The gangsta classroom

Sunday 10 October, 2010:

Morris phones me about the site visit. I’m aware, right from the start, that I need to meet school halfway on this one, but at the same time convince them it’s a win-win situation. So I offer the paperwork freely; even while I stress that the visit is technically not a school trip, involves only Inia and Noa, and has the blessing of their dad.

Morris is decidedly relieved to hear all this. I think he’s had had the impression that it was a lot ‘bigger’ – and I suspect we have Sarah Malin to blame for that. She has a tendency to blather ingenuously on subjects she knows nothing about, thinking she’s being supportive when actually she’s unaware of salient facts. I’m sure she means no real harm, but all the same.

He says, carefully, that because of ‘who’ and ‘what’ it is, he still feels we should cover our bases. At that, the conversation becomes quite deliberately light , partly because I don’t want to show my hand.

“Yes, you’re right, we should do everything by the book,” I say, adding, “Just in case the TV cameras are permanently trained on La-Verne’s bushes,” and we start to laugh.

Morris says, “Imagine the headlines! ‘Known criminals tagging at teacher’s home,'” he quips.

Inia’s told me already: “And we can’t go on Friday, cos I’ve got Youth Court.” But this I don’t mention.

Morris seems intrigued though, by the fact that I’m taking Inia and Noa, of all people. I don’t think he expected that. When I tell him that this is one thing that Inia is really, seriously good at, he’s kind of interested.

Still, no site visit yet: Morris tells me that none of the DP’s are at school this week to sign permission forms. La-Verne wonders if we could just go, and get the signatures retrospectively – but I’m doubtful about retaining Morris’s goodwill, if we do that.


Tuesday 12 October:

Leroi relays the news that Tau got caught tagging (in the supermarket) and ended up with a trespass notice, and all his vivids confiscated.

In Foodworld?” I ask in surprise.

“Yes, on the thing where the smokes are,” Leroi tells me.

I send home a red and a gold vivid for Tau.


Serena and Karlene, in my room at interval. Serena tells me, “Hazard said to my brother he should jump Taurangi…”

I roll my eyes, thinking this is probably the case. I say, “Yeah – but don’t worry. Dimario always says things like that.”

“Karlene thinks Dimario’s hot,” says Serena.

Karlene giggles.

“Well,“ I say, firmly. “I’m not telling him that – it’ll just inflate his ego even more than it’s already inflated.”

Karlene falls about giggling, and I say, “But I’ve got a lot of time for Dimario. He can just be a bit… difficult, sometimes.”

“And Karlene likes far too many boys,” pronounces Serena.

“True that,” I say, and Karlene giggles madly.

“And she laughs at everything,” Serena adds, lovingly.


Then Dimario in 12 History: a bit aloof; earphones on – next to Layton (doing nothing) and Jack.

“Come on Jack, you should be helping Layton,” I grumble. “Give him the benefit of your wisdom.”

“I’ll try,” says Jack, in a friendly and frank manner.

Layton casts an eye towards Jack and says with complete lack of pretence. “I don’t know what the Mau movement is…”

“Oh for God’s sake,” I groan.  “How can you sit in here for weeks and weeks and not know what the Mau movement is?”

“Cos of not listening,” says Layton cheerfully. He’s looking at me with such an amicable expression that I just laugh; can’t help it. We look over at Dimario, who takes no notice of our gaze.

“Do you know what the Mau movement is, Dimario?” I ask.

He ignores the question, with slightly querulous stillness.

“He’s listening to his iPod, Miss,” says Jack.

“Yeah well, he’s choosing not to hear,” I say. “Selective deafness, that’s what it is.”

“He’s having fun with a toothpick,” Layton adds, making Jack and me laugh, cos indeed Dimario is ‘idly’ chewing a toothpick, in a determined attempt to appear nonchalant.

At that he removes the toothpick from his mouth, and says to me, “What?” as if he’s just realised we’re directing our efforts to him.

“Oh Dimario,” I ask sweetly, “Do you know what the Mau movement is?”

“Well,” he begins, with slight reluctance. “It’s that Samoan independence thing…”

“Oh, hallelujah,” I say, grinning at Dimario, and he gives up being aloof and says, “I’ve been doing all the work – here –” and passes me his paper. “I’ve written down all the characteristics.” And he has, too: non-violent, strong, religious, anti-segregationist, nationalist…

Great,” I say with feeling. “Thank goodness someone knows what they’re doing up here!”


Today I remember about Libya’s missing jacket, and ask around.

“I don’t know anything about that,” says Layton (untruthfully, perhaps).

“Anyway – why did he leave it here?” says Jack, adding, “Everyone knows this is the gangsta classroom…”

At that, I laugh and laugh, looking at Jack’s expression of righteous indignation.

“What, Miss?” he says.

“Oh, nothing -” I say, and he grins back at me.



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