“Do you know Colonel Gadaffi ma’am?”
I was sure this wasn’t a general question. It wasn’t your typical segue to an insult though. I was mildly impressed the kid knew the name. From what I’d seen in class, he didn’t know much.
It took a bit of willpower not to come back at him with an “I don’t know him, but I hear your mum does…” style comment. I hate low level disruption.
Being a teacher invariably means taking the high road, being reasoned, patient and understanding. Basically, keeping your comebacks and insults to the English office, or pub on Fridays.
Kids will say anything, do anything, push boundaries, take liberties. You teach them what’s acceptable. In my case, you also have to fight the inner child in you that wants verbally decimate them.
You learn to be a patient and controlled person.
The school I am covering for is quite small. An intimate setting compared to the sprawling, two site, jungle of hormones of previous inner city schools I’d worked at. It’s been a tame experience in comparison.
No shits in corridors.
No chairs being thrown.
I had been in two minds over returning to a classroom. Would it be one of those short term stop gaps that evolved into long term giving up on writing?
Would I be able to cope with the indiscriminate arseholery of teenagers? I hadn’t fared that well with adults…
School was my social experiment, where I got to test drive the happier, more self assured version of myself. A version that stopped taking shitty behaviour so personally, left people to be responsible for their actions, and was honest about where my line was drawn. It would be the ultimate test.
When a student coughed Curry at an Indian TA the other day, I calmly handed out a detention.
The following class, Gandhi, Dhal, and other innocuous words were woven into responses to questions on Sherlock Holmes, in a show of camaraderie .
It was a banal attack of racially motivated tourettes.
It may seem funny in retrospect. Could even be brushed off. I mean what were they doing wrong? Being silly? Saying random famous figures and names of food? How was that harmful?
I’ve been told that as an intelligent adult I have to make concessions for idiotic behaviour, ignorance and those who weren’t raised better. I was expected to take the high road. To be the better, more understanding person.
I remember discussing my ‘take the high road approach to life’ with an AirBnB roomie.
Why? Was his response.
“Why do you always have to be the adult one when someone else is acting like a complete child? That guy’s allowed to be a dick right? He’s never called on his bullshit behaviour. But you are because you’re the smarter person. Fuck that.” And with that he disappeared into his room.
It was true. Not everyone is called on their bullshit. If you’re smart you make concessions and cut poisonous people out of your life. When you can’t cut someone out, you have to make a stand.
After the third random mention of Gandhi I decided to shine bright like a diamond, and rage on four boys in my class. Anyone ever seen me angry knows this wasn’t pleasant.
The arsehole who maliciously started it, blamed someone else for his behaviour and stormed off bitching with his mate, who had wisely chosen to stay out of it.
The students with a sense of right and wrong tried to apologise for offending me.
The rest watched and learned.
Then a kid who looks about 30 years old decided to hit another student in the face with a balled up pair of PE socks.
I handled it.
I think the experiment is over. Bring me the grown ups.