I Am A Weapon of Mass Instruction
Chapter 10: I'm never wrong
To be a teacher, as I’ve pointed out, it a weird thing. It often goes beyond the strange with alarming regularity so that the strange becomes commonplace and you start to forget just how strange some of the things you see, hear and do really are.
One of the things I learned very quickly was that part of my role was to project this aura of terrifying authority... er, calm assurance... er, of never being wrong - we were supposed to know everything, and even if there cropped up a question that we couldn’t answer, that facade was not to wobble
as we would confidently reply that we might not know now, but we’d find out, implying that we just hadn’t learned that nugget of knowledge yet. This can be summed up neatly by the phrase: Fake It Until You Make It.
There was one lesson during my training year when I was supposed to be teaching the students about two-point perspective drawing, something that is really straight forward and any idiot could be able to get through the demonstration and get the kids working in no time. So it was that I got
it completely wrong but didn’t notice, not until a voice floated gently from the back of the room,
“I think you’ll find that’s one-point perspective, Mr Austin” was the helpful hint from my Head of Department, who was formally observing me and my progress to become a highly-trained professional.
“Righto!” I cheerfully said, rubbed out what I’d been drawing on the board and started again. Had
I been more up to speed, I could have claimed that this was a deliberate mistake on my part and then followed through by guilt-tripping the students because none of them had mentioned that I was doing it wrong. This was the very start of my teaching career (or hopefully the start - if I carried on being as rubbish as that, I wouldn’t have a hope! Luckily I got better!), so I can be excused for not having a stash of witty banter in my head to use when circumstances demanded.
… however, not is all as it seems with this charming little tale… what I have neglected to mention was that I may possibly have been a little ‘distracted’ from my lesson - which I obviously had spent several hours planning and preparing (student teachers always take hours to plan a lesson. You get quicker the longer you teach.) - partly because I was always nervous when I was being formally observed, something I never really did shake, and partly because I may have been a little drunk.
I know, I know - bad teacher, I can already hear the disgusted cries of,
“Call yourself a professional!?” (at that point, no, I didn’t, I wasn’t even qualified)
“That’s atrocious!” (to be fair, I was only a little drunk)
“What about the children??!!!” (the kids didn’t blink an eye, so no problem there)
and can see the angry mob gathering with the flaming torches and pitchforks ready to lynch me.
Yes, I agree, not the best story in the world to demonstrate the high level of training and professionalism of teachers, but let’s face it, it is funny. It’s not as if I was fall-down drunk and verbally abusing the students, I was just not quite as sober as perhaps I should have been.
In my defence, I had been led astray.
My base school was handily located just over the road from a pub, and at lunchtime, half the staff stampeded over there for lunch. It was a kid-free zone, the food was admittedly better than the canteen-fare and most marvellously and strangely of all: they served alcohol! If you got out quickly enough, you could have a nice hot meal and a drink, and be back to school before the bell even thought about ringing. Brilliant!
I’ve never been much of a drinker really, apart from the usual University flirtation with cheap drinks, and I generally stuck to soft drinks. But, I was learning wasn’t I? Everyone else was doing it, maybe this was what teachers did… okay, weak excuse, I know, and no, I wouldn’t have jumped off a cliff
if the others had done it. I’m properly hanging my head in shame, and be safe in the knowledge
that it never happened again.
On that particular lunchtime, most of the D&T department were free so off we’d trundled and we had a jolly nice time. To settle my nerves, and because everyone else was doing it - peer pressure can be a terrible, dangerous thing - I’d had a pint, but had been pushed to finish it. Clearly I had some training ahead of me to become as professional as my colleagues. Sadly time flew too quickly and we had to make our way back to school for the last lessons of the day. So it was that the fateful words,
“I think you’ll find that’s one-point perspective, Mr Austin” were uttered in no time at all.
Remember, this was a formal observation, a check on my progress, with a scary-looking Observation Form to be filled in and everything (I’ve since had to do observations and fill out those forms myself - they’re really dull). What happened in this lesson might not ruin my potential career exactly, but if it went pear-shaped, I would certainly have to explain what went wrong, work very hard to get to where I should be and have a few more observed lessons as part of the bargain. So you’d think that being drunk and allegedly teaching in front of my Head of Department who was observing me was Not A Good Thing.
Happily for all concerned, my Head of Department had been one of those to go to the pub at lunch, and he had packed away two pints, so he was probably feeling just as good as I was, so a gentle reminder that I was a little off-track was all that came of it. The lesson was learned though, dear reader (and any concerned parents, authority figures and newspaper journalists who might be reading), and I can assure you that I never did that sort of thing again, possibly because there wasn’t a pub near any of the other schools I worked in... er, due to my sheer professionalism
and dedication to the job.
Teachers and booze did seem to be a fairly common combination though. My own rarely-seen Headteacher at school was notorious for one incident where among the stack of office supplies
that had just delivered there was a very prominent case of Malibu outside his office. A single bottle he might have gotten away with, but who needs a whole case of it? It was widely accepted as fact after that sighting - without anything as solid as a fact to back it up I might add - that he was a raging alcoholic and was treated like some harmless yet amusingly bonkers elderly relative.
End of term functions where booze was present - but only present very, very briefly as it magically disappeared quite quickly - were always very jolly affairs, although I have to say that I only attended the ones that we held at school at the end of the day rather than venturing on to the evening do.
I only went to one because everything was paid for, and even then I didn’t drink because I had to drive to the venue.
What I usually found out after the event though, from hushed whispers from colleagues who had attended, was that at a certain point, things became very jolly indeed. As you know, I’m not one to gossip, but words like ‘messy’, ‘inhibition-free’ and on at least two occasions ‘debauched’ could be used. It was a well-known fact that one staff member had been forbidden by his wife from attending any future school functions after what had happened at one of them. It almost made
me regret not going to the events as being a sober witness to these shenanigans would have been hilarious, but unfortunately I was well into my ‘Too Grumpy To Bother Going Out’ phase which could be used to describe most of my teaching career.
It was this sort of thing, I believe, as well as all the other usual things that went on in a school that inspired someone at a school fairly near us to document, in a very thinly-veiled form, the more entertaining things that went on at their establishment. Not content to simply document, this genius of a teacher serialised the results on Facebook, and called it in a fit of zeitgeist: ‘Fifty Shades of Gravesend’.
It was a real pity that we only learned about this epic of modern literature at a training session on internet safety. As a result of this Kentish version of 50 Shades, the person responsible for it had promptly been sacked and the episode was used as an object lesson to us all to be much, much more sensible about what we put on our own social media feeds.
It wasn’t just the teachers who faked it on a regular basis. The students themselves put on a show of bravado nearly every day. I’d like to say that when I was at school I put on a much more appropriate and humble face of eagerness, but I doubt it. The kids, or at least some of them, liked to project an air that despite barely being out of nappies, they had been there, done that and had certainly done it better than you. It’s a peculiar thing to be the object of scorn from an 11 year old who thought they knew better than you did. Sometimes it was sheer arrogance, and sometimes it was them lying through their teeth, but encountering a student who thought they knew better than you happened nearly every day.
A colleague and friend of mine recently told me this story about another friend of ours at school. He’d been walking past the room that was designated as the 6th Form common room and had seen one of them doing something potentially dangerous/damaging with one of the chairs. As my friend described it, Paul saw what was going on and immediately went into the common room to sort the situation out before anyone got hurt.
As soon as he got through the door, most of the 6th Formers who had been happily watching the proceedings fled, leaving the main culprit who was already looking anything but guilty, which to be fair was his usual attitude. After stopping him and successfully establishing that he shouldn’t have been doing it in the first place, the student’s arrogance kicked in, and he uttered the fateful words,
“Well you have no authority in here anyway.” erroneously believing that as Paul didn’t teach the 6th Form he was the one who was out of his territory, and implying that he was doing Paul a favour by co-operating.
“I do have authority here.” Paul calmly assured him. Paul is a lovely guy, and I can just imagine him saying this, with a slight smile on his face, but not letting that friendly appearance hinder is resolve in any way, shape or form. It was a foolish person who mistook that smile for weakness.
“No you don’t.” said the extremely-overconfident student. By now, any of his mates who had stayed to watch the show had seen the direction this was going and beat a hasty - and sensible - retreat.
“Yes, I do have authority here.” Paul repeated, still calm, but with a hint of steel in his voice. Any student that had any sense at all would have had the sense to shut up at this point. This student
did not have any sense.
“You have no authority here.” said the student who was apparently hell-bent on getting into trouble when all he had to do was shut up.
“Yes. I do. Get out.” All sense of amusement had vanished from Paul’s voice at this point. A bit of information you should know about Paul is that he is on the Senior Team, and as such, yes, he certainly did have authority in the common room - as any of the staff would - but as a Senior teacher, he could send a student straight to Isolation if he wanted (the rest of us had to follow the school’s behaviour policy and go through various stages of behaviour management and then send the student to our Head of Department, who could only then send the student to Isolation if they continued to play up), as well as being able to exclude (expel for those of you using old-school terms) a student for their behaviour.
The kids all knew that it was bad enough form to annoy any of the staff, but pissing off one of
the Senior Team was a recipe for disaster, especially if they were being so arrogant that they had missed the opportunities they had been given to get out of trouble and were steaming ahead into deep trouble.
“Get out.” those of us who knew him well would have been able to tell that Paul was holding onto his temper - very successfully - but that it wouldn’t take much for him to lose that solid grip.
“What, of the common room?” asked the very slow on the uptake student.
“No. Get out of the school.” the proverbial pin could have been heard dropping from a very long way away.
Now, the way my friend tells the story is that at this point the student’s face was an absolute picture as the penny finally dropped and he realised that not only had he misjudged a situation very badly, but that misjudgement had resulting in him annoying - badly - someone who very much did have authority over him and who had just excluded him for his atrocious attitude. His face was a picture not because he had been excluded and 6th Formers really should know better than to get in that situation, but because he knew that as part of the process of being excluded, his parents would be telephoned within short order, informing them of what had happened.
You could see the wheels in his head turning and see the realisation dawning that if he thought he was in trouble now, it was going to be nothing compared to what he was in for when he got home. An example of knowing that while you might need to fake it sometimes, there are other times when discretion is definitely the better part of valour.
Funnily enough, the next example of a student trying to fake it also involves Paul. Towards the end of my time at that school, Paul took on the role of SENCO - the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator for the school. This meant that he was in charge of the SEN register every year - a document that was given to all staff to inform us which students had any additional needs and what those needs were. It also meant that he worked very closely with the Development Groups
in each year group, and he was one of the main teachers for the older Development Groups.
In one lesson, the students were finishing up a piece of work and had to hand it in to Paul. Very proudly, one of the students brought up some work to him, and he glanced over it, just in case there was anything that needed changing. He spotted a problem immediately.
“This isn’t your work, is it, Phil?” he asked, not unkindly. Phil was a lovely lad, one of those students who seemed permanently wide-eyed with wonder at the sheer amazingness of the world. He wasn’t the most able of students, but he always tried and that counted for a lot, particularly compared to some of the students who were much more able but who were also much more lazy than him.
“Yes it is!” Phil declared cheerfully.
“It’s really not, is it.” Paul said, trying to get Phil to tell the truth. As has been noted, our students
are the worst liars on the planet, and even though it was pretty clear that we’d spotted the lie a
mile away, they stuck to their story for far too long.
“It is my work, honest!” assured Phil, not picking up on the hint that now was the time to confess.
“It’s not though Phil, is it.” said Paul, giving him another chance - there were times to play the stern teacher card, but this wasn’t one of them.
“Yes it is!” said Phil, sticking to his story.
“Read the top sentence then Phil” said Paul, handing the work back. Phil took the work, looked
at the writing, looked back up at Paul, looked back at the work and then back up.
“It’s not your work, is it Phil.” he said again, still gently.
“No, sir,” admitted Phil
“You can’t read it can you Phil,” said Paul.
“No sir,” admitted Phil again.
“That’s because it’s in French Phil.”
“Is it?” said Phil, full of wonder that apparently his work had magically been translated on its way from his computer to the printer.
“Yes, it is Phil. You copied and pasted this, didn’t you.”
“Yes sir,” said Phil, hanging his head in shame at a fair cop.
“Go and do the work properly Phil.”
“Yes sir!” came the once-more cheerful voice of the indomitable Phil, and off he trotted.
Sadly, Phil was not the only student who thought that copying and pasting was a quick and easy way to get things done. I think every single teacher has gotten truly fed up with this tactic, but what’s even more annoying than them doing it in the first place is when they don’t even try to hide the fact they’ve copied and pasted it. Even more irritating is when they try and defend the work as their own.
“That’s copied and pasted.” I said to Daisy.
“No it’s not! How dare you! I wrote that!” wounded pride and justifiable anger at such an ugly slur oozed from every syllable.
“Well, I can see the open web page with the same text highlighted next to your Word document,
so yes, it is copied and pasted.”
“That’s so rude! I’d never copy work that wasn’t mine!”
“Whatever, Daisy, get rid of it.” I said and walked away, leaving her spluttering over such shocking accusations.
“That’s copied and pasted.” I would point out in another class.
“No it’s not!” came the standard, overly-shocked reply.
“What does that word mean then?” I’d say, pointing out a multi-syllable word that I wasn’t entirely sure on the meaning of myself.
“Uhh…” came the confident and assured response.
“Uh-huh,” I’d come back with, “Get rid of it and do the work yourself.
“That’s copied and pasted.” I’d point out yet again.
“No it’s not!”
“I can still see all the reference numbers from Wikipedia.” Sherlock Holmes has nothing on my deducing skills.
“Oh.” would come the reply - every time - that I would point out this sort of thing, and it happened with depressing frequency. They genuinely seemed surprised that I’d read the work, see the reference numbers and that I’d make the connection to Wikipedia, and that I’d make them delete it.
One or two students didn’t even expend the energy to copy and paste work in their attempt to fake having done work.
My GCSE Product Design classes were true mixed ability groups. In one of the Year 11 groups I’d taught, I had students ranging from those with reading ages of 20 year olds to those with the reading age of 5 year olds; this just made teaching them even harder and I had to pitch the work very carefully so that it was accessible to all of them, but also gave the higher-ability students opportunities to push and extend themselves.
As part of the structure and scaffolding for their coursework, I gave all of them a template for their projects - a page-by-page breakdown with what they had to do and very clear instructions on how to do it. It was much easier to try and keep a group roughly at the same place in a project, especially when you were in the workshop, as it was really difficult to manage a class where some students were working with materials on the machines while some of them might still be doing some of the written tasks. By giving them a template, I could keep them roughly together, but they could also work at their own pace to a certain extent. I’d set up the template so that all they had to do was read the instructions as a reminder to what I told them in class, and replace them with their own work. All the instructions were in red, so it was really obvious which bits were my instructions and which was their work.
The students hated doing the written sections of the coursework. Hated it. They would much rather be making stuff the workshop, but the making was only a percentage of their marks, and I usually said to them that there was no way in hell that they were getting anywhere near tools and materials without doing their paperwork first as a motivator to get it done. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
In the last Product Design group that I took, all seemed to be going relatively well. Even those students who were in the Development Group were getting on with the written tasks. Okay, they weren’t writing in as much detail and depth as some of the others, but they were giving it a go, and that was all I could ask of them. There would be a chance to go back over it towards the end of the project and improve it.
So it was with no small amount of annoyance when, at one of the hand in stages when I read
some of the ‘work’ that I discovered that some of the kids hadn’t done any of the work, but had
just changed the colour of my instructions from red to black and copied and pasted it a few
times to fill the page out a bit. These students might have been in the Development Group because they were allegedly of lower academic ability, but they certainly had more than their fair share of pure cunning.
It was always annoying to have to challenge a student when they had copied and pasted their work because it was such a waste of time. It was a waste of time having to argue with them when they inevitably claimed that the work was in fact theirs, despite the numerous pieces of evidence to the contrary. It was a waste of time because they’d still have to do the work, and they now had even less time in which to do it. It was more unfortunate however, when they did the ‘work’ at the last minute and there was little or no opportunity from them to do the task properly.
There was one time with a particular student that I had to arrange a very uncomfortable meeting with him and his mother to discuss his work. As this was one of my A Level students, it was (wrongly) assumed that he was motivated and enthused enough to crack on with the work, especially as this student apparently wanted to go to University to study design. Not so.
I was always the kind of student who had to get work done in little bits and build up slowly to a finished piece, and even though I gave myself a bit of time towards the end of a project to get it printed and mounted with some spare time in case anything went wrong, I generally needed all of the time I had. I was baffled at those students who would blow off most of their time and then work in a fevered state just before the deadline to get it done. I didn’t get it, but could appreciate that if that’s how they worked, then it was up to them to manage their time, and if they still got good grades, it obviously worked.
I still recognised this when I was teaching, and as much as I would have liked my students to have worked slowly and steadily and all have done their work well before the deadline, I knew that sometimes I just had to give them the time to use as they would.
So when I looked at the work that had been handed in for this deadline, I was really pleased with what I saw. However, I was less pleased when I saw the same work repeated word for word in another student’s folder. It might have taken some time and a fair bit of investigation to figure out whose work was whose, but as one of the two worked steadily and had asked me to read his work to check it, and the other had left everything until the last minute, I had a pretty good idea of who had copied whom.
As the work handed in was very close to the final deadline and had been presented as a nearly complete project, this was a more serious situation than usual, and justified me arranging a meeting with the student and his mother.
When the student tried to deny that the work was in fact his, he knew that he’d been caught and
as such was not as vehement in his denial as some of the other students. It was a very serious situation - not only had he plagiarised another student’s work, but his timing was very bad indeed because it was so close to the final deadline.
I could understand why he had done it, but really wished that he hadn’t. His mother was mortified, as was the student, and when I dutifully said that this might seriously jeopardise his entry to University, both he and his mother started to cry. I’d dealt with many a crying student by now, mostly because I had made them cry by shouting very loudly at them, but being faced with a crying adult and 18 year old was something else entirely. I would have been perfectly within my rights to have dropped the student in a very tricky situation and let him reap what he had sown, but I’m nothing if not a big old softy, and I gave him a very tight deadline in which to redo the work. I’m always reluctant to extend deadlines, but sometimes, as bad as they were at faking it, the students deserved a second chance.
Students, as they will strenuously argue, are never wrong, except when they are.
As you can imagine, this happens a lot, and this is when your behaviour management strategies kick in. At the start of my career, I will admit to being quite loud and shouty, but that saved me being shouty in the latter years of my career, mostly due it seemed to the fact that the students knew that I had the capability to be loud. If a student and I were having a ‘conversation’ (I was telling them off), more than one of them would tell me to,
“Stop shouting in my face!” the irony being that at this point in the ‘conversation’ I wouldn’t be shouting, and ‘in their face’ involved me standing several metres away from them. My usual response to this demand was,
“I’m not shouting, but I can if you want.” which usually - if the students was clued up - enough to give them pause.
Sometimes it took me being really obvious and having to tell the student,
“I’m talking to you in a polite, quiet manner. Appreciate the fact that you could be having the loud Mr Austin. Now, do you want to talk to me in a quiet polite manner too?” to remind them that they really didn’t want to annoy me any further than they already had, despite their best efforts to.
There were one or two times when this appeal to rationality failed and my sense of humour failed and I demonstrated - very effectively - what would happen if I did shout. I’ll admit to being irrationally satisfied on those occasions when I did raise my voice at the startled jump the students would make - imagine when a character in a film suddenly hears an unexpected gunshot and you’ll have a good representation. Even more satisfying though was when I made a whole class jump.
If I was doing a good job, the student involved in the ‘conversation’ would take the hint, learn the lesson and get back into the room in very short order. All too often though, they’d try and argue the point, and refuse to see that they were in any way in the wrong, which dragged things out. If I was doing a particularly bad job, the student would start to cry, which I never really liked, even if it was
a really annoying student who deserved to be taken down a peg or two. There was more than one student when their leaving day in Year 11 rolled around would come up to me and say,
“Do you remember when you made me cry when I >insert poor behaviour here<.” Most of the time, I have to say that I didn’t remember, but now and again I did and we’d both become a little misty-eyed as we wallowed in nostalgia.
Speaking of nostalgia and faking it…
During one Parents Evening, I had an appointment with a parent, and as often happened I had also taught the elder brother of my current student. We chatted briefly about the younger sibling, before I asked about how the elder one was getting on, as it was always nice to find out what they were doing after they’d left us.
He was doing well I was informed, and then the mother said,
“Do you remember when he threw that chair at you?” with the smallest of wry chuckles which implied that her son was a little rascal and that I’d probably deserved to have a chair thrown at
me. This put me off balance a little, not because I had uncomfortable memories of furniture flying towards my face, but because I didn’t remember it at all. I had a brief flash of paranoia and doubt that maybe a student had thrown a chair at me, and it had connected and I’d had amnesia as a result.
Putting this swiftly on the ‘Probably didn’t happen’ pile in my mental filing system, I had to say to the parent that I didn’t remember the incident, hoping to move onto safer topics like how the younger sibling was really lazy and would never reach his target grade unless he pulled his finger out.
“You must remember, he was really angry and threw a chair at you. It got him excluded.” she said, with the unspoken suggestion that him being excluded had been on a whim of mine, not because he’d done something really dangerous.
“No, sorry, still not ringing any bells.” Again, I wondered if I was nursing a severe concussion that was messing with my memory, but I was fairly sure it hadn’t happened.
After a few more tries of getting me to remember an imaginary incident, I wrapped things up quickly so I could get rid of this loony parent. When she was safely out of earshot, and on her way to talk to other teachers about things that hadn’t happened, I turned to my colleague sitting next to me and asked her is she remembered when I’d had a chair thrown at me by a student. The blank look on her face probably mirrored my own - having a chair thrown at you isn’t something that you’d personally forget (not unless that amnesia was kicking in), and if it had happened would have made you an instant celebrity around school with both staff and students alike. I could only recall one time when a student had thrown a chair at a teacher - and that teacher was a 6 foot tall, 20 stone Scotsman, so the student got points for bravery alone - and that had happened years before.
My colleague couldn’t remember, but we’d been working in separate building at the time, so it was possible that she’d missed it.
As I had a gap between appointments, I wandered over to see my Head of Department, and asked him if he could remember the incident. If it had happened, he would have been involved as part
of the process of sanctioning the student. He too though couldn’t remember anything of the sort happening. Shouty I might be, and the result of that may have been a few crying and pissed off
kids now and again, but what it hadn’t resulted in was a student throwing anything at me.
In a last-ditch attempt to put the imaginary incident to bed, I went over to one of my friends on
the staff who had also been my Head of Year when the incident had allegedly taken place, and
who would also have been the Head of Year of the student involved. Justin was highly organised, and if a chair had whistled past my head because it was thrown by one of his year group, he would have known about it. He didn’t. So I’m almost sure that it didn’t happen, and I get to tell you, dear reader, about the crazy parent who made up stories for no apparent reason. I still don’t understand why she felt the need to make something like that up as it didn’t achieve much other than to confuse me and a few of my colleagues, but it does go to show that it wasn’t just the students
who tried to fake it.
It was actually fairly uncommon for me to keep students behind after class to give them a good telling off. This was partly because it was very inconvenient when students turned up late to lessons when you did this, but also because they were inevitably annoyed because they’d been told off and would get another telling off for being late, so it wasn’t fair on their next teacher to hand them a super-grumpy student over what was probably something relatively minor. If my lesson was before break or lunch though then I was more prepared to keep them behind, and it was always a bit funny to see the students squirm because you were doing almost the worst thing you could do to them: waste their free time.
What a lot of them never seemed to realise though was that reminding us that it was their break time only made me go a bit slower in whatever I was saying, just to waste a bit more of their time. Childish I know, but sometimes they deserved it.
It was not uncommon for some of my A Level students to work in my room when it wasn’t their lesson, and as long as I had enough room or spare computers, I was more than happy to have them in there - it meant they were doing their work for a start, but it was also good for the younger years to see them modelling good, proactive, independent study behaviour, and it also gave me someone to chat to if I got bored.
A frequent visitor was Aaron, who I’d taught in Year 11 and in Year 12. He was now in Year 13, but retaking his AS Graphics because he hadn’t been happy with the grade he’d got the previous year. Because Aaron was often in my room, this meant that his girlfriend Emily also was. Emily had also been in my GCSE Graphics class, but hadn’t taken it for A Level. I knew the both of them quite well, from my lessons but also because I’d been on the sidelines of their expedition to Kenya two years before; they were really nice kids, rapidly growing up into really nice young adults.
The three of us had had some quite long chats about the future, mostly what Aaron was going to
do with himself, and things went much smoother when he realised that he should just stop dithering and do what Emily and I told him to do. They both knew when I was being snarky rather than just plain grumpy, and they were almost immune to my sarcasm. Emily also had the added prestige of being Head Girl, something which she brought into play one break time.
I’d just had the Year 7 Development Group, and a few of them had played up a bit, to the extent
that they’d annoyed me enough to keep them back at break time so I could talk to them. Aaron
had sat through the class and I shamelessly used him in my rant at the Year 7s, attempting to guilt trip them by pointing out that they had not only disrupted the learning of their own class, but also that of one of the the Year 13s, who it was pointed out very clearly to them was far more important than they were.
There may have been a flicker of emotion scurrying over their faces, but guilt tripping them wasn’t doing the trick. At this point, Emily wandered into my room to see Aaron, and she could see that I was mid-flow. Rather than discretely stick to the sidelines, she had no problem with joining in on the rant, with comedic results that left me sensibly - for once - without words.
After establishing that the Year 7 boys had wasted their time, my time and Aaron’s time, and whole-heartedly agreeing that it was right and proper for them to lose their break as a result, both Emily and I could see that they really weren’t getting the message, so Emily decided to bring out the big guns and let them have it.
“It doesn’t matter anyway,” she started off with, “Nobody cares whether you’re well-behaved or not.” which got the attention of the boys. This was a revelation to them - did this mean that they could behave how they wanted from now on? Emily, however, was far from done.
“Nobody cares if you waste your f***ing time,” she said, to shocked looks from the boys, while I barely held it together myself. “It’s your f***ing education and life you’re screwing up, so go right ahead, I don’t care, and neither does Mr Austin.” I might have been a little uncomfortable at having my name used as part of her slightly inappropriate telling off, but I couldn’t disagree with her sentiment, so I just nodded a little to show that I didn’t disagree with her. The kids all swore like drunken sailors so it wasn’t as if they hadn’t heard this kind of language before, but it might have been the first time it had been used in the same context as their behaviour at school, and certainly from someone who was essentially one of their peers.
Sensing that Emily was just getting warmed up, and would happily continue on this theme if given the chance, I thanked her for her input, then made my tone sterner as I asked the boys if they’d gotten the point, and that if they behaved like this next lesson, I’d slap them in detention faster
than they could blink. Hurried assurances were given, and with more than one fearful glance at Emily I let them scuttle away.
“Good job, Em.” I said to a still-annoyed-on-my-behalf, yet satisfied that a job had been done well Emily.
“No problem Sir.” she cheerfully said, and then proceeded to turn her ire on Aaron, demanding to know if he’d actually done any work in the last lesson.
It seemed that while I might act far more angry than I actually was a lot of the time when I had to tell off students, I might not need to fake it if I employed Emily as my official teller-offer, although I might have to get her to tone down the language a bit…