I approve

Wednesday 27 August, 2014

I teach year 7 today – Carthill has a senior and a junior campus  – just for an hour. And, just for an hour, it’s cool. The most fun part is reading through their stories (‘narratives’, as they refer to them), aloud, on a corner couch to which they all flock with me. I put on my best storytelling voice (channeling Kuli here) with great effect. Slightly deadpan delivery, emphasis on certain off-beat syllables, especially when coming to the names they’ve given their characters: Keneti, Highfive, Myshon… I take a punt and pronounce this as ‘Mah’Shaun’, causing great hilarity amongst the audience.

“It’s not ‘Mah’Shaun’, it’s ‘Mission’, Miss,” they giggle, collapsing around me on the sofa.

“Well, I say it Mah’Shaun,” I tell them, straight-faced.

Mission,” they snort.

“Sad, Miss – that’s my name!” one boy says.

“Are you Mission?” I ask him.


“Oops,” I say, making them all crack up again.

It’s fun – and at the same time I can only get away with being there for an hour. I know I couldn’t handle narratives, and learning intentions, and success criteria all day long. I kind of wish I could, but I’d only end up a grumpy bitch, perplexing these eleven and twelve year olds.


When I get home, Tau tells me that a new intake of students had their orientation today. When they visited his class, the teacher showed them Tau’s book as an exemplar.

“Oh my gosh Tau,” I say. “I bet yours was the best book there, and that’s why he picked it.”

An expression of soft and happy pride comes into Tau’s eyes as he reflects, “I don’t think anything like that’s ever happened to me before…”

“I’m so proud of you,” I tell him, just stroking his arm for a second.


Wednesday 3 September:

There’s a text from the agency this morning: Do you want a challenge in the PE area at Bream for the day?

First I dick around with trying to say ‘no’ politely by text, then I think better of it and reply with a yes. 230 bucks is 230 bucks, and really I can’t afford to mind what subject I teach, or what year level. My pay is, unsurprisingly, 800 dollars down from the norm, after working seven out of ten days in the last fortnight – and with only five of the days processed yet.

Seeing as there’s no non-contacts for relievers, I just take downtime wherever I can find it. I even fall asleep in the car during lunch break today (fifty minutes at Bream – so long it might as well be a holiday, compared to Municipal’s twenty five).


Thursday 28 August

Back to Carthill again today. Honest, I don’t want to go teach, not even a little bit. I just keep telling myself: 230 dollars. And the kids are nice – it’s not that. I just feel like I left MC for what? And I don’t know at all.

Speaking of money, it’s been on my mind lately that Tau borrows twenty bucks here and there, but sometimes forgets to pay it back. Normally I wouldn’t particularly care, but I’m starting to question myself on it. First of all, my boundaries with Tau are obviously (even to me), somewhat flexible, so I can’t blame him for testing them, even though I’m sure it’s not deliberate. But secondly, my pay could be down by nearly half this time – even if I do get work tomorrow.

I’m so used to looking after Tau’s tender feelings, but right now I’m more worried about the bills. I can’t seem to counter a certain resentfulness inside me. I keep thinking: Really? They get (between them) over 400 dollars a week. No rent to pay, no bills. And Tau can’t pay me back a twenty dollar loan?


Then I just sigh, and try to unravel my own tangled up feelings a little more. First off, I tell myself, I know the boys do have things to do with their money. Each of them saves fifty dollars a week towards a bond (for when Sheree gets a house); their Nan holds it so that they don’t touch it. They help Sheree out with other stuff, too. And every Wednesday, they bring home groceries from the supermarket, looking proud of themselves as they unpack bags to stock my fridge.

Of course there’s also weed (being totally realistic, this must cost them twenty a day at least), and smokes (another forty dollars a week). Essentials, for now, anyway. And it’s a kit better than being on the synthetics.

Plus they’re trying so hard with course.  I remember something else Tau said the other day. He was telling me how it had started to feel good having a daily routine; working hard. “I like that feeling,” he said. “It’s better than any drug.”

And to hear him say that –  well, it made me want to jump for joy.


Then I think how Tau can relax here; he’s told me so himself. Sometimes I think he even feels happy and safe, at least for a little while. And I guess I realize right then – it’s probably been the only time in Tau’s life he’s ever been able to relax a little bit about either food or money. And maybe that’s why he hasn’t remembered about borrowing twenty from me here or there.

I wish I could see myself the way I see Tau. I always see him through loving eyes: I wish I could do that with myself too. And sometimes I think, Well, couldn’t I?


Friday 29 August

Lying in bed this evening, I yawn, having a singular moment where I think, “I approve.” Not of substitute teaching per se, but of whatever it is I’m trying to do. And you know, I really don’t mind substitute teaching. Temperamentally, I like the ebb and flow. Sometimes I miss having regular classes and knowing the kids, but I can assure you I don’t miss having to talk shit on my own behalf. It makes it easier, somehow, to know that I’m supposed to be fronting.

Though of course, it’s tiring to never know if I have a job lined up ahead of time. It makes my brain tick and tock over money.

I fall asleep listening to rap battles outside my window. Leroi’s staccato laugh and Tau’s softer one.




Like birds fly

Monday 4 April, 2011:

Today I don’t want to be at school. Everyone I care about seems to have gone away, and I don’t know what I’m doing here. I feel like I’ve been marooned in a place where thin and soapy tides collect in stagnant pools around me, neither coming in nor going out. Everything feels stale and kind of bitter. I need an injection of sweetness – artificial – but under the circumstances it’s all I can call on. In the afternoon I eat a donut with chocolate frosting (from the cafeteria) and then a marshmallow easter egg; then on the way home I pick up a hot chocolate from Macca’s. After all that, I’m stopped in my tracks. I have a cup of tea and fall gratefully to sleep.


Tuesday 5 April:

Dominant emotions: feelings of chaotic tension and exasperation which rise in sudden choking waves to the surface, all day long.

I don’t care about the assessment, the topic, the class, the lesson, the day… I just don’t care anymore. Not like when I had Alexander and Dimario and Jack in 11 Social – the very same assessment. I steered that whole class through it, so tenderly.

Now it’s just: “Ok, here’s the assessment.” Really. I just give the year 11’s the assessment and the basic instructions, and most of them get on with it. But I remember 2009, and the yellow folders, and the way my class just carried them around all over the place. And how I sat with them, and helped them, and cared about them. I want to cry because I feel like I’ve lost something; some piece of my heart’s been given away and will never return to exactly the same place. My heart’s gone out somewhere away from school; wrapped itself round the people I love, who won’t come back there.

Argos, George, Alexander, Nio, Tau, Dimario, Inia… people who knew me; people who understood how it was, and how it is. Days of valour, somehow. No-one knows me like that anymore. There’s just classes, and I’m worn-out tired, and it feels like I’m only fronting, most of the time.

Tears well up in my eyes. Because I remember how it was. My little renegades – I assisted them with every bit of strength I could call up in myself. And I feel like I was repaid a thousand times over. But no-one here knows me like that anymore.


The ROR – sometimes I snip the lock behind me now, when I go in. No friends; no allies. I feel vulnerable – so I don’t want to have an open door. But how I miss the ebb and flow, and the way it used to be.

Even graff: the leaders gone. All but Noa have left school (in a variety of guises, mostly engineered by management), or been put into numeracy or literacy catch ups. Noa’s not back yet, and besides, he’s got more important things on his mind than project these days. Of the others, only Libya, and (I think) Zion, can be relied upon. The rest won’t back me up when push comes to shove. Not like Inia, or Dimario – who for all his frustrating ways, always stood at my shoulder.

I’m not sure who I could trust with cans, or money, or even turning up. So I do it – why? I don’t know. Cos… it’s all I got, I guess. And all I got that’s mine, I’ll keep.

And I think, well, Karys could just be looking for an excuse now to get project shut down, and with stupid little fuckers tagging round the place, all she has to do is get a positive ID on someone’s hit and then it’s just… guilt by association. But even so, I still wouldn’t ditch them. Eddie – that little shit – he can rely on me and he doesn’t even know it.

And would I fight to keep it going? Probably, yes I would. Would I blame them, if it got closed down? In a way, no: They just do their thing, like birds fly or fish swim. Little ammo kids, but God love ‘em, they’re so brave the way they refuse what’s offered them. And that’s why I’ll never snitch. Because they resist with everything they have – they throw everything at it. They take their last chance and use it, without a qualm. And I understand that. I really do. Because in my way, I’m just the same.