Tuesday 7 December, 2010:
Andre arrives wearing a S$C hat, which I immediately whip off his head and lock in my cupboard, mindful of Marjorie’s uniform crackdown this week. He briefly protests: “Honest to who, Miss?”
“Honest, Andre. Miss Tunbridge has been coming around and doing uniform checks – she could come anytime.”
9 Social are at their very splendid best, and working away collaboratively on their ‘Equality and Inequality’ calendars (pfffft…), when in strolls Marjorie, not ten minutes after I’ve spoken to Andre about the possibility. She’s on a walkabout, looking at uniform and engagement. I felt like I’ve hit the jackpot: everything is perfect (except for Eddie’s socks), and as well as that, ‘learning’ is obviously being carried out effectively. Marjorie does a little tour through the classroom, walks round the tables, and talks to the kids in a ‘friendly’ way.
When she leaves to move on to the next class, Andre looks at me with gratitude. “Miss! You weren’t lying,” he says.
“Told you,” I reply, grinning at him.
“Miss saved your ass,” says Eddie, matter-of-factly.
A couple of minutes later, Sara comes in from next door. “What’s your class doing?” she enquires.
“Making calendars,” I tell her.
“Oh,” she says, and then “How did it go with Marjorie?”
“Really good,” I say, gesturing around the tables. “They were just being… like this, really.”
“Oh, lucky you,” says Sara. “Mine didn’t have any work out on their tables, and I’d already put a movie on. God know what Marjorie thought about that – it had nothing to do with Social Studies or anything.”
“Oh, I’m sure she’s ok with it,” I say, reassuringly. “Only a few more days of term.”
“And half of them were late to school,” Sara continues. “But I see most of your class are here.”
“Um yeah, it’s not too bad,” I say, and can’t help being glad that Marjorie noticed the very small ‘late’ list up on the board.
At that moment, I feel kind of sorry for Sara, but at the same time, I know she isn’t playing it right. And that means I keep a bit of distance – I can’t afford to be on a sinking ship right now. I need to be careful, especially with management looking on. I suspect they’re not all that impressed with Sara’s performance. And if she can’t find her angle – well, I don’t think she’ll be here long.
A lot of teachers are sympathetic to Sara – but then, a lot of teachers can afford to be. Whereas me; I’m basically pretty wary. I can only be in one ‘outside’ position, and I got that covered already. Rest of the time, I have to counter the ballast, so to speak.
At the end of class Andre and Eddie wait behind to talk to me. Andre produces from his bag a large Christmas stocking; which he holds forward, as if he wants me to dip my hand into it. “What’s that?” I ask, seeing that it bears the legend: ‘DO I DESERVE?’
“I made it,” Andre says cheerfully. “It’s for treats – kind of like Halloween.”
“Oh, I see,” I say, light dawning. “You want people to put things into it. I thought you were gonna give me something out of it.”
“No-oo,” explains Andre. “I’ve only got one thing in there at the moment.” He puts in his hand and retrieves a coin, which he holds aloft. “Ten cents,” he says, anti-climactically. “Karlene put that in. Do you want to put something in, Miss – cos I’ve been good?” he adds, in a hopeful voice.
I looked at Andre tenderly. “You are pretty good, Andre,” I tell him.
“And I’m good!” Eddie pipes up.
“Yes – but Andre’s ‘enterprising’, I think, to bring his Christmas stocking around!”
“I helped,” Eddie says.
“Ok, then you guys will have to share the treat, k?” And I get a Mars bar out of my desk drawer, and drop it into the stocking.
“Oh yummm!” they rejoice.
I suddenly remember something else I can contribute to Andre’s treat bag. I put it in for good measure: a skinny cap.
“Ohhh… shot, Miss!” Andre says.
“What about me? What about me?” cries Eddie.
I chuck another nozzle in, and he laughs.
On the way up to get my coffee, I see Leroi and Zion striding along, nearing the bridge.
I ask Leroi, “Is Tau down at Municipal today?”
“Think so,” he says.
“Working hard,” I add meaningfully, and Zion looks at me and grins. I say, “Well, he is working hard – doesn’t mean I’m not worried about him. But he’s working hard, all the same.”
“Yeah, he is,” agrees Leroi.
Later, out of some need I have to keep the lines of communication open in all directions, I mail Karys. I tell her that for a number of reasons, Tau’s not really ready for school (not at all – but I can’t say it so bluntly). And I say I’ll be in touch again about it if the situation changes,
But still, writing that email makes me realize that almost one whole school year has gone by without Tau being there. And so it’s hard to send; it feels like closing a door. Of course I’ll never close the door on Tau, but as far as school goes, it’s unlikely he’ll ever be able to return.
I guess it just isn’t meant to be. And who’s to say it shouldn’t be so? But I miss him. I miss him much.