Down in the valley

Tuesday 26th May, 2009:

Currently, my role model is Nio: the irrepressible, the disobedient, the brave Nio. So help me, it’s true. If only the teachers knew my mentors!

Sometimes I actually feel like I hate teachers. Happy, professional teachers who actually believe in this stuff: ‘Co-construction of the learning’ and ‘Authentic learning’, and all the rest of it. It holds nothing but emptiness for me, and when I’m forced to take part in it I’m empty – like a shell with no live creature in it, or an empty cicada skin.

I’m jealous that teachers believe in it. I’m so jealous of their calm and their certainty, and their air of authority; when I have no place to run, and no tongue to speak, and nowhere to go but down again, down every time, all the way down. All the familiar places, I don’t want… I don’t, they won’t do any more.  And so, now there’s only one place left: down in the valley, down in the battlefield, and I’m scared I’m gonna die there and I don’t know what else there is to do.


I can’t prepare for Project tonight.  I can’t focus for five minutes, yet all I do is think about all this – and then Kuli rings, and I cry, and he comes round.  He’s the only person I can explain it to, and even though he doesn’t completely understand, he tries to – and he sees part of it. I tell him, for some reason, about Nio; then I cry again, thinking about Nio saying to me, “You’re not a snitch.”

Oh – I don’t wanna do this anymore. Kuli says I should pretend to play the game, but I find it so hard to do. He says if I do that, I could get to a point where I could help more, and I think he’s probably right but I don’t know how to, because I’m so crap at doubling – and getting worse at it every day.

And it’s not just that, but some kids don’t understand that there’s even a game. It’s only what’s immediate that counts, what you can do right there, right now – and if the answer’s ‘nothing’ then you’re the same as all the others. Which is why I would never snitch on Nio – because Nio needs to know there’s a now where he counts, not a sometime maybe down the track where you might help him out. I can’t play the game if it means losing sight of that… and God I’m very tired, and I don’t think I can do it

But somehow I belong on this strange and bleak battlefield. It’s taken me so long to get here, but all around I see that I know where I am, and I never expected that it would matter so much, to be here; to be at home here.


Wednesday 27th May:

So then there’s my group of 3 girls and 28 boys who show up for Project. A few more just turn up unenrolled and unannounced; Inia for instance – who just walks in this morning and says, somewhat desperately, “Miss – can’t I just come to yours?”

And I say, straight away, “Of course Inia, you can,” because it’s so little to give him, and he’s already on the edge of school; been stood down so many times that he hardly notices – and then he comes in and just sits and listens, and does everything so generously that I’m amazed by his solid and warm presence in the room. He, and Noa, and Argos are implacably calm, interested, and relaxed the entire day. These three, who usually create chaos at the drop of a hat… yet all day long they can sense that they’re not just making up the numbers here. I wish there were more spaces for them to go at school.


Inia’s working hard, doing everything he’s been asked to do, and in every little gap he can find he draws quietly and with instant concentration. I say, “You just like being left alone to draw, aye Inia.”

He looks up to check my expression, and such a relieved look comes over his face.

Yes, Miss,” he says with feeling. “I just really like being here – and drawing. That’s why it’s cool.”

I say, “Well, I’m algood with that,” and he settles back so happily; you can see it in his eyes.

And I can almost see that glazed look; that polite inscrutable expression just disappear, just lift from their faces as they realize they can say stuff, and do things that they actually care about a little. For some reason, Argos’s expression of gladness at this just makes me smile, even thinking about it now.

I’m not saying it was riveting all day for them – there are many, many constraints in place, for both them and for me. But it’s a start, to feel comfortable.



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