FOR the 500th time, the classroom door has been left unlocked so the Year 9 group are running around inside.
Theyve broken a chair and are as high as kites. It takes a good ten minutes to get everyone vaguely calmed down. Darren then destroys all my efforts by treating us to his party piece dancing around, like some half witted rap star, jabbing his finger in the air to the amusement of the group. I resist the strong temptation to club him over the head with a chair leg that is lying alone on the carpet and instead start again the process of quietening them down. Although were close to Easter, its turned cold and its been snowing for a couple of hours, which means the kids are absolutely hyper (dont ask me why).
I get them started on the work and then notice that Declan is reading a magazine under his desk. I couldnt really care less, but several others have seen him and its not the sort of magazine I would show my mother. I manoeuvre myself into position, edging closer but facing away from him, pretending to be helping Janet with her work. Then, like a trapdoor spider, I pounce; the magazine Big Ones is in my hand and Im away from Declan before he has time to notice. He shrieks and flails around. I quickly reassure him before he gets too agitated: Sorry Declan, Ill give it back to you at the end of the lesson.
No I wont, Ill burn it or shred it. Im a classroom kleptomaniac. I take everything I can get my hands on. And I never ask anyone to hand anything over, as I dont like to put myself into a position where they can refuse; I simply take it, while apologising profusely. If they freak out, I just chuck whatever Ive got into the corridor and them with it.
As the lesson drags inexorably on, Shazney suddenly asks me Sir, How much do you earn?
£100,000 per year, I reply, in a matter-of-fact way.
There are cries of disbelief.
No way! Mr Wilkinson said he gets £30,000!
I explain how Mr Wilkinson is simply being modest.
They look suitably impressed, and treat me with a new respect for a moment or two, before they forget what theyve just been told.
There are only two things that modern kids respect: money and appearance.
Lewis is showing the magazine-less Declan his new trainers. Like the Government, our SMT comes up with endless new ideas to combat problems but no real plan on how to actually carry them out and deal with the consequences. Recently they have decided to clamp down on kids wearing trainers in school. Im all for clamping down on anything and in principle this is fine. But in practice its a nightmare, because there is no coherent plan laying down what will happen if a pupil refuses to change his shoes, or quite likely simply doesnt have any others.
The kids know this and more and more of them have actually started flouting the prohibition. I overhear Lewis boast that he is not taking them off for no one.
Well, I can never resist a challenge.
I look over.
Gosh, theyre smart trainers, Lewis; I wish I had some like that myself.
The bait is cast, and he shows them off in all their garish splendour. They are absolutely foul white with gold braid and flashing lights. I ask him for a closer look at the lighting facility and he passes me one to examine. One fluid movement of my arm and whoops! there it goes, out of the window and into the snow covering the playground below.
With a roar of fury, and various promises of what dad is going to do to me, off he hops to find it.
Kylie, a quiet little girl, is struggling with an aspect of the work. This is unusual, as she is a very bright kid with an aptitude for schoolwork thats incredible, given her background. She is from one of the roughest families in the area. Her father is in prison for attempted murder and both of her half-brothers, ex-pupils of ours, are in and out of jail about as often as the warders. Her mother is an alcoholic who has four other children younger than Kylie by three different blokes. Ive been to their house; its filthy, it smells and the noise from the TV, the stereo, the crying toddlers and babies and her mothers loud and foul mouth is amazing. With all this against her, this poor little mite is fighting and battling to succeed. Shes polite and attentive, she doesnt mix with the rougher gangs of girls in school and she tries ever so hard. Her homework is done on time, and is always among the best in the class. She seems to have grasped that she has one shot in life,!
and that this is it. We talk about her in the Staff Room; were determined to do whatever we can to help her. I spend a few minutes crouching by her desk, going through the questions that have been set, and get a tremendous kick out of watching her little face light up as she unravels the problems and begins to understand.
What are you going to do when you grow up, Kylie? I ask her, fairly sotto voce.
Im not sure, Sir, she says. Id like to be a doctor but I probably wont be able to do that.
I grin at her. Of course you can be a doctor, Kylie. Youre a clever girl. You just need to keep working hard, thats all, and keep on trying and believing in yourself. After all, if I can be a teacher
She smiles shyly and blushes.
If she can just keep her head above water I really think shell make something of her life.
I have my fingers crossed so hard theyre going white.