The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Friday, July 09, 2004

A local school, for local people, part 2

Of course there are occasions when living locally can be of immediate benefit. Not least popping home at lunchtime, and gaining a little more perspective on the hothoused chaos of life in an institution.

Wandering into the local supermarket to pick up fresh vegetables which will no doubt be thrown away in perference to a ready meal eaten with a spoon while hovering over a set of marking, I come across many a belligerent soul, transformed by the presence of an equally tired and harrassed parent into recaltitrant trolley-slave, their eyes registering a desperate, mute plea not to give their misdeeds away.

The greatest benefit, however, is a feeling of safety in an unsafe environment. Sitting inside a badly broken car, awaiting vehicle recovery, I will be besieged by swarms of helpful twelve year olds, eager to gain extra credit with me by informing me of exactly how to kick start the engine, or hotwire the ignition. Older students will wander over to cluck sympathetically at your problem, no matter how obstructive the behaviour that had ended the day's final, heat-paralysis of a poetry lesson.

In fact my most heart-warming, if odd, local anecdote concerns an occasion when I stupidly left a hire car, engine running, windows open, and handbag strewn temptingly across the front passenger seat, to dash into a local greengrocer's for supplies.
True to expectation, I exited the shop to find four hooded, hunched youths surrounding the vehicle, late teenagers arranged oddly like a pride of young lions in an attack formation, beginning to test out its alarms by rocking it against its bumpers. The graduation evening's pink suit and corsage felt oddly out of place in this familiar inner-city scenario.
I walked as purposefully as I could towards the car.
Some of the boys looked up at my approach, shame and embarrassment flickerd over their features. They banked sharply away towards the pavement. "Sorry Miss".
I'd taught them all since they were eleven years old.