OK, another language warning.
This morning alone, I was called a ‘dumb cunt’ by one student, told to ‘fuck off’ by another. Both after a small thing. But it turned out great.
Here is the latter one.
In a by now pretty standard way, I simply turned around and told him in a serious tone that nobody tells me to ‘fuck off’ in my face and walk off. I reminded him that he can now choose to be a kid and walk off or be a man and face my reply (he must have thought I was going to fight, hit him, seriously). Bravado on my part? No, just to tell the student that sometimes, outside these walls, there are a lot of people who might seriously hurt him for what he had done. Fact of life, especially in this neck of the woods.
As he fumed further, he even took a fake swipe at me. Staff were horrified, a female colleague who is his teacher was enraged as it brought back the feeling of struggle she has had with him in class – aggressive, condescending, petulent, sometimes downright dangerous. I asked him to leave, he flatly refused. Power struggle 101. But we did not want to escalate.
Within minutes, he calmed down a bit. At one moment, ‘the mask’ dropped. The voice lowered and the words: “Really sorry for telling you to fuck off Sir.” came out. Not by order or request. On their own, honest too.
“Now that is a man talking. Before that was a boy, a kid.” was my reply.
We shook hands and looked each other in the eye. Together we fixed the damage we argued about, he even offered to take the item back to my room.
Fifteen minutes later I pulled him aside to state that the behaviour towards my colleague in class is an act of a boy and reinforce my message of difference between a boy and a man. We both agreed that it was good for our encounter today to finish the way it did. He can now come in to see me any time when ‘he starts feeling like a boy’.
What he has been doing is not OK, particularly in the way he treats my colleague and many others, particularly women. He needs both help, support and face some consequences for his actions.
And it reminded of the many boys I have worked with, reminded me of the wise words of Steve Biddulph in an older post, it reminded me that schools can be places that can and do change people’s lives in ways that will never show on any league tables or test.
This was a(n ongoing) test of maturity. Priceless.