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.

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I am extremely nervous. I start my first day at a new job tomorrow – as a supply teacher! I don’t know which school I will be teaching at, I don’t know where it is or how far it is. All I know is that I have to be ready by 7:30PM sharp, and will have to leave at the drop of a hat.

I don’t know what kind of kids I will be teaching, and that worries me the most. I am really good with the younger ones; its the older ones I am dubious about. You can get some right messes at school; and its dealing with them delicately whilst grasping at shreds of wisdom that is tricky.

I am afraid of KIDS. But I will not show them, of course. I will march in there like a Trunchbull and show them who’s boss. I can be quite mean when I want to be. But I have never been in that situation before, so I really don’t know what to expect. You never know with kids.

I am exiting my comfort zone, that’s what, and the thought of it churns in my stomach like acid and worms.

Kids Will Be Kids

Today I realised I am good with kids, and even though I need to shout sometimes, they generally listen to me. Also. They like me.

Which is a warm thing to know, really. Unless they can sniff out the chocolates in my bag, in which case it’s probably just the bribery.

Bribery works wonders on kids, folks. More than telling off or strict behaviour does. All week the Year Ones have been irritable and hot and very disobedient. I had one child imitate everything I said, at a raucous of encouraging giggles from bright eyed counterparts. Oh how innocent those chuckles were, and how enraged I felt.

Finally I resorted to telling the class to ignore the little rogue. They did. Surprisingly. That only increased his naughtiness, and he began screaming in their faces as I was teaching. But they kept stoically on, until finally i turned to the piqued little fellow, who was all red faced and exhausted with the effort of creating trouble, and I said,

‘Henry, are you ready to return to your place and behave yourself?’

Meekly, he nodded, and went back to his seat, pleased we were all acknowledging him again. I didn’t hear a peep from him the entire lesson after that, and he raised his hand when he wanted to ask something, too. What a naughty creature.

Today, Year Two were not listening to their class teacher, who is a lovely woman but whose voice is a little low. She looked at me as I was leaving my lesson, and said,

‘You have to call these kids a thousand times, and it makes you not want to do anything nice for them.’

So I turned around, put on my stern face, and said in a loud, controlled voice (it’s my mother’s voice, and she is a bossy lady. I am far from bossy but oh boy, I know that voice inside out),

‘Year Two! Can you not hear your teacher telling you to be quiet?’

Still some chatter.

YEAR TWO!’

Sudden stillness in the class. Aha. I yanked their attention by the pigtails it would seem. She looked at me gratefully as I lectured them for thirty seconds about listening to their teacher, and they sat solemn as I left the class.

At this rate, I will probably lose my voice.

Today is Friday and because it was the end of the week I told my Year Ones that the winning ‘team’ (they are arranged into teams) would win some treats. Some naughty boys refused to believe it, and started making airplane noises and pushing each other when I was trying to make them read. Cross, I wrote their names on the board and when their team won, they did not receive anything. It’s always the boys, it would seem. The girls are (mostly) well behaved.

The crestfallen disappointment on their small little faces made me almost cave, but I did not give in.

‘Next time, you will remember to behave when I tell you to, won’t you?’ I reproached them, at eye level (I got on my knees for this).

They nodded seriously and went to sit down, looking like their world had ended.

They gotta learn, you know. And rudeness won’t be rewarded.

I do strongly believe that kids ought to be kids, of course, but kids also ought to learn how to listen. Play when it is playtime, and listen when it is time to listen.

Despite my harshness, however, they did all run up to me as I was walking through the playground at playtime, and hug me in a pile of chubby arms, calling my name.

One whispered, ‘Miss, you’re my fayyyy-vourite teacher.’

Huh, fair praise indeed.

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The Darker Side of Parents.

Because I tutor children, there are some things I have realised about different mothers (who are generally the primary dealers with me).

The main thing, of course, is that they do like to talk about their kids. The thing is, you see, I really am not interested in what Aaron ate for lunch last night, or how late Peter went to bed (theoretical names).

I genuinely DO NOT CARE. I care how much your son knows or if your daughter has done her homework, but all those little details about how good they are… I don’t care.

A mother’s opinion is highly subjective, of course. I know lots of mothers who take it too far. For example, my mother in law, doesn’t like it when anybody else highlights anything bad about her kids even though some of them are right brats. RIGHT brats, I tell you, and it really annoys me. They aren’t perfect just because you birthed them, you know. And they genuinely are horrible and mean, e.g. one of my bro in laws is pretty mean to my little brother so my mum doesn’t want them to mix as much.

Even with D, if I say something, even if its so small like ‘Oh, D couldn’t cook to save his life’ (because I always cook and a girl gets sick of that you know? And he can’t cook but you could darn well learn to, even if you hate it, and help your wife out a little. He acts like such a baby when it comes to cooking I swear) she will say ‘awww but he’s my baby, he’s such a good boy, his heart is in the right place.’

Um, I’m married to him, I know how he treats me sometimes, it’s like he is a massive child and it’s because he is constantly coddled. I won’t mother him. And I will secretly really seethe when you coddle him and treat him like a child, because that just makes him act like one with me and lately, after living here for a good four months now, it’s getting worse. Gah. I need to move out already.

Anyway, so some mothers like to say how good their kids are and how well-behaved etc etc… BUT I REALLY REALLY DON’T CARE.

I will be the judge of that, thank you, based on how they behave with me. A lot of mothers just can’t accept that their son back talked me or their daughter keeps disrupting the class.

‘Oh but he’s such a good boy he can’t….’

He jolly well can and if you aren’t going to take responsibility he will grow up an arrogant fool and nobody will like him.

For example, a student was late for his lesson and his mother texted that he couldn’t wake up, and it’s fine, of course, sometimes people can’t wake up because they need the extra sleep. So I said,

‘Ok, that’s fine. We can resume next lesson.’

There. End of.

But then she goes on to say, ‘Andrew wakes up at night, he struggles to wake up, and he has poorer health than others. He ate cereal last night and it didn’t agree with him, I think it’s the milk, maybe I should start giving him fruit if he wakes up hungry.’ [this is the literal text, by the way]…. ON and ON and ON.

I get that you want me to understand that he isn’t being spoiled and there is a genuine reason for his tiredness, but spare me all the details.

I really don’t care, lady. It irritates me because then I have to REPLY to it, and I really don’t want to because I didn’t want to know the details about Andrew anyway. He is so rude to me, honestly, and gets really pissy when I correct him, even though it’s my job to, and when I try to explain to him where he went wrong he just grunts at me. Which is rude for a 12 year old boy. But his mother brushes it off saying his cereal put him in a bad mood, or ‘he takes his study so seriously and gets really upset when he gets it wrong.’

Son, you are going to get it wrong plenty of times so learn to deal with it and move on. So I roll with it and smile and nod and say ‘good job’ while inside I am just really wishing I could tell him to stop whining and get on with it.

She also has to bribe him to have lessons, by promising him sweets. Makes my blood boil. She is basically bending over backwards to make him out to be this angel when really he is disrespectful and is too big for his boots, and needs a slap.

Some mothers think that other people have no right to say their kid has done wrong, even if said other person is dealing with their kid for hours and hours a day, even if said person is MARRIED to their kid. No, only you can decide if your kid is being naughty. I think that is very wrong.

My mum’s friend told me she saw that her daughter was being told off by her class teacher at school and suddenly she was gripped with this rush of anger making her hurdle down the stairs so fast to intercept it.

What? I said, But surely the teacher has a right to do that? How else will the teacher maintain discipline in the class?

The lady wasn’t having any of it, though.

Oh no. Not to my baby. She’s an angel, she would never do anything naughty, nobody else can tell her off but me!

I really, really have had it this morning. It’s a combination of lack of sleep, D acting like a big child and being moody with me (because, I dunno, my hair’s a mess?), his whole family in the room last night at 10pm when I just wanted to go to bed because I have been awake since 5:45am and need to get up at 5:45am again tomorrow, and my head pounding like a thousand Thor hammers creating a racket in there, but no, they can sit around and chill while I am blatantly waiting to sleep, his mother babying him (if I hear one more ‘awww my baby’ I will explode!), and all these mothers making excuses for their rude little children.

If I spoke to my teacher like that (I wouldn’t dare to, out of respect), my mother would nip that in the bud quicker than I could blink. She would march me over there and make me apologise, and forget watching movies or having treats for a good week (which is AGES in child time).

Well. Who knows what I will be like when I am a mother. Hopefully I will be sensible and recognise when my child has done wrong, rather than make them think they are angels walking on this earth.

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The Naughty Boy – George Bernard O’Neill