Back to the ‘banter’. So, last week we were revising LOTF and we came across the word ‘gash’. Needless to say the boys descended into giggles. The girls huffed and puffed and we all rolled our eyes. United, but working hard not to smile a little. I was firm, ‘enough, we have no time to waste, the exams are so close’. And amid red faces, hysterical giggles and wide beautiful smiles, one boy looked me straight in the eye and said
“Miss what you are failing to recognise is that we are 16 year old boys”.
Another piped up (shortly before nearly falling off his chair whilst rummaging for a pen or something in his bag)
“I’m only 15?.
And I smiled. These are the kids I do this for. The ones who raised eyebrows at me when we discussed corporal punishment and teachers with canes, who stalked my little sister online and played a song she had sung for me one lesson (resulting in a confiscated phone), who giggled when we had to talk about Eddie and Mickey’s choice of film in Blood Brothers and the pranksters who gave another teacher an Easter egg bought for me, just to wind us both up. It actually worked out pretty well for me on that occasion, as I ended up with an extra egg out of pity from the teacher who had unknowlingly been tricked into eating mine.
When, on occasion, I have turned up for a lesson chewing gum they treat me in the same way that I do them, nodding and pointing, albeit more smugly and knowingly, to the bin without words. I even got a pink glass from New York this year, presented to me by one of them, along with the words “I know you aren’t really a girly girl …and it’s pink” (I never wear pink, so this was said with a nod to my red shoes and I guess I am more frequently dressed in animal print and black suits than floaty Laura Ashley dresses, hence the girly girl comment, possibly).
When I clear my head after a long day I see them by the sea front, as sun sets, shadows of what I was also like at their age, hanging around with their mates and throwing stones. When I know that they should be revising or doing homework, I will call over reminding them there is plenty of time for the beach in the long year 11 summer and they will smile widely, reply awkwardly, unsure whether they will miss me or not when we leave. Then they stroll away along the sand, melting and blurring into the setting glow of hazy sunshine on water, either to take heed of my words or to escape, who knows which. But I will continue to hope, fingers crossed, it is because they are off to revise our subject. Because we are kind of in this together.
When I knew no one on the island I met them, when I had no friends here and they were a tough crowd I kept coming for them, when teachers doubted me I got up each week for them and their emerging personalities, when I leave I will come back in the hope of bumping into them. They make the island for me. Every week, each day I teach them.
Yes, they drive me mad, need to work even harder, to revise, to read. But this week it hit me. Hard. These wonderful witty charismatic bright funny banter-filled young adults have every chance for the taking, every dream for the chasing, every opportunity for the seizing. And they see that more now. And I will miss them.
The boys this week who sniggered,smiled and smirked, who make me laugh so freely, will be the last boys that I have the joy to work with for a while because I’m off to a girls’ school next year. So I will cherish our banter and memories and time.
And for the record, 11ea2, all of you reading this rather than your revision notes, please do work hard. Live life. Be wonderful. Be safe. Now go and revise or I will email your parents.
The moral and message of this post for any teachers reading:
Remember the your students are people, they feel pressure and hate targets as much as many teachers do. They are quite possibly anxious, scared and may want reassurance. They will be worried about exams and failure and may have things going on outside of school that you’ll never know about. So build and nurture approprate relationships with them. Banter is great but don’t ever overstep the line. Have a joke but not at the expense of learning. Speak to them with respect and courtesy but remember you are not their friend and certain subjects will always be unnacceptable in your role as their teacher. Smile at them and mean it. Take interest. Change lives. When a student says thank you at the end of a class enjoy the moment and then reply “You are absolutely welcome, it’s my job!”
* The past, the present and the future walked into a bar. It was tense. (It gets me every time)