaze upon the rustic woodwork

Smell the crackling fire

devouring clumpy coal

But fast!

Equip the quill

The teacher patrols

in the dim light of the lanterns,

belt in hand

Squiggle rapidly

as not to anger

the one in power.

George Grundy, Year 8, Russley School

How to not make it to school on time in the 1900s

Clip clop

Stop with a jolt

and jump to my feet with a thud

Tie him to the hitching post

and run so fast you forget ...

“Hey, little Missy, give your horsey something to drink!”

You race back

now you’re late

The bell is ringing

You give him water

then break into a run

As your horse neighs

you say goodbye

Your feet crunch against the stones

Magpies chatter

You hear, “God save our gracious Queen”

Your feet thud against the stone steps

of the schoolhouse

One foot at a time,

you make your way up

Tears form in your eyes

and stain your cheeks,

“God save our Queen,”

the final line has been sung

You know you are about

to be hit by the cane

“God save me!”

Caitlin Sim, Year 8, Marshland School

A 1950s Lesson

start by singing

God Save the Queen

click click


feel the smooth wooden chairs

against your back

the bunch of holes and dents

on the desk


of the teacher’s ruler

hands ache

the scrap of chalk across

the black board

make squiggly words

with ink stained fingers

Mekhi Tauakume, Year 8, Russley School

School Back Then


in the classroom


at the dead blackboard

She gives you a

death glare

You shudder

“You girl, tell me what is 2/7 of ten?”

“Um 3, um 2, um 1.”

“No you idiot.”

She picks up the strap.

“Stand up. Bend over.”

Smack, smack, smack.

“Ow.” Mutter under your breath.

Smack, smack, smack.

Bite your tongue.

Be brave.

Smack, smack, smack.

Straighten pens

Clean up ink

Quick, quick, quick

She’s coming around

Pick up your pen

Dip it

in ink

Neat, neat, neat

She’s coming towards you

Run, run, run

Out of the classroom

Pick up your skirt

Wedge your foot in the tree

Climb, climb, climb.

Ella Haywood, Year 5, Methven Primary School

Old School

Sit up straight

Answer any geometry questions that are

thrown at you

Look the teacher straight in his eyes

Smell the fire, choking

It’s your everyday fragrance

You hear the bell

Your boredom dramatically dips

Pick up your leather bag

Walk out the door

Feel the dirt beneath your feet

after you eat your apple

drink your warm milk

Take one more glimpse of the playground

zoom to class


Three beltings slap across your palm

Take your seat, wood will fill your sight

Ride your horse home.

Ezra Seumanutafa , St James School

School For A Day

Tick, tock, tick, tock


I try not to moan while I sit at my desk

Be cautious

Do right-hand links


You hear it again

But can’t hold it in



My hand stings

I can’t help but scream

I’m in detention. It feels so bad

Why did I choose to take a chance?

So, always remember

Write with your right

Don’t talk

Shush, she’s watching you

With the ruler in her right hand.

Jordan Oates, Year 5 , Methven School

School Day 1950s

The class is half asleep, sitting

all in line on separate desks

ready to start Writing.

The inkwell full to the brim,

quills ready,

teacher barges in, and the class shudders.

Say one word and the cane is out.

It’s so cold, the fire’s started,

smoke fills lungs and causes coughs.


All except one.

Teacher grabs him by the shirt,

the cane strikes his bare fingers.

A sharp scream pierces

the ears.


Olivia Cooper, Year 8, Marshland School

Some things to notice about the poems:

In many of these poems the young poets imagined sensory details- the sounds, smells, textures as well as the actions. By placing themselves in the scene they were able to also evoke emotion without having to spell it out. Look for examples of how they achieved this through choices of images, words and layout. When they had completed their first drafts the young poets then spent time making choices about cutting unnecessary words and finding where line breaks gave their work rhythm or suspense.

These poems were written during a Poets Make History Day- sponsored by The Canterbury Literacy Association.

© The School for Young Writers and the poets. 2018.

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