Monday, 10 December 2007

Jingle Hell

So it's jingle all the way. I don't want to look like a grouch, even if I may well be one, and spoil the whole Christmas thing for the kids. Year 7s get so excited about Christmas, even if it's just the sugar rushes from seasonal bribes from other teachers. This year at the beginning of December my Year 7 group begged me to spend the next three weeks making cards. They told me that Year 6 had been such a busy time for them with tests and assessments that they weren't allowed to have any fun.

But it's not such a jolly time for all. One of my classes is packed full of the type of kid that teachers refer to as "characters" in polite company, and "little bastards" under their breath as they turn to the board to cool down. Behaviour is always a contentious issue with some of them, and the classroom equilibrium balances on a hair's width. A piece of paper fluttering the wrong way can be the catalyst for everything to kick off, with three or four of them always ready to explode.

Today a couple of them were on the edge of exploding with rage, and channelled their energies into irritating all the other kids in the class with well-aimed insults and stares, and random noises and whistles. They were looking for reactions, which I've learned not to give, instead trying my well-used methods of letting them fizz away without exploding, whilst allowing the other kids to work without bother. It's not perfect, but I've never seen or heard of a perfect solution.

However the LSAs in the room were looking at me expecting me to do something about these boys (for in this case, as in most, the disruption was coming from boys). Most of them have the same group of pupils with them all day every day, and have my utmost pity. So to make a bit of a show for them really, and knowing deep down it would have no effect, I summoned the two irritants to the front of the room, and one at a time went through the process of filling in reports which will be sent to their head of year. Now I know that currently the head of year has enough on his plate, and that my reports will just be added to his files of evidence about these boys, but the act of filling them in sends out some sort of message anyway.

It was later in the day that I spoke with some visiting pastoral psychologist person who pops in every now and again to assess whether certain pupils need time in the slammer, or Pupil Referral Unit as it's more properly known. I thought I'd mention these boys, and she immediately seized the opportunity to fill me in on one of the boys in particular. It turns out that his shabby excuse for a mother is usually out of it on heroin, and deals drugs to all and sundry from their flat. Her children are hollered at to stay in their rooms, and some of them never see their fathers because at least one of them will be in prison at any one time. I couldn't keep up with how many siblings this boy has, but he sounds like he is the oldest and looks after the younger ones while the flat is open all hours to all kinds of undesirables. He has been in and out of foster care, and I don't understand how the children can be allowed to live there at all, but for some screwed up reason they are.

Learning all that just made me feel awful. And angry too, so bloody angry at poor excuses for parents who pop kids out to ensure constant handouts from the benefit system, whilst neglecting and abusing the very offspring who are keeping them in milk tokens and free dental care. They would need the latter if they ever thought to turn up to see me at Parents' Evening.

But what can I do? I can't treat these children any differently because that would single them out in front of their peers. Yet with their erratic behaviour, they are already making themselves noticed. All I know is that they probably account for quite a few of the pupils who are not looking forward to the Christmas holidays.

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