Tuesday, 21 February 2017


Growing up is hard. In a classroom I frequently have to remind myself that the behaviour of a student
will be different " when he or she grows up". I have to remind myself to be patient, calm, methodical and non argumentative when all I want to really do is slap their bottoms. It's taxing but it will be better "when they grow up".

Enter Sam a 14 year old boy with overactive vocal cords and quite possibly ants in his pants because he can't sit still. Sam is the class clown. He reminds me that we met last year in his old school and as I have deleted said meeting from my memory banks ( if it ever happened), I pretend to remember. Big mistake. He then proceeds to say something inappropriate to his mates who all laugh. He has a team. Game on buddy.

Sam twists and turns and talks out loud, especially when I'm talking. When reminded of correct behaviour he stops for a millisecond, before continuing. He then asks to go to the toilet and delighted to have 5 minutes peace I agree.

Sam returns and resumes his conversations with his admirers. Time to take out the allies. I ask him to move to a seat in front of me. He initially refuses as it would ruin his tough guy reputation. I focus my look on a spot between his eyes and he caves...momentarily. He gets his own back by announcing to the class that I want to get closer to him. I ignore and sit on my twitching palms. He'll be better when he's older.

I ignore the hand waving in front of me until there is some writing on his page. So he scribbles something. He wants to go to the toilet. " But you've been!" I say.  "No, I couldn't find it" he says, " so I came back".

Now this is possible BS or possibly true. These kids are new to this school. I take him outside the door and point out the boys toilets. He scoots down the stairs and I pray there is no deputy principal wandering. Actually at this stage, truth be known I didn't care.

He returns and sits himself in front of me. I ignore him and do a round of the room. I return as he has been trying to rev up his team from afar. He asks me if I'm aware one of my eyebrows is higher than the other. I ignore. He tells me my nail polish is pretty. I ignore. He turns round and engages with an ally. I react calmly and move him to a table and chair outside the room, on the verandah. He is mortified and now worried as the head of department is close. For a moment I feel sorry for Sam. He is just a kid and it will be better when he grows up. But there are 20 something others in the room and my sanity to contend with.
Years ago I taught a different Sam, a female one but equally argumentative and difficult. This Sam was with me for 10 out of her 30 lessons a week and though many times I literally wanted to kill her, she remains one of my favourite students ever. She was loud, pig headed, adamant she was always right and hard work. As I got to know her I realised she had the biggest heart, was super loyal and defended those she loved at all costs, even if she got suspended, which inevitably happened. When my daughter moved to college in Perth, she threatened to move in. I used to laugh but took it as a compliment of how far we had come. She was getting better as she grew up!

This week, five years after she left school, I received the most beautiful note which touched me deeply. Here is part of it:

And also I don't know if I have said it before but reading some of your blog posts and growing up a lot now I feel so horrible for how much of a brat I was in school for you. Knowing some of your stories and your sickness I feel like such a little brat (which I was) and feel terrible as back then you would have been dealing with and going through hell. I thankyou for all the love and support you still gave me regardless through it all. I hope you are well.
Talk about getting better with age! So glad for the gift of patience that has enabled me not only to deal with students in my career but also the hurdles my condition presents sometimes on a daily basis.

Till next

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