[School’s back today in Australia. With that, a break from my travel missives and a journey back in time to my teaching days…]
The Trials and Tribulations of a Student Teacher
[Note: Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.]
To Miss Without Much Love
They struck on Thursday afternoon. This was after the Year 9 English class had lulled me into a sense of security, which was false. Students do that, I learnt. They go easy on a new teacher for a week or two. Seasoned teachers call it “the honeymoon period”; usually the first two weeks of the new school year are the “honeymoon period”. And for the novice teacher, teaching looks like it’s going to be a breeze. How wrong they are. Come Week 3 and the students, having sussed out the chinks in the new teacher’s armour, strike with a vengeance of gale-force winds. So seasoned teachers such as my dad, advised that an educator must be tough, from Day 1, and remain tough for at least Term 1. Students need to learn who’s boss.
Coming from polite society, and not much older than the students who sat before me in their crooked rows of ratty desks, I failed to get my head around what exactly it means to be tough. Besides, up until that fateful Thursday, the students had been so docile.
‘Keep an eye on Luke,’ Mrs S, my supervising teacher had warned.
I clocked the so-called menace. Way back at the far left of the class room, he reclined on his plastic chair and sniggered with the girl, Maria who sat next to him. Her skin was so caked with make-up, she looked as if her face were made of pastry. And yes, in true 1980’s style, Luke sported a mullet-hairstyle and, when not leaning back on his chair at the back of the classroom acting the joker, he strutted about like a prize rooster, surrounded by three or four “chicks”.
Luke’s minions, Mick and Danny, as if rooks in the game of class-sized chess, guarded the right end of the back row. They sat silently presiding over this vantage point, waiting.
That Thursday, we moved to Room 18 for the video of “To Sir With Love”. Ironic, really, that I should be teaching on that particular novel and film. The 1960’s values put forward in that film didn’t work for me in the 1980’s.
Darkness, and the move, permitted Luke to slink out of hiding and band with his partners in “crime’, ready for the “kill”. Luke’s harem also emerged out of obscurity, surrounding him as they watched the video. Or should I say, rather than watching, this band of nasties, wriggled, squirmed and nattered.
As the film progressed, I shifted to stand near the clutch of unrest. The group giggled and shuffled. Chairs scraped.
I glared at Luke.
He curled his lip and leered at me. ‘Wot you lookin’ at miss?’
‘Silence!’ I snapped.
‘I woz doin’ nuthink.’
His chicks tittered.
‘Hey!’ Bill, turned his scrawny body. ‘Stop that!’
‘Stop jabbing me!’ Ben raised a skinny arm. ‘Miss, Danny’s jabbing me!’
Laughing, Luke rocked on his chair and shoved Bill with his foot. Bill catapulted onto the girls in front of him. They screamed and peeled away from the scrawny boy flailing on the floor. Good boy George leapt out of his seat. Ben turned and slapped Danny. And the girls sitting at the front cried, ‘We can’t hear!’
All the while, as waves of chaos continued to roll, Luke lurked at the back, glancing at me and gloating. Had to be him who started this fiasco, I thought.
I pointed at Luke. ‘Right! Luke! Out!’
‘Oh, but, why? Wot did I do?’
‘You started it. So, out, you go!’
‘Don’t argue with me! Now, go!’ I pointed at the door. ‘Go to…to the principal’s office!’
Luke shrugged. ‘I dun nuthink wrong.’ And then slunk from Room 18. His minions narrowed their eyes at me. Chief chick, Maria snarled, ‘Not fair!’
[continued next week…]
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018; updated 2022
Feature Photo: Full of anticipation, hope and mischief; First Day of School—my brother looking bored already, and me with pigeon toes on purpose © M.E. Trudinger 1975