Wednesday 28 August, 2013:
I could explode, thinking about the whole dumb day. I waste my morning on Professional Development, babysit 9 Social at the library, and then have to sit through the inter-house speech finals – Chloe has appointed me one of the judges – which last the whole of lunchtime. As if I care about the speeches, most of which are full of the glories of being a ‘MC learner’. The winning contestant spouts the most wretched drivel. The other judges seem to quite like this, seeing as it all sounds a bit like a TED talk. Credit where credit’s due though – a couple of the others are actually alright. .
After missing my lunch break, I have 12 History – with Nellie, her big eyes popping and rolling. She gives the usual performance over shit all, just as I’ve come to expect. Only this time I’m furious. I feel like I want to smack her.
Chloe takes her away to DP alley, and I tell her on the way out that there’s no way I’m having her back in class. I don’t give two fucks about that restorative crap, I think to myself. No little bitch is speaking to me like that.
Then I get home and find a power bill for over $500. It’s an actual reading, which means that the last one (an estimate) was way under – hence the astronomical sum. And money’s really tight this week, I don’t know how I’m going to pay it.
Thursday 29 August:
Still on my mind: the power bill. There’s no way I can pay by the due date. I ring the power company, they say I can split it and pay half next time – but it means I lose the discount (a considerable $53).
Oh well, it’s been cold and we’ve had heaters on, taken hot showers. I’m not sorry about that.
Today at school, a lot of times I feel that tangled up messed up unruly pain in my heart, at having to be there, and function and exist there. Chloe wants to meet about Nellie. And then the data projector in my room stops working, and the electrician can’t come till Monday.
So, 11 History with the old-fashioned things: paper and the whiteboard. They grumble, but only in the most routine way. But that pain in my heart won’t quit. In my non-contact, I have to re-do the whole year 13 lesson, knowing the prop of the data projector is gone. I mail the class the powerpoint and activities. But I don’t care to teach history today, as if the events of the past were destined to be nothing more than a learning activity. I suffer all the way through the afternoon, and at 3 o’clock Slade and l leap out to the car and share a cig on the way home.
Friday 29 August:
After school I take Leroi (and Raphael) to Youth Services, all Leroi’s paperwork needs to be dropped off. While we’re there, I become aware that the two of them have stepped outside and are eyeing up some boys in school uniform, who have halted on the footpath – right by the door. I hear a bit of two-way verbal interchange going on, like, “Bring your boys…” So I go out too.
“Go back inside,” I tell my two, and they actually obey this directive. The lady on the front desk looks at them uncuriously, no doubt having seen this all before. But she seems none too pleased, either.
“Who are those boys?” I say.
“And do you know them – have you met them before?”
“No, we’ve just seen them around,” is the reply.
“Well, I want you to leave it,” I tell them. “This isn’t the place to bring trouble.”
“It was them who started it,” Leroi says. “They were eyeing us up, down Municipal. And then they came past and saw us here.”
“Probably just trying to step us out cos we’re wearing blue…”
“Probably,” I sigh, guessing this is quite accurate. “But I still don’t want any trouble. This isn’t the right place for it. Think, man!”
“Sorry, Miss,” Leroi says, and then in the next breath, “If they come in, I’m gonna pick up that chair -” He looks at Raphael.
“One of them’s got a knife,” Raphael informs me. “It’s down his sock.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I say, exasperated and also getting alarmed at this piece of news.
“They might not come in,” Leroi goes on, and then, seemingly resigned to action, “But when we go out, they’ll be waiting.”
“Yeah, they will,” agrees Raphael.
“No they frickin won’t,” I mutter. “You two stay here.” And, “I’ll move them on,” I add, half to myself as I go out the door. For some reason I feel perfectly calm, and sure enough, there they are, not a few metres down Municipal Rd.
As soon as the two of them see me, they turn away and take a couple of reluctant steps in the direction of Bream. But I walk a little faster, and catch up with their faux-nonchalant pace.
“Hi boys,” I say, and neither of them acknowledges the greeting. A couple of girls are watching, now.
“Hey boys,” I say again, and this time their heads turn. They look about Leroi’s age, and regard me with some ambivalence.
“Everyone needs to get on their way home now,” I say, in a voice that signals friendly firmness of intention. “That algood?”
They look over their shoulders, pause again – and I decide to drop a deliberate signal into the conversation. “I’m a teacher at Municipal College,” I tell them, using the despised persona (well it’s got to be good for something). “And those two boys in there are with me. So everyone needs to leave it, and go on home. I’ve told them exactly the same thing,” I add, to try convey a sense of equity. “Exactly the same as what I’ve told you.”
They nod, deciding it isn’t worth the risk. She’s a teacher. She’ll probably ring our principal: I’m sure these are the thoughts going through their minds right now.
One of them starts walking away, and the other one follows suit.
“Thanks, boys,” I tell them, in a fulsomely teacherly way.
“Algood,” one of them says, politely. Thus signalling an end to the whole thing.
I go back to Youth Services, and find Leroi and Raphael have stayed put – good boys – though at the same time they are lunging towards the door, straining to see what’s happening outside. When I come in, they wait with bated breath for my report.
“They’ve gone home,” I say, and I actually see the tension lift in Leroi’s eyes. But it bothers me, of course. That he wouldn’t have considered where he was, or who else was there.
“This isn’t the place, Leroi,” I tell him again.
“I know, I’m sorry Miss,” he says, and I can see he means it. But he’s still hyped.
It’s funny to me, how I can be calm, authoritative, and unafraid in this situation. One of the boys has a knife, I don’t even think about that when I go to talk to them. I literally forget Raphael has even mentioned it. It’s only afterwards that I freak out a little bit – not because I’ve put myself in danger (I haven’t: we’re out in the open, and I’m pretty sure the ‘teacher’ reference will do the trick, if my manner’s alright). But because Leroi wouldn’t have hesitated, if they’d come in.
And how is it that can I handle myself like this, and then be so upset by little idiots like Nellie, who don’t mean anything to me. Or feel a kind of downcast shame at the very idea of having to teach the year 13’s. I guess it’s because I feel ashamed, to be fake. Whereas today, I behave as myself. I actually feel stable, and certain of my actions. Which is why it works, and why teaching can never work like that for me.
Ohh, I have my moments. But they’re nothing to do with teaching. They’re just small moments of connection or freedom. With Slade – or with Aurelius the other day. When you ‘bow’ towards someone, and think to yourself: this person is good, this person is kind, this person is worth my time and attention. Even in the midst of the falsest environment, I can feel gratitude, for a little while.