A river rising

Monday  8 March, 2010: 

This year’s 11 Social is alright, but it never feels like my old class with its beautiful, easy vibe. Paea (who I like – despite not wanting to like him for his part in Nio’s downfall) answers questions and exclaims joyfully, “Man, my brain’s on fire today!” As I go round, he calls to me quietly and conversationally, “Miss, who do you think’s better – Tupac or Biggie Smalls?” But I don’t answer: I’m away on the other side of the room and I don’t want to encourage people to be calling out over great distances – they need so little encouragement! And he assumes I didn’t hear, and asks someone closer the exact same question, and the moment passes.


Aperamo and Simeon call in at my tutor class, and look at me with no surprise or question.

“Oh, hello,” I say to them, also with no surprise or question.

Simeon says, “Miss, can I see my timetable – cos I’ve forgotten what I’ve got next.”

“Sure,” I tell him, and we bring it up on the database, and then Aperamo says, “And can I see mine – I want to see the part where it shows the naughty stuff I’ve done.”

So I bring up the pastoral screen, and every comment since 2008 comes scrolling up – a list as long as your arm. They look very impressed.

All those!” says Aperamo.

“Look,” Simeon notes, “There’s the one from last week –‘Swore at a member of stafftwo day stand down’,” he reads out, laughing at Aperamo.

“Oh – yeah, Miss,” explains Aperamo. “That was my Science teacher.”

I say, looking at his kind-hearted, open face, “Aperamo, I can’t imagine you swearing at any member of staff.”

“He does!” says Simeon.

“Well – I find it very difficult to imagine,” I tell him, honestly.


Inia arrives (late), comes straight over to me and says: “Miss, I’ve been working on some designs at home. I’ve got two to bring in to project on Wednesday.”

Inia comes to school about 40% of the time, and so this announcement is a big honor; far as I’m concerned.


Tuesday 9 March:

There’s nothing really bad about this day – but I miss my comrades.

And a lot of teachers are interested in just any old ‘learning’, but I’m not. To try and do what I can’t do – it’s insanity. About halfway through 9 Social I go blank… I feel it rise like a river rising. All of a sudden I’m just talking words with no meaning. Some switch has flicked me over to the inside of my mind, and the classroom kind of fades out for a moment. And then, of course, I rally, and keep on explaining to the kids about open and closed questions.


My only solace: Aperamo bounds again in at tutor.

Sophie says, “Who’s he?”

“A special guest,” I say patiently, because Sophie’s only about 13.

“Yeah – I’m special!” Aperamo agrees, laughing.

“Special needs…” mutters someone else, and Aperamo laughs even more.

“Mi-iss, he should be in his own tutor, shouldn’t he?” Sophie persists.

“No, he’s a special guest,” I reiterate, and she gives up.


No, not my only solace – there’s also Dimario in History. One of the girls says, “Miss, look: Dimario’s tagged on his booklet.”

‘HAZRD’  it says in blue highlighter, neatly on the top.

“No,” says Dimario. “You don’t know. Miss likes it,” he continues, confidently and without swagger. He adds, “Miss likes it when we express ourselves – she’s my graffiti teacher.”

“Honest to who!” the girl exclaims.

“Honest – aye Miss,” he says, appealing to me.

And I nod, thinking – well I wouldn’t say I ‘teach’ him anything in graff; it’s more the other way round. And yet Dimario’s totally serious; dropping that ironic tone altogether.


Little things – and that’s all. And then there are long, long times where I feel just empty and blank to the rest of it.


Thursday 10 March:

I don’t want it enough: this whole day, this whole week. School is mostly rigmarole; stuff to be done just because I have to. Year 9’s this afternoon – Andre touches my heart a little bit, and Eddie. I feel tender towards them: Andre, wilting in the heat; Eddie, with his hair like a teddy bear’s fur.

Oh, the afternoon drags out, and I hate making them do all this stuff: mapping and indexes and capital cities. But they’re a nice class, a good class.

I think the reason I like Andre and Eddie is because I don’t have to pretend quite as much with them. Andre says to me, “Eddie’s a dick, aye Miss,” with endearing faith in my reaction – he says it almost affectionately.

I say absently, “No, he’s not a –” and then stop.

“Say it…” implores Andre, quietly. “Oh, say it, Miss.” He laughs at the thought of such a word coming from my mouth, and I shake my head, but he knows it’s funny and so do I. He strokes Eddie’s soft curls. “Eddie’s got nice hair, aye Miss.”

Eddie grins. And we keep on going with the stupid map sheet.


In tutor, Inia tells me quietly, “I’m sorry I didn’t come to project yesterday – there’s things happening at home.”

“It’s alright, Inia” I say.


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