The best news I’ve had all day

Friday 8 July, 2011:

Miraculously, Zion has been changed out of his year 10 timetable! It’s taken months of perseverance, and I still don’t know what exactly has persuaded Marjorie to change her mind. No-one tells me – or Zion, for that matter – that it’s happened. We find out almost by accident:

This morning, Zion has already tried to go to his year 10 class (on my instructions). But once again, he’s too shy to go in. He comes back to me – not roaming, just not knowing what else to do.

Zion really finds it a struggle to communicate – sometimes even with me – except through the mediating power of his art. That doesn’t bother me one iota. I just talk to him like I know he’s listening (because he is!) “What are we gonna do with you, Zion?” I sigh rhetorically, and he smiles, knowing I’m teasing him. I add, “I mean, what would you like to do now, if you’re not going to class?”

“I dunno… anything, roam around?” ventures Zion.

“Roam around?” I say, in mock disbelief, and Zion can’t help spluttering with laughter at my expression. “If I see you roaming around I’ll give you a slap round the ears…” I mutter, and Zion, who knows I’m only kidding, just grins and awaits instructions.


I think, at first, of taking him back (to cover myself, really, in case a DP turns up), but that’s such a waste of Zion’s time and mine, and the last thing I want to do is to go all ‘teacherly’ on him. And then I just think: Oh fuck it, I’ll take the flak for this, if it comes down to it.

So that’s when I bring out the drafts, and he begins to settle. I see him pore over the drafts – Inia’s comes in for special attention. Then I get him a pencil, and felts, and he starts to draw.


Morris comes in, and Zion looks alarmed – a moment of sheer panic registering on his face. He’s sure Morris has come in specially to uplift him, and take him away. But of course Morris has had no idea Zion was even there; he’s come to talk to me about other stuff. I feel duty bound to explain though: “I’ve told him to stay here – it’s ridiculous making him go back – I don’t care what Marjorie says. I’m happy to wear this if anyone asks.”

Morris just says to me, “I won’t say anything; I haven’t seen anything,” (this is most irregular, of course – and I appreciate it). He says, out loud, “Oh! I’ve suddenly gone blind… I can’t see anyone here!” and Zion looks at the Dean incredulously, as he realizes he’s safe; he goes back to his drawing; and Morris and I talk.


When Morris leaves, I check the database to see if Zion’s teacher has made a note about this morning – but then something else catches my eye: that class has disappeared from Zion’s timetable, and I see ’11 English’ in its place. I stare at the screen in complete disbelief.

“Zion?” I say, just low key – and he looks up. “Come and look at this…”

And he does. I put one finger on the screen, on his timetable for Friday: “Look, they’ve changed your timetable… you’re in Mrs Power’s English class, with Leroi.”

Zion gapes at me, and I at him. He says, slowly and wonderingly, “Miss… did you change it?”

I say, “No, I’m not allowed to change it… only the DP’s are allowed to do that.”

“Then – who?” says Zion in amazement.

“I don’t know,” I tell him. “But it’s the best news I’ve had all day.”

Zion looks so reprieved, and so happy. He just nods, and nods, and laughs; and it takes my heart and squeezes it. I think – oh thank God I tried, and wouldn’t leave it alone when I was told to.


It’s almost break time. I say, “I brought the paint in today. If you want to, you could do some painting at lunch time… or you can just go out to lunch, it’s up to you.”

“Paint,” pronounces Zion immediately, and I actually see him lift his hand and move it across the unfinished board from a distance, stroking an outline in the air as if the can’s already in his hand.

“Ok, cool, then I’ll get the paint out, and you can set the board up on the tables – you know how to do it aye. “

He nods, and whisks off to push the tables into place; get the dropsheets out.


But when Libya turns up, tapping on the window, Zion says quietly to me, “Miss, don’t let him in, I just want to paint on my own today.”

“K then,” I say, and when Libya sees me shake my head, he says in a friendly way, “You’re sad, Miss!” and Zion just smiles. He’s already deep in the zone: head to one side, appraising each move he makes; moving back and forth to inspect; then paint, inspect; then paint… he gets on a chair to do the top of the ‘P’, then gets down, looks at it from a distance. His eyes narrow to get the perspective, then he hops up on the chair again and keeps going.

By now a small crowd has gathered in the block to watch, and Zion doesn’t care; he just presses the override switch, and bypasses his normal fear. Because he’s found the thing that makes time stand still – I can see this in every move he makes. His usual inarticulate, stifled expression has just fallen away, and in its place is something very bold and assured. This powerfully affects me, and I think again – oh thank God I didn’t just leave it, and then: I wish everyone could see him like this. Karys, and Marjorie, and the Board of Trustees.


One of the other teachers, Chloe, arrives – she’s on duty and sees Zion painting, on her way past. “Wow!” she says to me, quietly.

Zion hasn’t even noticed her come in, or if he has, it barely blips on his radar; so engrossed in his work is he.

“Who is that?” she asks.

“Zion Kipa.”

She nods, saying, “Oh, that name rings a bell…”

I don’t elaborate – there’s no point, really. She would have heard him mentioned in despatches: pastoral meetings and disciplinary matters.

She says, “He’s very talented.”

“Yes,” I say. “He’s the most talented artist I’ve ever seen here… and I’ve seen a few.” Inwardly, I bow to Sir C, Hazard, Statik, Cluzo.

“Look how connected he is with what he’s doing,” she continues. I can’t help feeling pleased that she’s stopped by – and I like Chloe, despite all my preconceptions of her. She’s after Sara’s job, and is in the loop with Karys. Yet for some reason, we get along quite well. I have a feeling that when push comes to shove (as it surely will, probably as soon as next week), it might be handy to have her in my corner.


Chloe says next, “What did you think of the house meeting on Thursday morning?”

It certainly wasn’t good! Sara’s body language at the meeting showed she had well and truly abdicated power. She was closed off, defensive, and abrupt – verging on rude. Some teachers still seemed to be in her camp. But the first stirrings of the new guard cued one another with eye contact and quiet ‘Shall we..?’s, before Chloe started the ball rolling. I had watched all this with interest.

So I say to Chloe, “It was interesting.”

“Yes, it was interesting,” agrees Chloe.

We regard one another with reasonable goodwill. I decide to show my hand a little. I say, “There’s been a bit of discontent about who should be taking the reins. But my feeling is that if Sara is unwilling to do the job until the end of term…”

“The job she’s supposed to be doing,” says Chloe, sensing that we’re on the same page.

“Yes, and while she obviously doesn’t want to direct things anymore, I’m glad you were able to step up and keep things running.”

So certain information is transmitted, implicitly. The fact that I appear to be pragmatic (which I am) and the fact that I’m prepared to back up Chloe (which I am – at least for now). Privately, I’m keeping an eye out for other contenders too. But I have a degree of respect for the way she handled herself at the meeting on Thursday.


Later on I mail La-Verne about the encounter with Chloe, and how I had tried to get some leverage (primarily in light of my upcoming meeting with Karys). La-Verne replies: ‘Well done Grasshopper, at the end of Term one in AS: ‘Strategic action in response to a Strategic issue’ you have received an Excellence!’

This really does make me laugh.


After lunch, Zion goes off to Maths like a lamb. First he put away the paint and nozzles, saying, “Miss? Monday?”

“Yes, sure thing, Zion – I’ll bring the paint every day next week,” I tell him.


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