I have always hated that social trick whereby people you have perhaps just met quickly pigeonhole you by finding out what you do for a living. I make a point of never asking anyone what they "do" and if anyone asks me I'll usually retort with - Well I cut the lawn in the summer, I play guitar, cook a mean stirfry, write poems.... You see I don't believe we should ever measure someone's worth or allow ourselves to hang stereotypical traits upon another simply because of what he/she does in the world of work.
That was my preamble. As regular visitors to this blog will know, I'm a secondary school teacher in a tough part of one of England's toughest cities. Most of our kids come from deprived council estates. I try not to touch on this part of my life very often because I'm me before you start sticking work-related labels on me.
You can guess that I meet some rather unpleasant teengagers. A particular sixteen year old girl I teach has been irritating me greatly of late. She isn't getting her GCSE coursework done. She lazes. She chatters. She wears her scruffy baseball cap. When challenged, she swears, lies, tries to place blame for her angry outbursts on others. She isn't stupid and perhaps she is as she is because of her family circumstances - one parent family, father long gone, little money in the home, no real constraints. But I didn't create that background so I don't accept that I should take any flak because of it. I have written home on four occasions this year detailing the girl's misdemeanours, bad language and failure to produce vital coursework.
So we came to today. She arrived late for the lesson with her horrible hat on and reeking of stale cigarette smoke. Crazily, we have to tackle an assignment on pre-1914 prose so we were reading Thomas Hardy's short story, "Tony Kytes - The Arch Deceiver". Actually I was reading it aloud with the kids following, applying my best agricultural Dorset accent to the dialogue - "I love 'ee Milly" etc.. Just as we were getting near the end of the story, there was a sudden "clunk" at the back of the room. The nasty girl who frequently leans back dangerously on her chair, in spite of warnings, had fallen backwards and banged her head on the table behind her. She lay supine on the floor, nursing her bonce like Bluto after Popeye has just hit him with a heavy plank.
I asked Gay Shaun to take her down to the office for medical attention. In a malevolent way, I freely admit that I was chuckling inside. It seemed like poetic justice for all the crap that I have had to endure from this genuinely unpleasant girl. Later, I reminded myself that she didn't finish reading the Hardy story and I can already hear her victorious whining voice next week, "I aven't read it so I can't write about it can I? Doh!" Still for a moment it felt like there might be a God after all.... Clunk! Thank you Lord!