Boys to men

pa and kit and slinky dog

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.

10 comments

  1. Mel

    Really cool entry Tomaz, i love your blogs. Thank you for all your support 🙂
    Mel

  2. Mel

    Really cool entry Tomaz, i love your blogs. Thank you for all your support 🙂
    Mel

  3. Jeannette James

    Another touching and positive example of effective character development. Note the term development over discipline. Thanks to educators like Tomaz, who can take a step back as leaders and deal with potentially abusive situations – as a human not an elevated person in a status role. This lesson will be effective for the young man as he was not spoken down to in a degrading way. The situation was diffused and the dignity of the young man in question respected. Once more educators can see the human behind the student, open and engaging learning can take place.
    What motivates you?(http://currentsofmyriver.blogspot.com/?m=1)

  4. Jeannette James

    Another touching and positive example of effective character development. Note the term development over discipline. Thanks to educators like Tomaz, who can take a step back as leaders and deal with potentially abusive situations – as a human not an elevated person in a status role. This lesson will be effective for the young man as he was not spoken down to in a degrading way. The situation was diffused and the dignity of the young man in question respected. Once more educators can see the human behind the student, open and engaging learning can take place.
    What motivates you?(http://currentsofmyriver.blogspot.com/?m=1)

  5. Tahlia Newland

    Fabulous. It’s so important for teachers to share this kind of effective interaction with kids, especially difficult ones. I have a bit of a thing like this that I do with boys when they get out of hand. I point out that their energy is all up high and busy ( I do a mime with my hands, surprisingly most of them recognise the truth of it very easily) then I point out that men have a strong, solid energy and I bring my hands down and slow the movement down. Then I ask if they want to be strong – of course they do – and I say, OK, let’s bring that energy down, and I raise my hands and lower them slowly to help them actually do that. They usually do it and it works. After that I can ask them where their energy is? Or if they’re feeling strong or hyper (like a yappy dog, I say)

  6. Tahlia Newland

    Fabulous. It’s so important for teachers to share this kind of effective interaction with kids, especially difficult ones. I have a bit of a thing like this that I do with boys when they get out of hand. I point out that their energy is all up high and busy ( I do a mime with my hands, surprisingly most of them recognise the truth of it very easily) then I point out that men have a strong, solid energy and I bring my hands down and slow the movement down. Then I ask if they want to be strong – of course they do – and I say, OK, let’s bring that energy down, and I raise my hands and lower them slowly to help them actually do that. They usually do it and it works. After that I can ask them where their energy is? Or if they’re feeling strong or hyper (like a yappy dog, I say)

  7. human

    Excellent. Yes, boys in particular (but not exclusively, of course and not all either…) are very receptive to these little strategies. Understanding themselves, their bodies and things they can (and can’t do) with them won’t be in any official ‘curriculum’ but it frames huge amounts of their time at a place called school and beyond it.

    What matters huh? 😉

    Cheers Tahlia, thanks for sharing.

  8. human

    Excellent. Yes, boys in particular (but not exclusively, of course and not all either…) are very receptive to these little strategies. Understanding themselves, their bodies and things they can (and can’t do) with them won’t be in any official ‘curriculum’ but it frames huge amounts of their time at a place called school and beyond it.

    What matters huh? 😉

    Cheers Tahlia, thanks for sharing.

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