Scream

A scream.

Into the world.

Through the curtain of air and atmosphere that surrounds the physical form of a life. Our bodies are vessels that carry a whirlwind of emotion. Our bodies are purely things, and we are the life that hums through our cells.

Vibrations through the earth and through our bodies and from our mouths to our ears, all the way to our minds.

A life is only a life because other lives are living to see it so.

The classroom was lit with four tubes of florescent, cold, white light. It’s harsh blue tone filled corners and silently combatted the deep, dusty yellow that filtered in through the layers of dust on the window. Dust that reappeared the moment you cleaned it, settling sleepily into the damp smear your cloth made on the glass, so that the next time you cleaned it would be hard and clumped to the glass in that stubborn, Arabian way.

The teacher, in a sari and bright pink lipstick wrote words on the board with a fading whiteboard marker, and I was disinterested. English as a second language, in a class full of second language speakers. English is my native tongue. I think in English. My mother speaks English and my father lectures non English speakers in the art of speaking English, and the nuances of phonetic English, the harsh science of linguistic English. I was bored out of my skull.

A blank paper on the desk in front of me. Ridges created by pens digging deep into the wood, small signatures of years of educational boredom. I pick up my pen and start to scribble. A shape forms under my pen, the lines scratchy as the pen tries to deviate and follow the texture of the desk beneath the thin paper.

A figure, with a long, skeletal face. Large, black oval eyes, the scribbles in circle formation to fill the holes. No pupils, just blackness. No nose. Jutting cheekbones, and a mouth open wide. A pair of hands, with long, bony fingers, on the cheeks. A hood, covering any hair, and the sleeves hanging out over the thin wrists.

The mouth releases a scream, loud and raging in my head. A scream to rattle the obstinate dust on the windows, a scream to make my sari-wearing teacher stare at me in shock. A scream to explode from my lonely soul and shoot through the thick air around me, humming with breath and eye contact and whispers and heartbeats and sweat and particles of skin and life. 

I don’t scream. I let my picture do it for me. I put my pen down and stare at my scream for a long time, until the black lines of my drawing start to pop out starkly on the white paper, and the light around me dims in my vision. Until my eyes are watery.

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The Hostile Child

In the holidays, children come out to play. Big children, small children. Lots of vibrant little minds. Red haired children, black haired children. Blue eyes, green eyes, grey eyes, brown eyes. Tall, short. Fat, thin.

Mean…. and kind.

Today I walked past some kids, and I said, ‘I hate kids.’

I did hate those kids. They were loud and obnoxious. And they sniggered rude things about me as I walked past. I smiled in a way that I know was patronising.

I love kids. Small kids. Even rude, small kids. I eventually won their respect when I was a teacher. I loved to teach them, even when they did not love to learn. There was a ten year old boy who all the teachers complained about. He was honestly a handful and a half. I found him hilarious. He had a quick wit, and if I wasn’t supposed to manage a class of thirty children, I would have probably laughed at his witty comebacks. However, I kept my face stony and told him to save it for the playground. He was always in trouble in my classes, in all classes, but I made sure it was fair, and I made sure he got his work done.

On my last day at school, I was walking by with a colleague and saw that naughty kid where stood beside his mother.

‘Hey, miss!’ he called, and I turned. He ran up to me and slipped a small wrapped easter egg into my hand, ‘This is because you’re leaving.’ He looked so shy and ran back to his mother without looking at me. I was so touched. I thought, sometimes teaching is worth it.

Then I moved to this crappy town. Where I smell weed everywhere. Where the glass windows of bus stop shelters are shattered. Where children swear at you as you pass. Where they hang around smoking and talking about things children shouldn’t think about until they are much older.

And as I walked, I thought, ‘I hate kids.’

I am a supply teacher here, though. I will have to deal with kids like these, and worse. It won’t be a little witty joke in class or a disrespectful stare anymore.

And I can’t think, ‘I hate kids,’ and just walk on by. I will have to deal with these kids. And you know, it isn’t always their faults.

Today a small girl was screaming into the wind, and I saw the ecstatic joy on her face because she was probably having a moment of freedom. Her shout was cut short suddenly, harshly, when her mother whacked her around her face and said, ‘Shut your mouth you stupid cow.’

Now I am not one to judge parenting, honestly. Maybe the mum was having a bad day. But the look of complete humiliation on that little girl’s face made me feel awful for her. Honestly, though, in this town, this is not the first nor the tenth time I have seen incidents like this. A mother shoving her face right into a toddler’s face and screaming at her to ‘bloody keep up or I’ll kick you one’. Kids who are brought up in a hostile environment tend to become hostile too. They become hostile adolescents and then hostile adults.

And teachers don’t really change much, but they can do their best to teach that hostility towards others is wrong. Who knows. Maybe a kid will realise as it gets older and change its ways? Who knows.

I am not looking forward to teaching the kids in this town, after what I’ve seen these past five months. On a daily basis. However, I am gong to try. I am going to enter with a positive attitude and good intentions. I am going to go in thinking, ‘I love kids.’

Kids need love, to give love. And I was given so much love as a kid. So it’s time to give it back out into the world.

Headphones

I was the angsty teenager in headphones. The black hoodie wearing, tattoo yearning girl with dark eyeliner and an air of moody misery. Sixteen years old and the world was against me.

Loud rock music blaring in my ears, adding fuel to my fragile emotions and intensifying my misery and self pity. I hid away in corners reading books and cycled for hours until my depressed feelings seeped into my aching muscles and I turned my depression into exercise.

Oh, poor, poor me, standing alone in the corridors, reading deeply in the library to avoid being seen with no friends.

One day a glamorous girl I was severely envious of came up to me in the library, in the spot where I always sat, reading a book.

‘Oh my God you’re such a loner!’ she said, her voice high and cheerful and her smile infectious. She nudged me.

‘Come hang out with me and the girls.’

I thought it was a pity ask. Our mums were friends.

‘No, it’s ok, I’m actually really into this book.’

Me with my oversized hoody and deeply emotional rock music. She tried several more times but I always thought it was her mother making her. Her mother knew nothing. I found this out years later.

I had no friends. For lack of trying, honestly. I lacked the try. I did not try. I expected them to come up to me and want to be my friend.

They did, as well. They actually did. They were curious, they asked me questions. I was shy. So I maintained a stony demeanour and answered shortly, avoiding eye contact and being blunt and dismissive.

Once a girl told me she felt I was ‘indifferent’. Like I thought I was above everybody else.

There was a boy in one of my classes who spent the whole lesson, every lesson, talking to me about everything he could think of. I enjoyed his chatter. I got first hand information on all the popular kids because he was down with the cool kids. In fact he was friends with everybody.

I was ‘indifferent’ to him too but he kept badgering me.

‘Why do you always sit alone in the library?’ he’d asked once, in between telling me about this girl he fancied like mad and who always sat next to me in Chemistry.

‘I like to,’ I told him, airily, ‘I don’t like you college lot. So I don’t wanna hang out with anybody.’

He laughed so loud that we both got told off and separated. Next class, he was at it again, asking me to talk to the girl he fancied for him. I didn’t. She didn’t like him, and had made that pretty clear to me many times beforehand, so I kept brushing him off.

We never hung out, despite his numerous invitations.

I never made friends there. Not real ones. I sat alone, and plugged my earphones in, and let the sad music wash me away to my own island of depression and misery, believing the world had given me a really bad deal and feeling dreary and lost because of it. I cried a lot at home, I told my mother I was miserable, and watched her heart ache for me because no mother wants to see their child struggle.

Sometimes those headphone days creep back on me, six years later. Making me feel lonely and depressed again. Reminding me of my sadness and my loss. Peering over my shoulder of a sunny day and stealing my joy, sucking it out of me until I am a melted heap on the floor. Self piteous idiot. Why should I let my own incompetence affect me now? I am not like I was then.

In hindsight, I should have gone with that girl. I should have asked those kids questions back. I should have sat with them when they called me. I should have made my own friends. I let fear rule me, you see.

I learnt something magnanimous from that experience. I learned that the world owes me nothing, it exists as it always has done and always will. It exists and it is up to me to get off my sorry, self piteous backside and explore it and take from it what is mine. The world will give me nothing. It has everything and it leaves it all there for us to take.

So, take! Take those damn headphones out with their manipulative music and clear your head and breath some fresh air and shake some hands. Smile a wide smile and ask people questions, and hell, bake them some cinnamon rolls. Indulge, enjoy, enter into other comfort zones, explore, learn, create! It’s up to you to make something of the world, because, as harsh as this sounds…

The world owes you nothing.

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Image source: Pinterest

My Boss

So I had an awful spat with my boss.

It all started around a few weeks after we started working together. Previously we were mere colleagues who rarely saw each other, but with a sudden change in management she was put in charge of me. She had more experience in the teaching profession, but none in the subject we were teaching. I know how to speak the language and have been speaking it and also studying it from birth; she doesn’t.

She didn’t delegate, she micromanaged, she was negative about everybody and continuously found fault with other staff members. She had some excellent attributes but I just don’t like her anymore.

Her teaching methods were based on somebody who was speaking first language english, not second language Arabic. So I disagreed with her. She kept putting phrases in like ‘research shows certain things’ despite the fact that this research was not conducted on the subject we are teaching.

She said “I am afraid I will have to put my foot down.” when I suggested a change in the syllabus she had drafted up because it really was pointless. She kept arguing that it was what the management wanted regardless of the fact that the management had said nothing on the matter and have no expertise. In fact I am the only one with expertise on the subject but God forbid I put anything forward and have it accepted.

I felt resentful because I am parrot teaching children vocabulary so old that they will never use it, when I know better ways to teach them a language I grew up with and she knows nothing about.

Still, I bit my tongue. I held it in. I let it slide.

I let a lot of things slide. Time passed and I moved to another city, which meant a three hour commute to work and giving up my car. This made my journey harder, so I quit. I gave in my six week notice.

I told the management why I was quitting, and that there would be times when I would have to be late but I would always let them know prior to my arrival when I would be late. They said this was okay.

More time passed, and my boss started driving me nuts. She was so uptight and nitpicky about everything I did. I would come in saying ‘Oh that was a wonderful lesson we really made progress-” and then I would go on to detail why. She would frown and say, ‘hmmm, Lenora, I think you’re not allowed to do that. Ofstead want to see paperwork etc.”

Which, fair enough, might be true, but teaching is not about what a teaching board will say about how much paperwork your students do. My students are learning, their grades show as much. They are also steadily improving, and I have had good reports from plenty of other staff/teachers about my methods.

I just feel like if something is positive, need it be draped with so much ‘red tape’? Can it not be recognised as such?

Anyway, as time passed these little nuances of hers started really grinding on me, making me more and more annoyed. So I started keeping my distance, being as polite as I could but refraining from being too friendly.

So I gave in my six week notice but am staying an extra week because they really needed me. I agreed to help them out. I was under no obligation to do so. Also, other teachers have quit and they were allowed to leave without giving any six week notice; I felt that was extremely unfair. But, I wanted to help out.

Anyway, with this exhausting commute, arriving at work at the contracted hour was proving harder and harder. Train times were not always perfect and I relied on somebody to give me a lift in the mornings because of my heavy bags; walking for 30 minutes in the freezing cold with heavy bags after travelling three hours since 4am was just too difficult, and no job is worth that much pain. So I kept letting my boss know beforehand if I was going to arrive late.

I am ALWAYS there fifteen minutes before teaching actually begins. I am NEVER late for my students. Contracted hours begin 30 minutes before the first lesson.

She would always look at me and purse her lips when I arrived late even though I always told her I would be arriving late, which would annoy me. And it was only 5-10 minutes.

So yesterday I sent a text at 7:50 saying sorry but we have to drop the child to school so we will be late; (we have started to do this and it has affected the leaving time). She sent a text back saying:

Although I empathise with your predicament, we still need you here at the agreed time. This is the third time in two weeks and it will now need to be escalated.

This text was sent knowing that I am LEAVING in five days. Also knowing I caught two trains and two buses and have been travelling three hours to get here, to help THEM out, even though I did not need to do this and could legally have just left.

I was very annoyed.

Ok. No problem.’

I replied,

Please let me know when and with whom.

She did not reply. So when I saw her I asked her when this would be escalated (I AM LEAVING IN FIVE DAYS, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? WHY ARE YOU SO PETTY?).

She said she had reported it to management (it’s done, see?) and I would have to wait and see what they say, that they would ‘be in touch.’

I told her that I was disappointed that she had reported me, given that I had already explained to them that I would be late and I would always let them know prior. I explained that I am leaving so how can this be escalated.

I even added, ‘Will they fire me?’

She said, ‘I don’t know, we will have to see.’

How malicious is that? When somebody has already quit and is doing YOU  a favour by staying extra, how the heck does it make sense that you ‘report’ them and ‘escalate’ matters?!

She said she did not like my tone. I was not shouting, but she just didn’t like the fact that I called her bluff. How the fudge nugget are you going to escalate things if I won’t be here? What you going to do, fire me?

She is a control freak and didn’t like knowing that I was ‘getting away’ with it, in her books. Which is stupid because I had already EXPLAINED WHY I WOULD BE LATE SOMETIMES SIX WEEKS PRIOR TO THIS.

This woman made me so mad. She then rushed to the head to tell him what happened; and literally ran back to tell me he wanted to see me. AFTER she already reported the issue? Clearly wanted to get dibs on his favour. She was smirking too, which really grated on me. She was also panting, because of all that self righteous running.

He didn’t penalise me, by the way. He was very diplomatic and nice about it. He explained that he didn’t want my last week at work to be negative, and that the welfare of the staff is of equal importance as the welfare of the students.

He did not ‘escalate’ matters. He did not say anything about that at all.

I just. WHY. Why would you ‘REPORT’ me when I am leaving?! I mean, I didn’t get into trouble but it is the PRINCIPLE of the matter.

She basically ruined my last week at this school. I love this school, I love the kids, I love the staff. But my last week feels negative and miserable because of her backstabbing goody-two-shoes Miss perfect attitude. She can do no wrong but everybody else is incompetent. I just really don’t want to go in in the mornings. I never felt like this before. My memories feel tainted now.

RESEARCH SHOWS this, people. RESEARCH SHOWS THIS. Never mind what bloody research shows it. If I hear ‘research shows’ one more time I am slamming my head against the wall. In fact, no. I will say, ‘What research, exactly?’ and smile at her. Because you can’t keep quoting research without referencing said research properly, otherwise it’s just bullshit. And she won’t be able to ref the research because a. it probably doesn’t exist and b. it is not related to our subject matter.

I hate school now because of her. She has made it nasty and uncomfortable. And if I get a crap reference this travelling will not have been worth it.

The End.

 

Sweet 16

Six years ago when I was sixteen years old, I hid myself inside a little bubble.

I had just moved the a different city. I left all my friends behind, and I found it phenomenally hard to make new ones. I was painfully shy and irritatingly quiet, so those who did bother in the beginning soon very quickly gave up.

I didn’t see others as people. I saw them as barriers to happiness. I was depressed. So depressed. It was hard for me to talk to people so when I got home I was filled with thoughts and words and I shared them with my mother. I was desperate for human companionship. A friend to walk home from college with. Somebody to call up afterwards and have a chat about the day.

All of it was just stuff I was so used to, being so surrounded by friends at my old school. I still had those friends, of course, but time and distance were an enemy, and soon they started talking about people I didn’t know and had no interest in, so our phone calls and emails and IMs became less and less frequent, until we became those friends who see each other once in a blue moon and when we do we get along beautifully but in between those meetings there is a long, dismal stretch of echoing silence and aching loneliness.

And for two years I tried and failed to make any real friends. I had a few people who would just use me for company, and when I realised that I stayed away. We had nothing in common and they would just call me up when something was wrong or when their own friends ditched them, which I felt was unfair.

I faded in those two years.

I hid away from people. I stopped trying. I would cry sometimes, alone in my room at home. I started making internet friends. It was so much simpler, and I could find the people I had things in common with and soon I was talking to them daily, the minute I returned home from school and way into the night. It was amazing. I still felt desolately lonely during the day, but I had my internet bubble to look forward to later.

I also created more. I dreamt up characters and wrote about them in the hours of free time during lunch breaks and prep lessons, typing away furiously on the computer.

I would say that although those two years are depressing, and I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy, I am glad for it.

As I am glad for all my experiences.

It made me more compassionate towards others. It made me see through other people, be more conscious of how they might be feeling and try to make them feel included and welcomed.

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Naughty School Boy

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The Naughty School Children. By: Theophile Emmanuel Duverger

 

 

“Didn’t you iron your uniform?” I called out to my thirteen year old brother, as he dashed into the room and reached under the sofa to bring out two packets of crisps (good hiding place, bro), which he stuffed into his school bag before rushing to the door.

He paused when I said that, looking guilty, staring at the door as though wishing it would gulp him in and away from this interrogation.

Then he said,”Oh, yeah!” really quickly and without looking at me, before swooshing out, his un-ironed blazer whipping behind him.

My mum’s voice, from the kitchen, “WHY DIDN’T YOU IRON YOUR UNIFORM!?”

“Sorry”

“You’re LATE!”

“I know. Sorry!”

SLAM.

That was the front door.