I knew I could expect nothing from school, and yet there was still a part of me that hadn’t really accepted this yet. That’s where the energy drain came in: the amount of wasted energy burned up in frustration, and in smashing myself regularly and uselessly against the notion that it ‘shouldn’t’ be unfair, that it ‘should’ give up something – when I already knew it wouldn’t, it wouldn’t!
I needed to find a way of running my end of the show, so that I didn’t use my energy up so bad all the time.
Wednesday 19th August, 2009:
Very tired and my throat is sore. Today: making tiny little bits of space – at interval I’m just about to go upstairs and get a coffee, when George blunders in, smelling of smoke.
“Miss!” he says. “My mate wants to smash me.” He shakes his head with a bewildered shake.
I say, “Oh, why is that?”
“Cos he thinks I slept with his girlfriend… and he says I gave her a hickey.”
“And did you?”
“No!” he snorts, outraged. “I just slept in the same bed as her, but she was inside the covers and I was outside the covers!”
“And you didn’t give her a hickey?”
“Nah!” he says, grinning and making me laugh, and I say, “Maybe you gave her a hickey in your sleep,” and he laughs and laughs, and says, “Nah, honest – I didn’t!”
So we just sit there chatting away, and I don’t even mind about the coffee, cos George’s bit of space is very important to him, I think. He comes to the laptop and brings up a couple of things to show me what he’s playing at the moment.
After a while Conor strolls in, and George and I are bent over the laptop listening to Twista. Conor says, “Miss, you’re… just one of the bros now,” and George cracks up, and they look at me with such friendly faces. To see George’s nice and curly eyelashes, for some reason today makes me feel happy with the world.
Conor says, “Shall we go for a quick reefer before class?”
“In a minute,” says George, so Conor gets some rubber bands and shows me a magic trick with a pen, which is actually quite good.
Tau comes in, does a quick territorial hit on the board, and departs saying, “Laters Miss.” Tau wants the space and company all to himself. He’s not like Argos, who would happily be in my room with anyone, just doing his own thing.
Nor Nio, who arrives with a friend in tow, some time before lunch. Nio introduces him, casually: “David, Miss – he hits Crow.”
“No I don’t – I’ve changed it,” says David quickly, looking at Nio in total disbelief. That’s his,” he adds, unconvincingly.
“Miss knows mine!” Nio says, cheerfully. “She knows Hazard’s, and Sir C’s… and Romer’s,” and I laugh and say, “I thought you were going to say – she knows too much.”
“Nah, all good Miss,” says Nio, and David regards me with a slightly surprised look.
Aperamo says to me later, “Miss, you like those KS boys, aye?”
“Yup, I do,” I tell him. “And do you know why?”
“Cos they’re respectful to you,” he says, straight away.
And I nod. I see Aperamo’s mind turning, again… thinking it all over…
Thursday 20th August:
I’m sick, not gonna go to school tomorrow. I’m gonna go to bed. I’m so tired and I ache all over, my throat hurts, and my chest; my feet even hurt.
Oh, hard to think of how little the things which I call success, and how at variance with school I am.
Nio stays with my 11Soc class (instead of his Math class) for the entire time today; what’s more he does all the work, sitting with Jack – he does more than Dimario, more than Alexander.
Jack says to him, “You can take that home and glue it in your book.”
“I don’t have a book,” Nio says, adding “My teacher’s a fag.”
And he’s happy. I don’t care today if he ‘should’ go to Math, when I see him just happy at the back, sitting between Jack and Dimario, as quiet and perfectly behaved as you could imagine – or with Nio: couldn’t imagine.
Of all the kids I know and love, I’m ‘easiest’ with Nio, there’s no undercurrent of anything except simple affection – no dramas or ‘tests’ to run; no power struggles or signals – just a constant feeling of being at ease and comfortable and trusting and happy, on both sides.
Tau comes into my room last period, and says, “What do you have, Miss?”
“Year 13’s,” I tell him.
Tau watches as they come in. He wants to stay, but wavers as he sees the senior boys arrive. He looks at my chair, weighing things up, but casts a final wary eye around the room and says, “I’ll go to class… but I’ll see you Monday.” Then he leaves, and I see him hovering on the stairs before going up.
In a way, of course, it makes life easier to not have him there – but it’s strange how I do miss the complications, the complicated ways of Tau (and of Argos).
George comes in too, wanting to go online and check his credits. He has 10, which makes him surprisingly happy.
“These 4 are new,” he tells me with pride, stabbing the screen with one finger.
“Oh, good,” I say. “English… are they from the exam?”
“Dunno,” he says, in his usual baffled manner.
I laugh, cos yesterday George tells me, “That exam was all fucked up.”
“How come?” I ask.
“Cos I didn’t know there were two booklets,” he explains. “I started the first one, and I finished nearly all of it, and then I opened the second one – and it had the stories in it. I was supposed to read the stories first…”
“Oh – you did the answer booklet without reading the resource booklet!” I exclaim, suddenly getting it.
“Yeah!” he cracks up.
“So…” I ask, mystified, “How did you know what to write for the answers?”
“Dunno,” he says, joyfully.
“So you just made all the answers up out of your head?”
“Yeah!” And we laugh, and laugh.
But after school I have to set all my relief, and everything crashes inside me, my hands shake, my brain feels like it’s misfiring. I take ages to do simple little things; it doesn’t seem obvious what to do first, second, third… then I lose what I’ve printed out: the relief work and the class rolls, and I’m almost sobbing with fatigue, looking for it. But I find it, and then I can go. Kuli and I drive home, and I’m totally, completely exhausted and I feel like crying because it was so hard today. And good – or kind of – but hard too, and I don’t get it; don’t get it at all.
Friday 21st August:
I make coffee to kind of burn my throat, and go back to bed. Put Smashproof on rotate, and I’m gonna lie down (if I can without coughing), and let it run… and run.
It’s probably because I’m sick, but today I feel like everything is unfair at school – no it’s not just because I’m sick: it is unfair – but because I’m sick I feel it more keenly and feel myself less equipped to resist or counter it.
I deeply resent school for these things:
- For taking my ‘free’ space
- For piling work on top of work on top of work, and making me so fuckin’ tired
- For the constant forms of surveillance and monitoring which we are supposed to ‘own’ and ‘reflect on’.
- For giving me no choice but to take sides
- For its relentless ordering, accounting for, and examining of each individual – attempting to leave no stone unturned – oh poor Argos; poor me.
I don’t expect anything from school. I don’t, or I shouldn’t. When I first began teaching, I could half-convince myself that it wasn’t so bad. Frustrating, yes – but I still didn’t realise the half of it; how could I? I mean, now I think of school as… actually brutal, a lot of the time. It’s a very wearying thing to go there every day, and yet, my heart responds with a passion I’ve grown to depend on. Even though I feel like crying about it: the fact that school will give me nothing, will try smash me every time, there is a warmth and liveliness to my resistance – as miniscule a difference as it makes to anything.
And there’s a feeling of time and space expanding, in the weirdest moments. Our hearts are very resilient, even when all seems hopeless. All I have to do to make myself smile, right now, is think of George telling me about his English exam and the two booklets. Or Nio, arriving to 11 Social before the boys get there… Alexander comes in and sees him already up the back and says tenderly, “Miss, how come you keep letting this nigga in?”, with an affectionate glance at Nio’s untroubled face.
Or Tau saying conversationally, as we catch sight of Karys: “Miss Kirk thinks she’s hot shit, aye,”
I say, “She is hot shit.” and we struggle to stop laughing at one another.
Little tiny fragments of resistance, which expand in my heart like bubbles carrying their pockets of secret sweetness, secret energy, secret air supply… just when you think you’re gonna gulp the last bit.