Tuesday, 24 September 2013

When lunch-time detention became jazz singing

Up from the murky backwaters of guilt after yesterday's scene with Waleed from my old class, I've got a real positive gem to share today - one of those 'teaching moments' that reassures you that you have a great job and that you are quite lucky.

Karim is a troublemaker - when I see pictures of him, I can't fathom how he looks so cute because in class he is a frequent headache. He is more of a concept than a child - he is the famous Karim, that gentle implosion capable of bringing your day crashing down with the smallest of actions. I think maybe the fact that I haven't really had the chance to know him until this week is why today's lunchtime detention has a positive glow to it.

Karim, it has been unilaterally decided, had been in too much trouble with too many people and he is now subject to a behaviour order - no playtimes, no lunchtime playtimes and he has a behaviour report to be filled in each day. As a consequence, he has been spending his lunch times with me.

Many of the moral criminological questions about the prison system pertain equally to my lunch-detention law. Is the punishment the loss of liberty itself, or should further sanctions be imposed. In effect, should Karim be confined to his cell  (my company) or should he face further punishment during the break?

Not unlike my view of prisons, I feel the loss of liberty is punishment enough. As such, in a very Scandinavian-Justice-System style, Karim and I - prisoner and jailer - spent his detention today having lunch together in my room.

A friend of mine recently introduced me to Gregory Porter, and for some reason (possibly I said the words to Karim!) I felt the overwhelming need to put 'Be Good' up on Youtube.

Gregory Porter is incredible and this song is just so lowbeat, optimistic and chilled. With no shame, I joined in with some beautiful humming and to my surprise, I could see Karim was smiling and nodding along to it.

When Porter's voice kicked in for the first time, with that first 'Be Good', Karim sang it straight after, pitch perfect.

In my head, I started thnking ohmagodohmagodohmagod, realising I was having one of those buzzing inspiring moments of teaching, like when Mr Farthing goes to see Billy Casper in the field.

We started it from 00:00 and then this time, we sang it together.

I went for my PPA with a smile on my face and with the melody ringing in my mind.


Monday, 23 September 2013

And then I called the child an idiot

Idiot is the classroom's c-word.

It carries a legacy of violence and humiliation that shot him and I back into the teacher/pupil relations of the days of the dunce hat.

It just popped out, without resentment or bitterness.

It was break duty and I was making my innocuous disciplinary rounds - tennis balls, footballs and cricket bats were flying across the playspace and I was frowning. I realised that I was flagging towards an energy dip, so I popped inside to grab a lovely hot coffee.

I cooled it down enough to drink and put it into my Thermos flask.

I re-entered the playground and unbeknownst to me, Waleed had seen me.

Waleed is one of the kids I have in mind when I wrote in previous posts about my unjustifiable favourites. You an justify favouritising a kid who works hard, is polite and follows instructions. It is harder to justify favouritising a boy like Waleed, who occasionally is intentonally disruptive because he finds it funny to be cheeky.

I taught Waleed last year and since then, I've not really seen much of him. My emergence into the playground set him off, and with gusto, he was running towards me.

I didn't know this. I was as oblivious to him running at me as he was oblivious to the hot coffee in my hand.

With remarkably awful timing, he smashed into me from behind, putting his arms around me in some weird 'this is aggressive enough to be acceptable to my street cred' hug. Coffee shot from my mouth, narrowly missing the child whose problem I was pretending to listen to, and it swilled up and out of my flask, soaking my hand in very hot coffee.


It just escaped me. I wasn't even thinking it, but the word just oozed out. Kids who saw the whole thing stood around caught between being shocked at me calling Waleed an idiot, and feeling the need to  hold back their laughter at me dripping with hot coffee.

Waleed apologised immediately, before the fact that I called him an idiot even registered. As soon as it registered, and despite him typically going about his life with bravado, he looked deeply hurt.

Memories shot by. Waleed and I dropping some raps over some grimey dubstep beats. Waleed receiving a handshake after we finally got him aceing his spelling test. Waleed proudly climbing into the facepalmingly awful binbag costume I made for him. Waleeds disarmingly sentimental end-of-year card.

With one utterance, it felt like that had been erased.

Idiot is the classroom's c* * * .

It carries a legacy of violence and humiliation that shot him and I back into the teacher/pupil relations of the days of the dunce hat.

I genuinely loathed myself and when I tried to apologise he ran away.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Iqbal is staring at a peg.

Iqbal’s dad lets himself into school somehow and manages to get into my room. Iqbal is having trouble in school and owns the most vacant stare of any child I have ever taught. I was midway through quiet reading when Iqbal and his dad, like some unstoppable force of nature, were running up the stairs before smashing through my door. Iqbal, like Lord of the Manor, ran to his peg and put his tiny coat on it, while Dad gave me a way-too-personal slap on the pectorals and handed a fiver  to me.

“This is the dinner money”, he shouted into my open eyes.

“Yes, well that needs to go to the Office, like always”, I reply.

“No! It’s your dinner money! Don’t spend it all on dinner!” he replies, laughing open-mouthed while 29 other children watch on in dystopian silence.

“Only joking Teacher, it’s his trip money!!”

I look over and Iqbal has short-circuited and is now staring at the pegs.

“Bye teacher,” he says, thus preventing me from telling him the trip money also needs to go to the office.

“Have a good boy day Iqqy!” he shouts to his static child, still gawping mindlessly at a peg.

I tell Iqbal to sit down, ask Bashir to tell the office Iqbal has arrived, and I grab my coffee as I prepare to teach 8 year olds the column method of multiplication.

Iqbal is still looking at a peg.