Sunday, September 28, 2014

Part 4: My Baptism of Fire


'You know, Sir...them!'

'Who?'

'The Krays! They're me uncles, ' she whispered, visibly proud of their murderous achievements. The class listened intently. It was the quietist moment I'd experienced all day. Despite the soft, hushed tone, she was desperate to reveal her secret to the whole class. It would do wonders for her street cred, after all. 'But don't tell anyone,' she continued. Just how she was now meant to keep a lid on a 'secret' that was no longer a 'secret' is anyone's guess.

'Your secret's safe with me,' I bemusedly replied, before gently steering the class's attention back to the lesson in hand. I say back, but who am I kidding? In reality, their attention had never been on the lesson in the first place. They just became interested after we veered off task and engaged in a conversation about London's underworld. They love to discuss anything remotely linked to brutality and violence, especially if it gives them the opportunity to look tough in front of their mates, even the girls.

Having said that, it was, at least, a brief breakthrough. It was great to enjoy an interaction that wasn't characterised by shouting and the casual dissemination of verbal abuse. It felt fantastic! In fact, it gave me a real buzz. These kids weren't so bad, after all, I thought. 

But, alas, the euphoria was short-lived.  As soon as we stopped discussing Reggie's savage, frenzied stabbing of Jack 'The Hat' McVitie, the class erupted into a crescendo of idle chatter again. It was the last lesson of a truly exhausting day and I was, for want of a better phrase, out on my feet. My torment, though, was not yet over.

'Get out!' I roared. 'Be quiet!' I hollered. Why won't they listen to me? I thought. Then, just as I considered walking out, closing the classroom door behind me and never returning, a large, chunky, rather effeminate looking man appeared at my door. As he turned the handle, entered the room and gently, purposefully closed the door behind him, the class fell deadly silent. How the bloody hell did he do that? I pondered.

I proceeded to watch, utterly speechless, as he, in a low, hushed voice, politely ordered the kids to line up in the corridor, silently file into the room and sit at a desk specifically allocated. Once reorganised, he continued to lecture the class on the art of behaviour for learning. To me, he was magnificent, and was indeed to become my hero. But as he spoke, a small, Gollum-like creature turned around, smiled at me and winked. His message was unmistakeable: 'Don't fuck with me,' it said. 'You're the pupil and I'm the teacher in this place!'

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