Slowly I was being shown a kind of space within a space, in which the most prosaic of surroundings now contained an additional meaning and value. The signs of this world were quite literally all around – but remained unread, except in their usual perception as random and senseless marks.
For me, this juxtaposition between imagined mindlessness and actual mindfulness was a poignant one, not least because I could already sense its repercussions.
Monday 27 July, 2009:
First thing I see when I come into my room is Argos’s picture atop Dimario’s– I can’t help but laugh out loud when I see it. God only knows how I’ll explain to the other teachers that it ‘needs’ to stay there till the end of the day. But I will – cos I promised Argos it could stay up and it can.
Fine finds that as amusing as I do. She cracks up when I tell her that I gave Argos velcro. Oh God, things are so ridiculous at times – such small things and yet so close to the line.
It makes me laugh to remember Friday, too: the year 10’s working away enthusiastically… and five extra personnel with no chairs, gently hovering, doing this and that for me; occasionally hitting the whiteboard with my markers.
Simeon chirping, “We are your only year 10 class, aye Miss, the only ones, aye,” with such a cherubic expression on his face.
Tau with his checked shirt on, and I say, “That’s an interesting school shirt, Taurangi.”
“It’s a gangsta’s shirt, Miss,” Argos says. “It’s what gangstas wear.”
And I say, making them laugh in jubilation, “Well, you’d better go and get a pass for it then, hadn’t you.”
I see such a gentleness about Argos, and find it quite amazing that a 14 year old boy so quietly refuses what’s offered him at school. There’s no dramatic confrontations, and I doubt that he creates real disturbances in class… he just doesn’t go, or if he does, he draws and does no work, and looks through the teacher. He’s fairly resigned to trouble, but he doesn’t actually seek it.
To me it’s very heart rending that this person, who is intelligent and thoughtful, should be hounded and prodded out of every corner he finds. And that’s why I won’t turn Argos away, even when it’s difficult.
Tuesday 28 July:
There are tagging rights going on in my room since Argos’s AMANI has appeared.
Dimario sees it immediately, and says to me, “Look Miss, someone’s put that up.”
“He was allowed to,” I reply.
“He was allowed to!” they repeat in amazed tones.
Dimario says, “Then are we allowed to?”
And I say, “Yeah, go on then,” and Alexander springs up and turns over the piece of paper, re-velcroes it back up on the wall, and hits SIRC onto it, and HZRD for good measure. It takes him all of two minutes, and they admire it with satisfaction.
Argos and Tau have already been around, I can see they want to come in, but Dimario’s presence puts them off.
He says to me later, “Saw you out there talking to your friends.”
“Oh, Dimario – they’re alright,” I say.
“They’re just little kids,” he says, in dismissive tones.
So there’s no love lost. I knew that already. But they’re semi-alright with one another, despite the crossing of the hits.
Dimario is diverted by my knowledge that one of his small stickers has been ‘up high’ in my room for weeks (discreetly attached to a poster).
“No Miss! That ayn’t mine!” says he.
“Oh, don’t say that – why deny it?” I reply, and he laughs and continues, “Ok Miss – then how would you say it?”
“Hazard,” I say, and his eyebrows lift with happiness.
“And what’s mine Miss, what’s mine?” Alexander asks.
“Sir C,” I say, and they grin at me.
It’s such a good feeling when I think of Dimario and Alexander still doing their work in 11 Social – not just reluctantly (though they are like that sometimes), but often with enthusiasm and a kind of tender willingness that makes my heart ache a little. Often they start by just going along with me to be ‘kind’, but then they get interested.
Dimario says to me, “You’re lucky Miss – no other teacher gets hardly any work out of me these days.”
“Oh, well I’m honored!” I reply. “Why am I lucky?”
He says again, “Cos I do work in this class.”
“I know, and I appreciate it,” I said. “But why – that’s what I wanna know.”
He begins, “Well…“ and just smiles and says, “Cos it’s kind of interesting, and…”
I laugh. “And cos I’m very persevering, aye Dimario.”
He says, “Yup, Miss. Most other teachers just give up.”
And we grin at one another.
It’s funny the way things are, in this place. When on one hand I work so hard to see them hold on. But at the same time, I know that I expect nothing from school… just to be able to show some solidarity; it’s really enough.
After interval I’m rubbing off my lesson ready for the next class, and I notice Argos has found time to decorate my whiteboard eraser as well, with AMANI and SSC.