Monday 2 May, 2011:
First day of term.
12 History: Levi’s pretty subdued; Riley is just a complete little star. It puts me in a good mood from the beginning to have Riley sitting there, cheerfully going out of her way to be so-lid. Levi is actually quite friendly, in a testing-the-waters kind of way. But though I’m polite and everything – I just leave it.
Then Inia’s Family Group Conference, in Carthill. Noa and I go from school, and meet everyone else there. I’ve never attended anything quite like this before. I feel scared at first, and then I start to relax and actually take a great interest in the proceedings.
I think Inia is very brave today; the whole process is extremely taxing for him – especially listening to the victim impact report. He sits quietly, and his fingers rub the striped beanie which he’s taken off and holds in his lap. Over and over again, while he listens.
Eventually though, it’s very good news – the case is definitely staying in the Youth Court, and the charges have been reduced (to ‘Injuring Recklessly’). So there’s no chance, as far as I can see, of any custodial outcome. Instead there’s to be a community-based sentence (community work, a youth programme, and a restorative with the other family). The fact that Inia’s begun his course at the TI really seems to have helped ensure this outcome, too.
Tuesday 3 May:
I have my first non-contact of the week, and spend quite a portion of it talking to three waggers: Leroi, Zion, and Teki – who sit trustingly beside me and tell me their tales of woe.
I have a good talk to them. But it’s very slow progress, sometimes, with Leroi and Zion. Teki I only know from project. But, touchingly, he says to me today, “I wish the other teachers were more like you.”
Leroi and Zion agree, with resigned nods. Zion adds, “Whenever we come down the stairs, most teachers just yell at us – ‘Where are you supposed to be?’
I can’t help but laugh
Wednesday, 4 May:
I’m in project – we’re sanding down the sides of the tables – and some kids say, casually, “Look, Miss -”
I peer out through the block windows, seeing nothing.
“Axis, Miss,” they remark, going back to their sanding.
“Huh?” I say, going to the door this time, but still seeing nothing.
“Nio – and he’s all in red.”
“Oh, geez,” I say, and then rhetorically: “What’s he doing here in red?” There was a gang related fight at school yesterday: someone’s dad, someone’s older brother on site – and the police were called.
But five minutes pass, and it seems to be a false alarm.
And then, “Look, I told you it was Axis!” says Andre, and there’s Nio, standing at the door of my room. He is indeed dressed all in red, and stands out like a beacon. The kids watch quite interestedly as I greet him.
“Nio!” I say, and he grins. “You really shouldn’t be at school…” I begin, and he looks hopefully at me. I throw caution to the winds. “But it’s so good to see you,” I conclude, kind of sighing at myself. “Do you want to come in?”
“Yes please, Miss,” replies Nio, and at the door of the ROR, we hug one another tight. He comes in, settles himself at my desk, and looks entirely content. “Can I bring up some sounds?” he asks.
“Course you can,” I say, praying that today won’t be the day for Marjorie to make her rounds. “Oh, it’s good to see you – tell me all about what you’ve been doing.”
While Nio drawls about cops and court and gangs and fights and drinking, I just listen and remain unperturbed. I don’t entirely buy all the details and embellishments of this tale of bravado, but I get that the essence of it is for real; Nio’s life is pretty unstable. But all the same, he’s still the beautiful and good Nio – just grown up a little bit.
We talk the whole afternoon – I let the kids work on their own, pretty much. I think they can sense that I’m preoccupied by something they sort of understand, so they don’t make any fuss. They only know Nio by sight and reputation.
“What year are these guys?” Nio asks at one point, looking at the class.
“10’s and 11’s, mostly,” I tell him.
“They look little, now, to me…” muses Nio.
“That’s cos you’ve gotten older,” I say.
“I am older,” he agrees.
“Well, it doesn’t matter how old you get,” I tell him. “I’m really glad to see you, and I always will be.”
He grins, saying, “Sometimes… I wish I could come back to school.”
After a while, the thought impresses itself upon me that I have to take this opportunity while I can. “Nio,” I say. “You know I’ve always got time for you.” We’ve been talking about what he wants to do; his aims are quite unrealistic, considering the fact that he’s been on some kind of youth programme for over a year and still doesn’t have Level 1. I write down my numbers, while he looks on. And I tell him: “If you want help with anything – just give me a call.”
“Ohh,” says Nio, upon seeing the landline prefix. “Do you live in Municipal now?”
“Yup, I live in Municipal now…” I begin.
“Whereabouts?” Nio enquires.
I have a moment of ‘decision’ – then actually it’s no decision at all. I say, “Nio, I’ll give you my address too, and if you want to, you can just come around.”
“I will, Miss,” says Nio. “One day I’m gonna come see you. I’ll bring my girlfriend over to meet you too.”
Later I feel very emotional. Tau and Nio; Nio and Tau. I miss them much. What shaped me, that year? – 2009. Whatever it was, it’ll never leave me, never.