Wednesday 18th March, 2009:
Nio, in the library when I bring the year 9’s over. He comes up straight away, gives me a little touch on the shoulder, something between a stroke and a prod. “Sup, Miss,” he says.
“Hey Nio – what you doing here?”
“Wagging PE,” he tells me, and then “My sister’s here, Miss – wanna meet my sister?” He puts his arm around the shoulders of a young girl, and brings her forward. She stands and smiles, very sweetly.
I say, “Are you really Nio’s sister?”
“Yes, Miss,” she replies.
“It’s nice to meet you,” I tell her. “I’m a… a fan of Nio’s.”
Nio dances at my side, happily. “Yeeh Miss… my biggest fan, aye Miss,” and his sister laughs.
“Yes, that’s right – I’m your biggest fan,” I reply, with mirth but not irony, and Nio grins at me.
We have some kind of understanding, Nio and I. Almost all the teachers think he’s a diabolical child. So it counts for something; it counts for a little bit.
Nio really doesn’t want what school’s got. He wants it less than Dimario; less than Alexander. I admire him, but it’s difficult to see what would be of use to him. I guess just to try be faithful to his Nio ways, not get angry with him for things that he refuses completely intelligently. I’m as consistent with him as I know how to be, given all the constraints of my role. Still, it’s kind of heartbreaking to see what lengths he’ll go to to stand on his principles. Cos he’s going to get into so much trouble, all the way down the line. But he’s an intelligent, good person – and if ever I can stand up for him I will.
Tuesday 24 March:
It’s crazy to make the money last for so long. Crazy and kind of cool, but a little bit not…
- I have 3 oranges left
- I have 5 slices of bread
- 1 teabag, but I do have coffee (very important)
- No milk, no meat
- I have half an onion, some peas, some garlic
Kuli’s driving this week, so I don’t need to get gas until next week. I can’t top up my phone (and haven’t for a fortnight). I have 70c in my wallet.
Money… Food… Work… My poor brain. I just want to give in. I keep having to push myself past some kind of recurring point. I can’t keep going on and interminably on like this. There’s got to be something else I can do.
We have staff PD as usual today – a woman from the university comes in to talk about her research on ‘transitioning’ to high school. I despise with utmost conviction all this kind of jargon, and I don’t complete the survey she asks us to fill out. It’s (apparently) optional, But when I hand in my blank forms at the end, she looks at me in surprise.
After that, someone else talks for a long time about ‘SDL’ (self-directed learning). It apparently involves a process of ‘freedom’ and ‘choice’, but in my opinion offers no choice at all, just the ever increasing definition of the student day into smaller and smaller ‘spaces’, which are nothing like real spaces at all – but just more surveillance masquerading as autonomy. Those who don’t comply attend ‘Success Centres.’ Afterwards Mandy says to me, “Nio would be at the success centre all year!”
I dislike (even more than before) the latest ideas in education.
Thursday 26 March:
So tired. I can’t go on this way, even with milk this morning for the first time in a week. And I still don’t have teabags. I know it doesn’t matter, but I’m so tired of struggling. I would be so embarrassed if the teachers from work could see – embarrassed, why? I really don’t know. But it’s like two worlds to me, two worlds that barely coincide at times.
I’m not spending money on anything that I can save on. I don’t know – and then I do know – how it can be like this. Because there’s the rent, and I pay off my student loan, and then pay bills and get gas and buy some food… and then it’s all gone.
On the plus side – Dimario today:
He comes in, looks around. “Did Alexander get here yet?” he asks.
“No,” I reply.
“That means he’s not coming,” says Dimario matter-of-factly, and takes a seat. He gets out his pad of paper and starts putting a couple of finishing touches to one of his pieces.
But we’re having a practice for the test, and I’m pretty sure if Alexander doesn’t come today, he won’t be at the text next week either. So after a few minutes, I go over to Dimario and say, just quietly, “Do you know where Alexander is?”
He looks at me: “Yeah, I know where he is…”
I say, “Could you go get him for me?”
Dimario looks taken aback. Then he laughs. He says, “Yeah, ok – if you sign me out and everything.”
So I write him a note, and he goes off.
The kids by the door say, “Miss, Dimario’s just walked out.”
“I know,” I tell them, “He’s gone to get someone for me.”
“He won’t come back,” say the kids, shaking their heads.
“Yes he will,” I reply.
Ten minutes later, he’s back with Alexander and Jack. As he walks in, he says with cheer, “Look Miss, I brought you two for the price of one,” and grins. They sit down at the back, and I explain the thing to them, and then Dimario reads them the practice question out loud. At this point, to my surprise, they start to throw ideas into the conversation with alacrity. As I leave them to it, I hear Dimario say, “Right – now what do we think for question one?”
At the end of class, Dimario tells me, “Don’t worry Miss – I’ll get them back for the test.” He hands me his beautiful, articulate piece of writing. I read it over and felt very humble. Dimario, who feels like my brother; who has chosen to stay on board this stupid train for reasons I can’t quite fathom… but I’m grateful, oh I’m grateful.
Maybe part of it is that he’s starting to see that he can get ‘value’ here at least, without it requiring any declaration, any contract or promise Maybe that’s why he no longer has to show me that he doesn’t care about the rules and regulations – he knows that I’m not going to trip him up on that one, that I’ve already got it covered. But he’s so generous in return.
So sometimes your actions do bear fruit. Other times, you just have to keep trying, not because it’s necessarily having any effect, but because you know it’s all you have.
Monday 6 April:
As I’m starting to mark the tests, in the office, one of the teachers comes over and chats to me. She looks at the pile of papers and sees Alexander’s name, “Oh,” she says, “You teach Alexander too. He does nothing but tag in my class, and he’s hardly ever there anyway.” She picks up his test paper, and flicks through it in surprise, saying, “How on earth did you get him to do that?” She adds, “And he hasn’t even tagged on it… not even once!”
I say, “He just – wanted to do it, I guess.”
She’s mystified, and says again, “He does nothing in my class.”
Monday 13 April:
First day of the holidays. I walk down to the mall this afternoon and spend $70 on getting a new adaptor for the laptop. I figure I have to have the laptop back again after 4 months. I’ve been putting it off this whole term, and now I’ve got it, and the first thing I do when I get home is charge up the laptop, and since about 2:30 I’ve been downloading songs again, with joy in my heart, and after months of self-denial. I can’t get everything I want, but I’m getting quite a lot all the same.
Some people like gardening; some people like watching TV, or reading novels. I like finding music and making food. As the evening comes, I have a string of downloads ticking up, and I’m gonna make dinner. When I make a playlist and I get the order ‘right’ – it’s such a good, good feeling. It’s kind of the same when I make something to eat; it’s a lot like that feeling. And I feel all warmed up now, just saying these things. So I can get through, until tomorrow.
Sunday 26th April:
Just cut my hair (I’m not scared to cut my own hair, I do it without a qualm.) Then I put some product on it (a shine wax thing), and now I feel like I can look in the mirror with some equilibrium. I can’t bear a single second more of apology in my eyes.
The question that seems important to me right now is: What kind of person do I want to be taken for?
And then: How do I show that this is who I am?
I feel a tiny bit of peace steal into my heart.
And maybe I can be alright at school tomorrow and get stuff done, especially for my year 11’s, who are one of my really favourite classes, and who will be expecting a loving welcome!