36 days. Five whole weeks (and a Monday) and they haven’t realised that I am completely and totally making it up as I go along. I have had two crying episodes in the staff room, one- a slow ebbing blub as I started to speak to my head of KS3, the second, a no-holds-barred emotional eruption starting in the corridor in front of terrified year 11’s as I legged it to the safety of the English office. The cause? Teenage girls.
It’s weird, not long ago I was a teenage girl, two years ago in fact. There I was, sleeping till lunchtime, eating all the food, having nothing to worry about except when to wash my hair and if I was ever going to find a guy who liked me. How is it then, that this two-year disparity feels more like 20? When playing ‘guess miss’s age,’ (the favourite classroom game of 11-18-year-olds) I was met with answers that ranged from 25 to 35. I admit that last one hurt. I spoke to my year 12’s about Snapchat the other day and I could hear them cringe. They thought I was trying to ‘relate’ to them, apparently, the most sickening thing a teacher can do, I wasn’t. Snapchat was meant for people my age! It was all about 5 seconds flirting and the ability to make your ex-boyfriend jealous by showing a quick snap of you at a Spoons with a tinder date. Now it’s used for 365 days snapchat streaks and emoji based bullying.
I thought (naively) that my age would help me form relationships with them, and for the majority, I think it has. However, there are always some that you can’t hook in with conversations about Love-Island and your shared love of Topshop. These are the girls that people warn you about before you meet them. The adjective that accompanies them is ‘manipulative.’ You nod as a knot ties itself in your stomach and you pretend that you haven’t heard it. They are the worst teenage girls because they don’t just strop and sulk at you, they make you feel like you have them on-side. you have conversations about their hair colours, about their future hopes and aspirations and then they lose it at a very random, out-of-the-ordinary moment and you are left in the wreckage of the classroom you once felt a little bit in control of.
The first girl, a year 8, left me blue, not really by her actions but by the looks of her classmates, these little girls who looked up at me with pity and frustration because they knew, once again they had been given a shit teacher who allowed her lessons to be derailed by one twelve-year-old girl.
The second a larger than life year 12 who despite the odd eye-roll and refusal to do any work had led me to believe she liked me. Until one Friday, period 5 I was involved in a screaming match in which I was in effect called the worst teacher ever. this was my ‘volcanic emotional outburst’ moment. I sent her out, if I didn’t I would have said something I regretted. in the last 10 minutes of the lesson, I didn’t look up at the rest of the class, my hands were shaking, the tears were coming, I practised submarine depth breathing. One by one they placed their books on my desk in silence and left, five minutes before the bell went. I didn’t care anymore, the sooner they left, the sooner I could cry. One boy stayed behind a quiet kid who never really said much. ‘what happened there?’ he asked,
‘God knows’ I replied.
‘I felt really sorry for you.’ he told me and walked out. and then the floodgates opened, the dam was bust and I sobbed the entire way home.
I would be lying if I said that I let it go, wanted them both back in my class. the truth is, if those girls were taken out I would have a great time with the students that remained. that isn’t in my power though, I had to go in on Monday and see them both, treat them like it hadn’t happened and as they blushed and didn’t look up at me or scived a lesson so they didn’t have to see me, I knew that it was something that they felt uncomfortable about as well.
Whatever happens, I am their teacher. whether they think I’m shit or not. The number of times I have laughed so hard I had to take a minute to compose myself, the poster I was made by a year 7 that stated I was ‘the best teacher ever’, (even if she spelt my name wrong) the times I had girls waiting outside my room asking to speak to me because they had a friendship-group fall apart, or just the ‘good morning miss’ as I greet them at the door, those moments eclipse the bad once totally. And as we begin the countdown (9 school days) until I hibernate and drink too much for a week, I can reflect on my 80 students as a unit and it’s strange, but I think I am starting to like them. even stranger? I think they are starting to like me.