annanotbob2's Diaryland Diary


Swearing at children

So the other night I managed to get to a meeting about this volunteering thing I'm probably going to do, and we were asked to bring a piece of our own writing to share. Well, only two people turned up and I felt like I'd missed out somehow, so this is what I was going to read, from my blog a while ago. I told my friend MH about it today and she thought I was referring to another incident which I had conveniently forgotten, so I'm adding that at the bottom:

"There's been a thing going round facebook today, variously attributed to Helen Mirren and Joan Crawford: "The only thing I regret is not telling more people to fuck off."
Which reminded me of the three times I told kids to fuck off.
1. Towards the end of my first year of teaching. GCSE English exam, all of Y11 massed waiting to go into exam hall. A boy from one of my classes (bottom set, wild and difficult, thought I was an idiot) suddenly loomed into my face and made that sexual thing with his mouth, flicking his tongue up and down. Now, if you've known them since they were 11, you know how close to being a child a 16 year old is, but when you're new to the game, some of those lads look like men, they're the shape and size of men, and having that directed at me felt quite shocking, assaulting. Before I had a chance to stop myself I'd hissed, "Fuck off!" at him. He was thrilled, "Ha! You swore at me! You're not allowed to do that, I'm telling, you'll be in real trouble." Luckily I was quicker thinking then than I am now, and said, "Yeah, like they'll believe you and not me," which earned his immediate respect, the fucker, and he never gave me any lip again.
2. Was with a year 10, set 2, autumn term, late afternoon, getting dark already, big group, every desk occupied, bags and coats and steamy windows; lots of difficult shit going on in my life outside of this lesson, building up and up with never a second to think about any of it, reeling from one incident to the next. I've been teaching all day and done break duty, and here we all are, me trying to take the register, stopping each time anyone talked, waiting for silence before continuing and bloody Girl1 is just being arsey as fuck. She was a bit of a name around school, and I can't even remember what she said that finally made me lose it, but she said it, and I replied, "Fuck you, Girl1, just fuck off," burst into tears and left the room sobbing. (Only time I did this, amazingly, given my propensity for weeping since.) I sat on the floor outside my room, having a good, hard cry, thinking I'd really messed up and having no idea how to get myself back in the room with any dignity. Then I realised that the class had gone quiet, listening to one person speaking at a time. I couldn't make out what they were saying, but there was a discussion, then the door opened and Girl1 came out, looking sheepish and anxious. "Miss, I'm sorry. I never meant to upset you, none of us did." Result! I behave totally unprofessionally and she says sorry. I went back in, apologised to all of them, said something about having 'one of those days'; several of them admitted cheerfully to having been bang out of order, taking the piss etc. We ditched the lesson plan and I read them a short story, which we all sank into, peacefully, gratefully. Probably the one by Roald Dahl about the frozen leg of lamb.
3. Was years later, but still in the days when you could only watch films etc in classrooms on one of those massive, heavy TVs, which were shared between teachers. I needed one for my next lesson and was trying to push one on an awkward, wobbly trolley through the throng of kids between lessons. One lad that I didn't even know was deliberately getting in my way, jumping around like it was a game, "Just fuck off, will you," I said, in a tone of mild irritation, without thinking, and he did, he fucked off, so used to that language, to that phrase being used in a friendly way, I don't think it even registered with him that it was inappropriate from a teacher.
So, I'm not proud, not ashamed, just saying."

There was also, I have been forced to recollect...

4. In my defence I was not well and shouldn't have been back at work - being mental while teaching large groups of year 9 kids is always going to be crap, especially last lesson of a long day. It was around the time of the Gulf War (or the invasion of Iraq, depending on how you see these things) and quite a few of the boys in this group had become alarmingly bloodthirsty and jingoistic - I won't repeat the things they said - straight from The Sun and The Mail, shockingly ignorant, and over several weeks or months I hadn't been doing well at staying calm and unresponsive.

After the massive anti-war march I had assured them that we would not go to war, because that was how democracy in this country worked. We voted a government in on their manifesto, then if issues came up that weren't covered, we could protest or petition and it would be listened to. I know - naive, or what? So when we did go to war, my word was proved useless and they gave me hell, day after day, lesson after lesson, for weeks on end.

Again, I can't remember who said what on this particular afternoon, but it came out of the racket of thirty children doing whatever they liked, as if there were no teacher in the room at all, never mind one trying to get them quiet. On hearing it, this forgotten remark, I had a sudden epiphany. I didn't have to do this. I could walk away, get a job in Tescos. Go down the mines, sell drugs - anything would be better than this. I would get the sack, then I wouldn't be able to be tempted back to suffer more humiliation at the hands of these vile brutes. "Ah, fuck it, I'm off," I said, and started packing up my things. That aroused the interest of one or two in the front desks but most carried on, so I carried on too, gathering my own books off the shelves while muttering about what a bunch of vile cunts they were, determined to burn my bridges. Eventually I had their attention, the bastards, and I unleashed a full list of their shortcomings in the frankest possible terms, including that c word at some volume, before storming out and into the Head of Year's office, to tell him that I'd left the class without a teacher, I was going home and that he would never see me again and I was fucking glad, did he hear? FUCKING GLAD! And off I went, full of exhilaration, lighting a fag before I left the building, ready to start a new life free from marking and endless guilt over jobs undone, free from 14-year-old fuckwits, free, just free! Woo hoo!

Soon after I got home the phone rang. It was the headteacher. "Anna, are you all right? Do you need the rest of the week off?"


And I did, I took the rest of the week off and went back the next Monday.

And those really are the ONLY times I have sworn at children while at work.

I am grateful for: not being a teacher any more; walking in the evening sun; YD buying me lunch; getting up the nerve to do sketching outside; tomorrow being another day.

10:49 p.m. - 26.10.16


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