Goodbye to a School


Over forty years ago, for a year, I attended school in the Netherlands, in the town of Paterswolde. It wasn’t quite a one-room schoolhouse, but it came close; you can see it in the photo above. There were three classrooms; each room was shared by two grades. I think there were thirteen of us (and only five girls) in the sixth grade. Then their were the fifth graders, some of whom became my friends. I have stayed in regular contact (at least once a year) with one friend from that year and have been in touch with others off and on.

I just learned that this schoolhouse will soon be demolished so that an expensive housing project can take its place. Somehow I took for granted that this lovely building would stay. I remember our teacher, Meester van der Meer, teaching us how to find one percent of a number (“een, twee, HUP, en een, twee, HUP”). He turned math into song–not nursery rhymes, not singsong chants, but his own melodic explications.

Outside, during recess, we played marbles (“knikkers”). This was a dangerous game; we could actually lose our favorite ones, if we weren’t careful. At the end of the game, we would tally up our gains and losses. The ones who came out ahead would say, “Ik hep winst” (“I have profit”); those who lost a marble or two would admit, “Ik hep verlies” (“I have a loss”).

In the photo, you can see the bikes parked in front; there were many bike racks in back. Lunch lasted about two hours; we biked home and returned. Sometimes we had lunch at each other’s houses. No invitation was needed; we just showed up.

Several of my friends from that year will be taking a memory tour on bike, before the building is gone. They will stop and visit the school.

I don’t know which is stronger right now: sadness over the loss of the school, or awe over this memory tour. I suppose the two go together, but I still hope for a twist, a happy idea, a last-minute decision to keep the place intact.


Photo credit: Annemarie Machielsen (courtesy of rtv Drenthe).