The unexpected thing

Monday 28 February, 2011:

I ring the Trades Institute this morning – there may be a few places left on their entry level course at Municipal – if I move now on it. They’re really helpful, but I’m just crossing my fingers that there’ll be a spot, and that Tau might actually give this a try. I text him to say I’ll come over at 2pm tomorrow. I just automatically factor it into my non-contacts, without a second’s hesitation.


Tuesday 1 March:

I take Tau to the TI, and feel very proud of him. He’s trying so hard, and that brings out the best in me, too. The calm, good, and consistent side of me, that sometimes completely gets lost other times.

Afterwards we go paint shopping. “Shot, Miss…” says Tau as he chooses cans for project (a few of which he gets to keep), plus a little selection of nozzles. Then we drop the boxes off at my new place, so I can show Tau. I want him to understand that I won’t shut him out; that he’s important. And I can see he feels steadier, to know that – I can see it in his eyes.

Tau likes my shed. He prances in, and sets the Ironlak cartons down gently, atop the shelf at the far end. Then he looks it up and down. “Ohh!” he says. “You could do heaps of stuff in here – it’d be good for growing!”  His eyes light up, and I can’t help but laugh at him.

Later we sit on my front deck, and Tau says, “Miss… this is a cool house.”

“It’s ok,” I say, laughing. “It’s not flash, but I like it.”

“I like it too,” Tau says.


He’s already told me, in the car, that Scott’s trying to take over the dealing. “He’s a fuckin’ jealous cunt,” Tau says. “He just doesn’t like me making more money than him.”

“We-ell…” I say thinking about this seriously, “I don’t think it’s just that.”

“It is,” insists Tau. “Fuck him – he’s always trying to tell me what to do.”

“I think, part of it…” I say, “Is that your dad doesn’t want you to go inside. He gets worried about that.”

“Nah – fuck that,” Tau says, laughing bitterly. “That ain’t the reason Miss, honest, he doesn’t care about what happens, he just wants the money.”


By now, we’re driving towards the motorway, and the mall. Tau sighs, telling me, “Fuck the stupid cunt, he’s been on fries again – he’s been going psycho all the fuckin’ time. You know that day you came round?”

“Last time?” I ask.

“Yeah, well that day, he was just coming off it. The night before that, he was going all crazy, then the day you came, he was all shaky and stuff… remember he was sleeping, and then he came out?”

I nod, remembering what Leroi had told me the day before. “Yeah, I know,” I say. “I know, Tau.” I feel so gentle towards Tau, whose heart seems half-broken as he tells me, “Miss, I’ve been putting up with this shit for like… my whole life. And he always just says sorry, every time, and then he just keeps doing it, over and over again.”

“You’re right, I know,” and Tau sighs again. I say, “I’m not defending your dad, Tau. But, you know that day… when you were in the room?”

Tau nods.

“Well, he got pretty emotional, he said he was a useless dad, and it was all his fault. And he told me he was worried about what you were doing.”

“Did he say that?” asks Tau.

“Yeah… oh Tau, I’m not saying your dad’s doing things right. I’m just saying, he does know it. He -well – I think he feels ashamed. So, it isn’t just the money he wants; he’s scared you’re going to end up in trouble, and he feels like he’s the one to blame.”

Tau nods again, quietly thinking about this.


After a bit, he tells me, “I ran away from home again, the day after you came. But I went back. Because my dad was real psycho that weekend – he even gave Leroi a hiding – I had to go back.”

I nod.

“Yeah,” sighs Tau. “And you know, he can’t even look after things when he’s on fries… I mean with the dealing and that.”

“I was thinking that too,” I say truthfully. “He wouldn’t be on his game at all.


Wednesday 2 March:

This morning at ‘Staff Professional Development’, Karys and the DP’s hand out info on how to write ‘learning objectives’ and scaffold ‘learner reflections’. I feel my heart sink. I’m not a natural teacher, not at all. Mandy, seated next to me, says, “Oh, this is really helpful,” and my heart just sinks even more than before.


It’s not until 12 History that I start to feel better. A boy called Ali comes in twenty minutes late, but today it doesn’t agitate me; I just say, “Hey, Ali,” in a friendly way, and let him sit down unaccosted.

“Sorry I’m late Miss,” he says, once he’s realised that there isn’t any big drama about to unfold. “The volley team had that assembly thing in the theatre. I had to stay there till 12 o’clock.”

“Oh – that’s right,” I say, remembering, and feeling glad that I hadn’t challenged him before he even had a chance to explain himself.

He then begins his work very patiently, and waits for me to come talk to him about what we’re doing. He seems quite resigned to waiting, and my heart really does go out to him. Last week I’d gotten pissed off with him on a few occasions: for coming in late; moving the fan; talking too much – all fairly minor indiscretions, and I hadn’t really given him much grief. But I had told him off unnecessarily about the fan – come down a bit hard on him and made a stupid point of it.

And actually it bothers me, thinking about it now. So, near the end, I say, as I’m working with him, “Ali?”


“I spoke kind of rudely to you last week. I’m sorry,” I tell him.

“Oh… that’s okay, Miss,” says Ali, who looks surprised at this apology coming his way.

“Thanks for that,” I say. “I didn’t speak politely to you, and I’ve been feeling bad about it. I just want you to know that I’m really sorry – it won’t happen again.”

All good, Miss,” Ali says, with no animosity, just a quiet patience that tugs at my heart. “I… I get quite a bit of it, I’m used to it.”

“Well, you won’t get it again from me – I’m very sorry for speaking to you like that,” I say.

Ali smiles at me – it makes me feel very humble.


I think of Tau and Nio… I’ll never forget how important it is to do the unexpected thing. And sometimes I hate school, that it kind of traps me into doing the ‘expected’ thing – the thing I don’t want to do. I want to remain aware of the possibility for doing things differently.


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