The Blackboard Jungle

days spent beating back the seeds of doubt

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

There are a few fifteen year olds deputised to create an artwork on the theme of Bram Stoker's Dracula up on the miniature rooftop corridor. They have intermittent brief bursts of time out of class to do this, and they're nice kids. It's an odd thing, though, to run up to check a stock cupboard, and turn a corner into boomboxes, kids in death metal t shirts, acting the studious artist, fingers smudged in the purple-greys of the Count's slowly forming eyes.
"Hello Miss L."
~ Hello.
"Hello Miss L."
"Hiya Miss."
"Hello Miss L."

I check out the artwork, and continue past.

"It must get really annoying to walk down a corridor and have everyone on it say hello to you." A typical left of field comment from an ex student of mine, Will.
~ No, sometimes it's rather nice.
"Do you remember me Miss L?" I don't. I remember the recognition of me in her eyes, but not her name, not the key to the dialogue.
"You were my teacher in year eight."
"You taught me in year seven. I learnt a lot in your lessons."
~ What about you, then? I recall your face - when did I teach you?
"Not sure, Miss L. Maybe year nine?"
"You taught me English in year nine, Miss."

Did I really teach so many of them? Will chips in, brandishing three brushes at once.
"You were the only teacher who taught me English."

Pardon? Typically, Will, as he always used to, stops me in my tracks. He's out of uniform, but then, he's painting. Could he really not have been timetabled to study English for the other three years he's meant to have been here?

"It's true," he continues, with the offhanded blinding logic of the mildly autistic, mildly ADHD kid, "you were the only teacher to teach me any English."

Ah. He's being sarcastic. Not wanting to hear any diatribe about his relationship with the current teacher, the one who's done him the favour of arranging for him to be here creating ghoulish artworks around Transylvanian maps, I hurry forward again.

"Do you know what grades I was getting before you taught me, Miss?"

I turn as I tread on, intrigued yet again. Bright boy, scatty as anything, handwriting utterly illegible, prone to more than the normal distraction, more than the normal balance of ruthless logic.

"I was getting all grade Fs." I'm surprised. Not shocked, but surprised. He'd always been fairly clever, to my estimation.

"Then I had you for one year, and you taught me [insert random exam-passing acronym], and now I get Bs."

For a second time, I'm halted in my tracks.

"That's right, Miss L," chimes Gemma, one time eleven year old schoolrefuser, "I was on level 3 when I first had you, and now I get Bs and As."

Genuinely shocked.

"And I love reading now."

Solemnly, I make them put down their paintbrushes and jamjars of murky bloodstained water, and shake their hands. They just gave me something very precious, you see.