"You're not strict, Miss" Jamie informs me, as he colours in the pencil drawing of a murdered King Duncan the Meek.
"Am I not, sweetheart?" I'm writing out sub-headings on the following page, to help him catch up on work he missed in the five weeks he didn't come to school.
"Nahman, miss, nah!" Jamie's incensed at the idea. "If you was strict, I'd shout at you."
"Surely not!" I feign mock horror. Jamie's all of three foot tall, and enjoys doing well, given a task he has a chance of doing at all well in. "Even Ms G? Would you even answer back to Ms G?" I invoke the usually petrifying, whispered name of his head of year.
"Yeah!" He pouts, insistent on his own tenacity. "I would too. I was bad last year, Miss. You don't know."
"Golly." I move onto the next page, scribbling down random events from the Shakespeare play we're studying. "I can't imagine you ever being rude to a teacher like that." Fingers crossed that this statement of a reputation wiped clean will be prophetic. Of course I can imagine it. But a new leaf is a tempting thing for a student to treasure.
"Nah, well we work for you, don't we? 'Cos you're not strict." His eyes stay concentrated on the symbols of authority and kingship he's drawing, in a stubby pencil that's been snapped in half to create part tool, part weapon.
I shrug. Not knowing whether to grin, or to groan.