When I was in my 10th form I set course for entering university and except some extra Saturday classes with university professors at my own school, every Thursday and Friday we went to the nearest town to visit the so called “Winter Physics and Mathematics School”. “We” stands for my friend Denis and me. Each of these days we had two periods of maths and two periods of physics where professors told us something from university program. It took place in a former convent which later became Teacher`s Institution. Everybody hardly understood what it meant so the building was used for the town`s Ministry of Education and at the same time they let the rooms to entrepreneurs who brought and sold books from Moscow, educational editor`s offices and some other organizations that could be considered as connected with education in some way. Before the lessons we necessarily dropped in a computer games shop and looked at new CDs covers and then, if had time, we visited computer club, which was in a small basement of one of the university buildings. Maths lessons were interesting and useful, while physics exam wasn`t needed for the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics that`s why, up to our mood, at physics lessons we often played ‘drunkard’ with tree-five packs of cards, shouting with laughter when saw the combination of ten sevens in a row.
The summer was coming and my mother told me that in addition to the winter school that year they revived a summer school, which was a usual summer camp for children but only for senior pupils and with maths and physics classes in the morning. As I was a child from a large family, the program cost me about 80 thousand rubles (before denomination) or about 10 dollars. I didn`t hesitate to take part or not: it was useful and interesting for me to have some extra lessons with university professors especially taking into account that my aim was to enter university. I`d never been to children camps before but being omnivorous and not disgusted at filth, I didn`t even think about the problems possible.
The camp turned out to be a great and interesting place.
And not because most children feel good and happy when they are in groups, but because the team leaders and the camp staff, who were students of the same university, treated us as an equal in many situations, and those unattainable tops of intellect called professors after classes took part in all camp life, discussed with children not only educational topics showing that they were the same usual people.
The entertaining events, as I understood later, were completely different from the events in other camps – it was a separate country. It wasn`t imitated just by calling somebody a president or putting the list of child`s rights under the code of laws, it was a real imitation of state bases.
To make the situation clear: there were 150 children in the camp, 25 students and 15 professors.
Children were allowed to do anything, as far as physical influence on students, except leaving the territory of the camp. Imagine a team leader who told children that they had to bring firewood. Those who didn`t want to get up from their bed could keep lying and doing nothing but they broke the camp law. The part of students` team could join hands, catch a criminal and take him to a special empty room – jail –and lock there. The criminal could resist, disengage his arms, run around the camp and do anything that comes to his mind, only hits were prohibited. A prisoner still got food, but no sweets or fruit. A pupil lived there with other prisoners and only for classes time it stopped (classes were obligatory for everybody, you could be sent down the camp for absence). If students, in pupils` opinions, started to go beyond the law: ask too much or run in everybody in sight, the prisoners escaped with the lock shaken down.
Professors had judicial function and were inviolable from any side.
Thus we had a system where our actions had a real impact on our life and for 8th-10th form pupils, who mostly aren’t treated as adults yet, it was a luxury they hadn`t had before that motivated them to actions. The students` team organized some events like elections, civil war, kitchen staff`s strikes, but it wasn`t a kind of theatre with roles, it was a code of laws and nobody knew what the next turn would be.
To get in the camp again in any role became one of my priorities. As I couldn`t take part in a program as a pupil, and students were taken only after the first year at university (what turned out to be not exactly the truth), I had to miss one season. I successfully entered the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics and in February my friend Denis and I started to attend weekly staff meetings for the forthcoming season in summer Physics and Mathematics school. It took place in a basement lecture-room in university. Strange psychological trainings, which were supposed to help us understand how children would behave, talks about the failures of previous ideas, thinking up a new program structure, everything looked quite strange and distant. But if it was a price to get in the Summer Physics and Mathematics School (SPMS) – OK. Denis and I were in all the meetings.
Summer came. My elder sister had one year of studying in Music College left and she faced the question where to study next. Due to this my family and I went to the neighboring city to have a look at the music conservatory, dormitory and the entering process. I asked Denis to say in the meeting that I went away just for a week and my desire to take part in the program hadn`t disappeared. Denis nodded with his head and assured me that one absence was nothing.
Just imagine my surprise when I, being back, came to the next meeting and one of the program leaders told me that the deadline for medical examination, obligatory for working with children, was in a week before that one (it was about a month before the program start), and as I didn`t answer the phone (I only had a home phone), they gave my place to a young entrant guy who was bright the year before as a pupil. Denis, seeing my puzzled look, just shrugged his shoulders like “What could I do?” Of course, nothing, his surname was in a list. Something important and desired seemed to be taken from me. I wanted to cry and fight at the same time.