Descent

Tuesday 5th May, 2009: 

Today’s been so crap. My head hurts so much. I’ve just done the math, and I have $27 to last me until next Saturday ($29 if you count the $2 in my wallet). I can’t think straight – how am I gonna pay the mechanic?  It’s been two months since I got the car bill. It’s getting to be so long, and not one cent paid.

After school, we have stupid Staff Professional Development, and my head aches like crazy. And on the way home, I cry just three tears; two from the right, and one from the left… just three tracks down my cheek.

 

I’m on duty at lunch though, and it’s nice just to be walking around. I chat to a big group of year 10 boys up on the bridge. The idea there (officially) is to move ‘em on – there have been so many fights lately, and apparently the bridge is the place to look for and plan out these little sorties. And today it was all the year 10’s like Taurangi, Noa (Inia’s brother), a boy called Mischa

I just stroll up and said, “Hi guys,” and then, “This looks like a nice gathering.”

They laugh, and Noa says, “Yes, Miss, we’re having a meeting.” He puts his hands together and continues: “Oh Lord, thank you for gathering us together on this day,” and everyone laughs again (me as well.) There’s no stress or any feeling that I have to enquire about them – they just speak to me so nice and friendly, and move off good-naturedly.

As I’ve said before, I feel more at ease with them than with almost anyone else I know. I don’t understand it and I’m grateful for it. But I still very often doubt myself – especially on a day like yesterday when things just don’t come together.

 

Thursday 7th May:

Today: 11 Soc and geography, detestably geography. Alexander gets the felts and draws and draws. He’s flanked by Jack and Dimario. Dimario, out of the goodness of his heart, does the two diagrams in his book. As I come past, he says, “The things I do for you, Miss,” and I reply lightly, “Gee, thanks Dimario,” and we exchange smiles, but inside I feel torn, torn, always and a million parts torn.

And Alexander with his bombing; I break my own heart over it. If I don’t try to stop him he won’t pass; if I try to stop him I’ll just end up hating everything I do; if I don’t try to stop him he’ll think I don’t care; if I try to stop him he’ll think I never saw him, ever really saw him. I can’t win, and it’s all so empty and bankrupt to me. All I know is that he touches my heart and he is intelligent and he trusts me a tiny bit. And Dimario still, barely, barely holding on. Two diagrams, beautifully drawn. Jack – his old ‘disdainful’ look, not really disdain, more like just: ‘I wanna quit‘. Dimario is the disdainful one – although he’s not really disdainful to me. He still wants… what? To see and to be seen? Dimario the observer. And me seeing him take it all in.

 

How can three children tear me up so completely in my heart – I truly don’t know. But when I think about all this it makes me feel so wild; not angry but wild, like a wild animal hunched and trapped and helpless. I can’t do much, I can’t convey much – and with geography, I think I’ve got no chance. At least last term I had something they sort of ‘wanted’, or wanted enough.

I’m all out of ideas, I’m just straight out of ways to control this crazy, crazy descent into the… I don’t know, it feels like into the underground. It reminds me of a dream I had years ago. Behind a small shop, I entered a door in a wall and went down in a lift, way down to this world where everyone had human form but also the features of animals: a fox-woman with a bustle at the back of her skirt and the furry stomach of a wild creature, an elegant pointed fox face. Sipping her drink; talking to the other creatures gathered there, under the world.

I don’t know why it should come to mind now – but for some reason it does. And I feel half wild and half ‘civilized’, then half wild and half tame. There, doing my roll, planning the activities; speaking about volcanoes and asking the kids to put the chairs up; sitting in the faculty office; doing the photocopying; politely talking at the staff meeting… and then sometimes my eyes just feel soft and wild, big and scared, liquid and helpless, and I can’t hide it… and then sometimes it’s a nice feeling to be ‘tame’ for the kids; not civilized but just tame – cos for no reason Inia and Noa come up and greet me in the playground, Candy puts her arm round me in the library, Riley comes into my room and hears what I’m playing, and says, “Oh Miss – my song!”

 

Friday 8th May:

Waiting for Kuli to come pick me up now. I don’t even wanna go to school today. I’m just worn out and all weary, and I feel inside like a tame-wild thing with a thin, thin veneer of civilization; of behaving a certain way. I’m losing it, and when I do I don’t know what crazy shit is gonna happen.

If anyone really looks at me today, they’re gonna see something they probably wouldn’t normally see. Cos I feel so exposed, I feel so light; like a bare bulb, just dim, dusty – but I can’t switch off and I can’t switch back. I can’t, but I have to; can’t, but I guess I just have to… and what’s gonna happen now?

 

Tuesday 12th May:

Year 10’s today. I have the barest idea of what I want to do, but for some reason it goes well. I really like that class, I feel like I just kind of ‘get’ them, and so I don’t wanna treat them unkind, even though they don’t bring their books – they lose books and forget pens and squabble and bring their phones out. Today, I give out about five new books as a ‘present’, which goes down like giving them a hundred bucks. “Oh yay!” they cry, “Miss, can you keep our books here? So we won’t lose them?” And at the end of class all the new books (and some other kids’ books too) just get handed in, and I’m gonna keep them in my room.

I never get really mad with this class; I just ‘can’t’ – they don’t respond to people who shout and yell (although I do growl at them). I have to be the most patient person and talk to them nicely, and they just go, “Oh… ok Miss, sorry, we’re doing it now,” or something like that. And they do, they just like to be asked nicely; just to have the luxury of saying ‘Yes’ instead of being forced into things.

 

Laine and Riley say to me today, “Oh Miss, we wish you were the principal instead of Mrs Kirk.”

“You’d be gangsta…” says Riley, in a wistful voice, pushing her non-regulation black cap onto her head. “I’d come to school every day.”

Levi’s dictating his work to Laine, who’s writing it down in Levi’s book, having already finished her own work.

I say, “Why is Laine doing your movie review?”

“She’s just writing what I say, Miss,” he explains, and she nods, saying, “He’s doing it himself, but I’ve got nice writing.” She’s also written on the front of his book: ‘Levi’, and drawn two little hearts.

“I wouldn’t want to be principal,” I tell Laine and Riley.

“How come?”

“Cos then I wouldn’t have any classes,” I say.

 

But I hate teaching geography. I feel like I don’t know anything, even if I’m prepared. And then what comes out of my mouth is just stupid – I’m actually embarrassed and have to try not to show it. Yesterday I almost wish I could just walk out and not have to come back; not quite, but almost. And I love that year 11 class, it’s been ‘my’ class all last term, everything flowing… and now geography!

I’m saved a little bit by the power not going in the floor box by my desk, so I  fiddle around while the kids make helpful suggestions, and you know… it’s easy when you’re just talking like that, about anything but geography.

And all this other stuff – it means nothing to me. ‘Engagement’ and ‘ownership’ and ‘outcomes’ and ‘learning’ and ‘restorative practices’. What about the ones who slip through, like water through a grate; the ones who can’t see why or for what; the ones who just can’t be doing it, even if it would make their lives easier. I break my own heart over it, every day a hundred times, I feel like there’s nothing I can do; and I’m scared that some day I’ll have to make a proper stand: a stand that is visible, observable, and runs contrary to everything I’m expected to uphold – because I’ll be in a situation of no choice. I’m already like some kind of thief in the temple, or spy in the camp –  and I can’t handle it. I’m scared I’ll be ripped in half, I’m so torn, all the time… yet every day I go back there to submit and be so feeble, so weak. Inside I feel like I’m trying to find a way to use it, to learn from it, to not crack under the pressure but to hold on long enough, to suffer it long enough to change into something else which can be used. Cos when that day comes, I don’t want to be weak, and I want to be of use.

I’ve got to learn resistance, I’ve got to think of this differently. It’s pointless to ask exactly why. I just know that this is important.

 

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