The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

I trust that your Easter break has been fruitful, and involved chocolate?

Myself, I interrupt my holiday ennui to celebrate both my 100th post, and a year spent writing these weekday gems for The Blackboard Jungle.

I quote from my own generously endowed back catalogue: the second post at The Jungle. And there's swearing in it. Plus ca change.
Attempting to stem the tides of 'fuck', 'shit', and, inevitably, 'fuck this shit' in the classroom, without getting a rep for sending every bloody kid to stand in the hallway of shame, last year I developed the more nannyish admonishment: 'uh-uh, watch your language, it's Fudge or Sugar'.
Kids loved telling each other off, and giggling at someone in a total blue funk wanting to curse the heavens and bewail their outcast fate (okay, say 'shit') and being forced to interpolate the saccharinely inoffensive 'sugar' instead. But if someone really wants to piss you off, they're just going to go ahead and tell you to fuck off as normal.
So this year, in desperation, I invented a charity swear box. In absolute despair of ever getting five pee for the swear box, it was wholly fictional, but allowed me to tell kids off in a moral code they understood - cheating the charity of five pee is wrong - rather than one they didn't - that 'f' word your mum, dad, gran and dog all use constantly is wrong. The fictional swear box worked well in this respect, without ever actually collecting a penny.
Until, as ever, kids worked out the cracks in the process.
Crack 1: they asked what charity it was for. I had to admit that if I ever actually succeeded in getting five pee from anyone, we could have a vote and they could decide.
Crack 2: a kid actually gave me five pee. This meant we had to work out what charity it was for - the potty mouthers decided 'Cancer Research UK' was their charity of choice for the princely five pee they'd coughed up. Suited me - there's a Cancer Research charity shop on the way home, in eighty years time when I had a full pound, I could drop the moulah in without going out of my way.
Crack 3: now I had to find somewhere to put the damn money. I thought about a strongbox, and decided the wasteland that is my desk drawer would be fine.
Crack 4: a kid particularly blessed with Tourette's swelled the coffers mightily by insisting on paying in advance for his swearing for a number of weeks.
Crack 5: little Michael in year 7, a roughty toughty children's home kid whose worst habit is getting frustrated with not being able to write and deciding to help classroom discipline by punching anyone who disrupts my lesson in the face, found out about the swear box. Decides he feels sorry for those children whose mums have Cancer and are waiting for Research to be done. Insists on giving me his dinner money for the swear box. Won't take no for an answer.
Doesn't even want to swear for it.
If any teachers do read these words, I thoroughly - nay, actively recommend to you blogging as a reflective and productive means of reminding yourself of the real issues* of the job.
Of counting the ways in which you can make a difference.

[* That's children, by the way.]