I Am A Weapon of Mass Instruction
Chapter 8: Dinosaurs and unicorns are very similar
Some of the things that I heard the students say - and then scurried to my desk to write down - could be down to ignorance, or confusion. Exhibits A and B:
“Vertigo? Doesn’t that mean when you’re pregnant?”
“Vertigo? Isn’t that a colour?”
I can’t quite remember the context of these two comments, but part of me would like to think that we were (for once) talking about something on-topic, and the kids had misheard me when I was talking about indigo. At least the second comment was closer to the mark.
Some of the things they said could be put down to a somewhat idiosyncratic world view,
“I like penguins, they’re all fluffy.” Declared one of the girls in my Year 10 Textiles class, not without
a certain level of misty-eyed childhood innocence.
“I think they’re unnatural.” Came the flat-voiced reply form her friend, who clearly had some unresolved penguin-related trauma to work through.
Some were just playing to the audience and trying to get a drop of sympathy from me (they really should have known better),
“Sir, this is ruining my life slowly!” wailed one Year 11. Sometimes it’s good to know that you’re doing your job well.
Some of the things that the students say cannot really be explained, not unless you are bonkers yourself or have taken a bucketload of hallucinogenic drugs beforehand. The mind of a child is indeed a strange thing, and I remember having some strange notions myself, but I generally kept them to myself because I knew that they were strange and that voicing them would bring me attention that I would not welcome.
Not so some of the students I’ve come across, who seemed to want the world to know what was on their minds at any given moment. I’ll admit that these students were thankfully few and far between, but there were enough of them to be noted. Perhaps I should have called this chapter The X Files, or The Twilight Zone instead.
It’s not unknown, when I had music playing in the background so a class could work better, that the odd student might start to shimmy or sway along. A curt comment from me was usually enough to redirect them. Generally, my comment of choice was along the lines of,
“If you want to dance, I can arrange for you to do so in assembly, in front of the whole school.” Usually this did the trick. Assemblies were universally hated because they were so dull that not really many people paid that much attention.
The idea of having to perform a dance routine at one, while admittedly more interesting than what usually went on, was looked upon with horror, and something to be avoided at all costs, so they stopped dancing and got on with their work.
Occasionally, a student would start to sing along instead of dance, but a variation of my stock phrase put an end to that. Enter Ivan.
Ivan was the youngest of three brothers, and I’d had the pleasure of having his eldest brother in my tutor group, so I knew his parents a little bit. All three lads were incredibly nice, and one of my colleagues would have happily been adopted by their mum and dad as she thought that they were the nicest people she’d ever met. The older two brothers were on the quiet side, but Ivan had obviously inherited all the performing genes in the family. When caught dancing and singing along, my usual threat did not have its usual effect.
“Brilliant!” was the unexpected reply. “Could I? Could I really? When could I do it? When are you going to set it up?” I had underestimated Ivan’s desire to perform, and had to fob him off with a mumbled comment about talking to the Head to set it up.
When I got a chance to talk to his mum and dad at a Parents Evening that came not too much later, there was a certain amount of weary pride in their faces when I brought up his willingness to perform - apparently he’d break into song at the drop of a hat and wanted to be an actor of some sort when he left school. That he was the lead in the school show for the next two years came as no surprise to anyone.
Another time when my usual,
“Do you want to do that in front of the whole school?” line went wrong was in my last year of teaching. It involved the Development Group in Year 7. The Development Group were the lower-ability students in a year group, and they were put together so that they could receive work in the areas that they were weaker on and needed to catch up on.
As a group they were generally one to two Levels below where they should be, and had to be handled carefully in terms of the work that was given to them as what I would usually set a group would be too difficult for them, and in terms of the way they were handled. By this time, my reputation well and truly went before me, and it was a brave or foolish student who even tried to mess me about.
But my usual Grumpy Mr Austin act wasn’t really appropriate for the Development Group - they were too immature to understand that it was (largely) and act, so I had to tone down my usual practice and be a lot more hands on and supportive.
I still put on music though to help them concentrate, and when one of them predictably started to attempt to sing along, I dutifully trotted out my usual response, which had the unexpected result of making almost the whole group perk up, like a troupe of meerkats who’d spotted either something dangerous or tasty.
“Could we? Could we really?” came one already excited voice, and it was joined by several others.
Sometimes you cracked down on this sort of situation, and got everyone back on track - we all had targets to meet after all. There were other times, however, when you just had to roll with it and see where this extra-curricular opportunity would take you.
“What would you sing?” I asked, grumpy and sceptical. I may have toned down the Grumpy Mr Austin act a little, but it didn’t disappear altogether.
The unanimous, unified and triumphant reply that was blasted across the classroom was,
“LET IT GO!!!!” and even the boys seemed ridiculously excited at blasting out Disney’s latest hit song.
“Right, let’s have everyone up the front.” This was an instruction I gave pretty much every single lesson I taught, at least from Years 7 to 11. It was easier to get the students to come up to the front around the board for me to talk to them, show them what I had on the boards (I had one normal whiteboard that I could write on, and a smart board which I used as an extension to my laptop and on which I could show PowerPoints and other digital work). It was easier because everyone was focused where I wanted them to look and it settled everyone down.
I’d learned this trick when I’d gone back to my base school after I’d started my NQT year to say hello to the teachers who’d trained me and to tell them how I was getting on. I’d liked it and had used it throughout my career. My room was quite big, and if I hadn’t gotten the students up to the front, they’d be facing in different directions and I’d have to be louder than I wanted to be - this way it was more focused and contained.
As the Development Group were sorting themselves out and getting settled, or as settled as they could be as they were very excited about singing, I switched on my projector and did a quick search on everyone’s favourite video site.
“Right you lot, let’s see how you do then,” hitting play on the video. Not that I think they needed it, but I’d found a version of the song that had the lyrics on screen as well.
Not entirely unsurprisingly, what erupted forth was not the blissful sounds of a heavenly choir. More akin to several sacks of cats having unimaginably horrible things being done to them, and I was rather relived that the possibility of me having to put on a piece for assembly seemed to be receding.
I paused the video, and then waited for the screeching to peter out with a very grumpy look on my face.
“What was that?! That was rubbish - let’s try again, together this time.” rather than dishearten the students, they seemed all the more determined to put on a good show. Hitting play again, I could perhaps generously say that they were a bit better this time, but there was still more enthusiasm than talent, or apparently tune, in the room.
“Stop, stop, stop, stop, stop,” I said, waving them into silence “Let’s try it with just the ladies shall we?” and hit play again. The results here were a bit better, and I was surprised that for students who had been determined to be quiet and not participate in discussions, the girls we certainly more into singing than answering questions. Even the boys didn’t hold back when it was their turn, and it became clear where the weak links in the Development Group Singers were.
Considering that I could hear whenever Mrs Jackson upstairs was showing a video in her History class, and it wasn’t too difficult to hear the teacher next door giving out instructions to his class, goodness knows what they thought was going on in my room.
It was with no small amount of relief, as I got the students back to their places and back to their work with dire threats of talking to their REAL teacher about how rubbish they were at singing and that they had ruined my ambition to produce a musical number at school, that no member of the Senior Team had chosen this moment to pop into my room on one of their habitual Learning Walks (edu-speak for Checking Up That The Teachers Are Doing Their Jobs Properly And Not Goofing Off Doing Sing-Alongs To Disney Classics).
There is a time and a place for everything, and although we were all there to work hard, a few minutes out of that did no-one any harm at all.
The prize for being truly bonkers goes to one of the students in my Year 9 class in the last year I
This was a big class of 28 students and generally speaking most of them were low-ability. That
didn’t make a huge amount of difference really, but the course that we had chosen to do with the Graphics groups was graded in such a way that the only grades available to them were As, Bs and Cs.
From the data we had on the students - and data was now the holiest of holies in education, and couldn’t be gainsaid, despite what you knew of the students yourself - only one of the group was predicted to achieve a C, which meant that it was going to be an uphill struggle to get the results that the school wanted me to get from them. It didn’t matter that a couple of the students were in the Development Group and could still barely read or write. It didn’t matter that one of the group was a recent arrival in England, had missed the last four years of education and that my Albanian was non-existent so the support I could give him was limited, I still had to get Cs out of all these students. Add to this situation that one of the students was fairly bonkers in a relatively amusing kind of way and had no problem in letting the whole class know what was on her mind.
This student, let’s call her Daisy, stood out among all the other students, and as you’ve probably gathered by now, our students were not the most shy and retiring bunch you’ve ever seen, so that she stood out only meant that she was louder and more forceful than others.
If I’m honest, I had not been looking forward to teaching Daisy at all. She had a certain reputation around the school for not having the best behaviour, and while not as bad as some other students we could all name, she had not made too many allies among the staff either. She was the kind of student to swear blind and argue until she was blue in the face that black was in fact white and that day was night. She had to have her own way, and have the last word, so that I had a slight sinking feeling in my stomach when I knew I would be teaching her was due to being self-aware enough to know that I too liked to have the last word and rarely budged when I thought I was right. A certain saying about irresistible forces and immovable objects springs to mind.
I found out a story that illustrates her somewhat black and white world view after having to ring home to discuss her poor behaviour with her mother. Daisy’s mum told me that they were having some issues with her at home too, and that Daisy simply refused to accept or believe that she was in the wrong.
She’d recently been banned from one of the local shopping centres. As soon as I heard this, various fight-based and shoplifting-based scenarios ran through my head, but as it turned out, I was a far way from the mark. It turned out that while doing a spot of shopping on the weekend, Daisy had noticed that her phone’s battery was running down and would soon run out. Now, you or I would possibly be annoyed at this and either let it die or turn it off to save what battery was left. Perhaps you or I underestimate how vital a phone is to teenaged existence.
Daisy did the only logical thing: she found power outlet and plugged in her phone to charge it. That to do so she unplugged a merry go round that had young children on it didn’t matter - she needed to charge her phone, there was a power outlet, so she did what was only right and sensible. That the security guards in the shopping centre had a slightly different view might be a mild understatement, and I can only imagine (with a fair degree of accuracy, as I was not unfamiliar with Daisy’s perspective and debating technique by this point) the ‘discussion’ that took place before she was escorted from the premises and issued with a subsequent ban.
There was some humour in her mother’s voice when she was telling me this especially when she was telling me about Daisy’s protestations that the guards were being ‘Out of order!’ for denying
her clear and urgent need. Not that she defended Daisy’s actions, or thought she was being treated unfairly, just that sometimes kids did things that were so boneheaded, there was nothing else for you to do but laugh at them, and hope that they learned the lesson eventually.
What I soon learned about Daisy though was that despite pushing and testing at my limits, it turned out that she could be a rather good student. I’d seen better designers in my time, and there were certainly better designers in her own class, but she tried and that was all I could ever ask for. What made her stand out though was her written support work.
It’s a misconception that the D&T team fought against every year - the kids all thought that when they took Design & Technology for their exam subject, all they’d ever be doing was designing and making things. What they didn’t realise, or more accurately conveniently forgot as we made this aspect of the courses very clear to them when it was time of them to choose their options, was that in whatever specialism they worked in there would be a lot of writing involved too.
Our kids hated writing with a passion, and would at best begrudgingly do any written task given to them. They wanted to be making, not doing boring writing, but it was a sad fact that the written side of things made up a significant part of their grade. A lot of the time it was actually a struggle getting the students to write simply and clearly enough for our purposes, rather than producing overly florid and descriptive pieces that they regularly did in English. I often had to break it down to: say what you want to say, give your evidence and then sum up. It was a concept that some of the students found hard to grasp, that simple was better than complicated.
Daisy on the other hand found it a piece of cake. Her written work was superb, and what’s more, she seemed to produce it effortlessly, and without any hint of exaggeration, her written work was the best I had ever seen in all my time at that school. Not that she believed me when I told her this of course.
“Shut up,” came her guarded response when I complimented her on a piece of written work, “It’s rubbish. It’s just come off the top of my head.”
I’m no stranger to putting myself down and doubting the worth of some of my own work, but this put my self-doubts to shame.
“It might be off the top of your head,” I said, trying (in vain) to convince her that the praise was genuine and that I really did think her work was top-notch, “But it’s exactly what I want - it’s fantastic, so keep doing what you’re doing.” The look that Daisy gave me in response to this could only be described in terms of extreme scepticism, both of the validity of the comment itself, and to my sanity as I was obviously insane for thinking that her work was any good. I was clearly lying, and she was trying to figure out my motivation in doing so. Except that I wasn’t lying at all.
Despite having difficulty in believing the worth of her work, Daisy had no trouble at all in telling anyone who would listen about what she did believe in.
“There are no mountains in America.” she came out with in one lesson, when they were working on a variation of my geographically-based design project. By now, a lot of us had become used to slightly random things coming out of her mouth, but this one gave a fair few of us pause for thought.
“Are there not?” I asked her, seemingly bowing to her superior knowledge. “What about The Rockies then?”
“The what?” she replied, accompanied with a blank look. A couple of the more switched-on kids may have sniggered a little.
“You know, The Rockies - that really big range of mountains that runs all the way down America.”
“No, they’re not in America” she said with absolute, diamond-hard certainty.
“My mistake then’” the irony and sarcasm rolled away unnoticed, at least by Daisy. “What about the Appalachians?”
“Appalachians. Mountain range in the east of America.”
“You just made that up!” she accused.
“I can see I can’t trick you” I said, walking away, pen in hand ready to make a note of this in my planner.
On the subject of not being able to trick the students, now might be the time to talk about when I did trick some of the students, and did so for quite some time.
A few years ago, I decided to take part in Movember, the charity event that helps to promote awareness of prostate cancer. The aim is to partially stop shaving in November, and to hopefully grow a moustache in the process.
A couple of the guys at work were also taking part, and it was with no small amount of pride that I noted that my facial hair was looking pretty darn good in comparison - it’s the small things in life that can make you happy. I’d had a goatee before, and the students were familiar with me having various states of facial hair. They all asked whether I was doing Movember though, so it was good to see that they were aware of the event, and hopefully the cause behind it.
November crept by, and as we moved into December, I decided to keep the resulting goatee, and almost immediately regretted it as the one-month beard itches kicked in. By now the kids were asking when I was going to shave it off, and all I could say was that it would probably be soon as it was annoying me greatly. But for some reason, I didn’t shave it off, and by January it was well-established, and long enough that it needed some tidying up.
What I also discovered though was that my moustache was also now long enough so that I could twist it, and whole new realm of male grooming products were revealed to me: moustache wax, beard conditioner, beard combs and brushes - I loved it. A little wax curled my moustache nicely, and I entered a new, dapper phase of my life. Funnily enough, the students took all of this in their stride, and a lot of them really liked my twirled moustache, including some of the notoriously hard students.
However, it was some of the more naïve students that got a slightly enhanced version of the facial hair story, or in current political language, they got some alternative facts...
“Sir, is that real?” asked one joker, pointing to my moustache and beard one morning in the corridor. Usually I didn’t lurk in the corridors very much, so I must have been on duty that morning.
“No, it’s a wig. I stick it on every morning.” came the instant, unthinking sarcastic reply, but my delivery must have been at least a bit neutral as the student’s eyes immediately widened, and he and his mates swung around to look at me.
“No!” came the shocked response.
I had two options:
a) confess to lying, we all have a laugh and we move on
b) carry on lying and swear blind that I applied a facial wig every morning just because I could.
It’d be a rubbish story if I’d went with option A, wouldn’t it.
Yes, I lied, but to be fair, I lied to the kids quite a bit, so I didn’t feel even remotely bad at this one. If they were dumb enough to believe that I wore a face wig, they deserved everything I threw at them.
“Yeah,” I said oh-so casually. “I take it off every night and stick it on again in the morning.”
Awestruck stares. Well, I’d like to think that they were awestruck, but it could just as easily have been amazement that anyone would do anything so idiotic on a daily basis.
I may have mentioned that schools run on gossip. The rumour mill must have done it’s work that day because when I had one of my Year 11 groups in the afternoon, it seemed like too much of a coincidence when one of the girls asked,
“Sir, is your beard real?”
These were my exam group, my loyal and trusted students who had worked with me for years - surely they deserved a bit more respect than some random Year 9 who’d asked me the same question that morning. Nope.
“No, it’s a wig - I stick it on every morning.” as we all know, the lie came a bit easier the second time.
“No it’s not, you’re lying.” a little less awe and wonder from these students, but then again, they did know me a lot better.
“You’re calling me a liar?” Wounded pride, pain and anguish dripped from every syllable that one of my beloved and devoted students would question their mentor and teacher in such a shocking way… not that they were wrong, but I wasn’t going to give up that quickly.
I’d always thought that Emily was a fairly switched on student - she got on with her work and didn’t chat too much, but I may have overestimated her a bit as she took the bait, hook, line and sinker.
“It’s not real?” a bit more amazement this time.
“No, I stick it on every morning.”
“No I’m not” more wounded pride, but with a touch of benevolence from a teacher to a slightly wayward student. “It’s a wig - lots of people have them you know.”
“Oh yes. It’s a thing.”
A touch of suspicion crept back into her voice as she asked me,
“Where did you get it then?” Emily thought she had me here, and was ready to gloat when my story came crumbling around me, but my catlike reflexes kicked in,
“A moustache wig shop of course!” I said, implying that Emily was incredibly off-trend and behind the times that she didn’t know about moustache wigs and where to buy them, a mortal sin for a teenager.
“There isn’t a moustache wig shop!”
“Yes there is, where else would I buy it?” Logic and bald-faced lying would win through! “You’re online - look it up.” I was taking a bit of a risk here, but if there wasn’t a facial hair wig shop somewhere, either in the real or digital world, then there was a gap in the market I could exploit at a later date.
Several students - obviously, a lot of them had been eagerly listening in on our exchange - swivelled around in their seats and furiously typed away. Mere seconds later I was able to heave an internal sigh of relief as the internet showed that there was no such gap in the market, and that the world was a little stranger than I had imagined.
“Look, there it is, it’s in London” said one of the lads to a still disbelieving Emily. She couldn’t argue with the evidence though, and she had to somewhat grudgingly concede that since facial wig shops did indeed exist, I must be telling the truth about my own moustache and beard.
After a few months though, the moustache and beard got a bit too much (despite being utterly magnificent. I had a career waiting for me as a Victorian melodramatic villain - all I needed was a top hat to complete the look and a damsel in distress to tie to some train tracks) and in a fit of madness I shaved them off.
“Where’s your beard gone Sir?” came the inevitable question the next morning, and again my mouth may have acted before my brain kicked in when I replied with,
“I ran out of glue so I couldn’t stick it on today”
“Glue. I ran out of it so I couldn’t stick it on.”
“Your beard was a wig?!”
“Of course it was!” and so another little bit of my reputation for being just a teeny bit insane was cemented.
Come to think of it, I never did confess the truth about the beard, although obviously some of the kids knew that I was lying through my teeth. One of my old tutor group, Megan, thought she caught me out though by observing that my beard kept growing and changing shape - obviously it was real! I stopped her in her tracks however by saying that I had a whole range of beard wigs so that I could change it up if I felt the need. That she believed this just goes to show that either I was the most amazing liar ever, or that I vastly underestimated the gullibility of some of the kids.
Back to Daisy. Proclaiming that the considerable number of mountains in America simply didn’t exist really wasn’t the strangest thing to come out of her mouth and probably somewhat fevered brain. I have no idea what we were actually working on when she threw a somewhat cryptic question my way,
“Sir, isn’t that right?” Unless you’ve been a teacher, there’s no real adequate way of describing the tone and harmonics that go into a student saying ‘Sir…’ - they could load so much into that one syllable, from trust, and distrust to disgust. It always made me chuckle though, on those rare occasions when students swore directly at me that they’d venomously tell you to f*** off, but still call you Sir while doing so.
“What’s right?” I asked, already getting the feeling that I should be leaving well enough alone.
“That Hippos are boys and Hippopotamuses are girls.” Again, that rock-hard certainty. “Jess doesn’t believe me.”
There are times when I will happily correct a student, out of some teacher-instinct, out of stubbornness, or because doing so would be funny. There are times when I won’t correct a student, because I didn’t have the energy, or the time, or they had annoyed me so greatly that the only civil thing I could do was to walk away. Then there are the times when something comes out of the mouth of a student that defies all logic and convention, and I can do nothing except stare at them, mouth slightly agape as I searched for something remotely appropriate to say. Guess which kind
of comment this was, dear reader.
All I could do was stand there, while Daisy and Jess bickered over the etymology of semiaquatic African mammals. I may have zoned out for a second or two as I was shaken from my stunned
state by Jess asking me,
“It’s the same for Rhinos and Rhinosauruses isn’t it. Rhinos are boys and Rhinosauruses are girls.”
My jaw may have dropped a little further at this, and all I could do was to look at Leia, one of the other students in the class - we often shared comrade-in-arms painful looks when conversations like this happened.
I just wandered over to the board and wrote these little nuggets down so that I wouldn’t forget them, although how I would forget something like this was a little beyond me.
Luckily, sanity took this moment to show up and assert itself (and then promptly leave the building).
“Rhinosaurus?!” exclaimed Daisy. “Don’t you mean Rhinoceros?”
“Oh… yeah.” admitted Jess sheepishly. Sadly this provided Daisy with the mental bridge she needed…
“Rhinosaurus!” she chuckled, “That sounds like dinosaur… Dinosaurs and unicorns are very similar you know.”
Even Jess slammed on the mental breaks at this one, and more than one student either pricked
up their ears or just blatantly turned around to hear the explanation to this pearl of wisdom. In response to the multiple eyes on her and implied question they all contained, Daisy enlightened
us by saying,
“You know - they’re both imaginary.”
“What?!” even Leia’s usual stoic quiet was shattered by this. I was generally not stoic in expressing my disbelief at many of the things the students said.
“What? What about all the fossils that have been found then?” I asked Daisy.
“They’re not real, obviously.” she said. I, or several other of the students by the looks on their faces, would have happily argued the point on this one, but I think we all sensed that we were onto a loser before we even started. Some arguments you just couldn’t win.
This was demonstrated to me very clearly in one lesson where Daisy was in one of her less co-operative moods. I had noticed that unlike a lot of the other students, who although tired became easier to deal with the closer to the end of a term we got, Daisy got increasingly more difficult to deal with, and it wasn’t a coincidence that this incident happened towards the end of a term.
After having to challenge her on her behaviour relatively early in the lesson, and having to challenge it again, I decided that a point needed to be made and her audience removed - it’s often the case that taking away a student’s audience of mates helps them to quieten down and focus better on what they’re supposed to be doing.
In response to her not-so-muttered snipe that I was just doing this to annoy her, I replied, rather calmly I thought with,
“No I’m not,” which probably only served to annoy her even more, “It’s just logical to move you so that you can concentrate on your work.”
“Logic?!” she spat, “What’s that got to do with anything?”
“It’s just how my brain works,” I said, shrugging it off and hopefully getting Daisy back to work. Sometimes though, I don’t know when to keep my mouth shut, adding, “That’s how blokes’ brains work - they’re more logical. Women’s brains are more intuitive.” I may as well have said that men were the masters of the universe and a woman’s rightful place was chained to the kitchen sink in
a position of eternal servitude at the response I got.
“You can’t say that!” was her instantly outraged response.
“Why not?” I asked as I was genuinely puzzled.
“No, it’s not. It’s just that men and women think differently.”
“That’s disgusting. How can you say that? That’s sexist!”
“What, saying that men think logically and women think more intuitively?” I may not have been helping to calm the situation, and maybe even have been making it worse; I couldn’t decide if she was genuinely outraged or was just looking for an argument and this was the first thing she could fight about.
“Yes! How can you say that? How can you be a teacher and be sexist like that?” she demanded angrily.
I was confused at this point, and when I looked at Leia, Jess and Tayla, I could see that they were too. The boys, clearly having a lot more sense than I did, were ignoring the situation or at least
were pretending to, and were getting on with their work.
“I’m not sexist” I said in a calm, and slightly bemused tone. “It’s not sexist to say that men and women think in different ways - they do.”
“You are, that’s sexist!”
“No it’s not - men are more logical. It’s not that one is better or worse than the other, they’re just different.”
Just as Daisy was about to launch into another reply, I was perhaps saved by the arrival of one of my female colleagues at my door to ask me a favour. Seeing an opportunity to put this argument
to rest and to show that not every woman became angry (I hoped!) at the word ‘intuitive’, I asked
“Is it sexist to say that men think more logically and women think more intuitively?”
“No.” was the immediate if slightly puzzled reply. “Men and women think very differently.”
Hoping that that proved the point to everyone’s satisfaction without having to actually say ‘I told you so!’, I turned to Daisy, with the expectation that she’d be at least a little convinced with two teachers saying the same thing.
“You’re both sexist!”
Before either of us could take umbrage at this, one of the other students came to our rescue with
a timely if somewhat frustrated,
“Just shut up Daisy, you’re making yourself look like an idiot.” seeing that my work with Daisy was being done for me, I turned to see what my colleague wanted, realising at the same time that my original strategy still needed to be employed: I needed to deny Daisy of her audience, only this time her audience was me. For all the times when you wanted to help a student, or it was obvious that they needed help or direction, sometimes the best and only thing you could do was to ignore them.
I never really knew what I was going to get with Daisy. Sometimes she was extremely quiet and
got on with her work. Sometimes she was chatty and funny. Sometimes she was belligerent and difficult to handle, to the extent that I was left with no choice but to send her out. That this resulted more often than not in my Head of Department sending her to Isolation for not getting the hint
that she needed to keep her mouth closed showed that it wasn’t just me that had trouble with
On other times she was full of energy and every other comment was strange but undeniably funny, like the time when she told me in great detail about the dream she’d had a few nights before where she’d had Pigeon Powers. When questioned about the nature of said powers, which included flight and feathers, it became clear that rather than a new and creative twist on the super hero genre using a pigeon instead of a radioactive/genetically modified spider bite as a story hook, she had in fact just dreamed that she was a pigeon. She seemed excited about this though, and there was a certain amount of wistfulness in her voice that told me that she was a little bit sad that she wasn’t
A lot of the kids came out with something brainless now and again, and I came out with some spectacularly stupid things myself on occasion, but I’ve never come across a student quite like Daisy who consistently came out with odd things so that you could almost see where she was coming from, but somewhere along the way a few wires had been crossed. Perhaps I should be a little worried that I almost understood her ‘logic’ myself…