I am standing in front of a group of Year 8's. Watching them throw coloured pens across the classroom. Coats still on inside. Ripping up paper. Earphones in. Swearing like it's going out of fashion. I'm trying to remind myself why I am doing this again. I can feel tears welling up in my eyes, which isn't useful right now. If anything a stern word could assist, but I simply won't allow myself to shout. Each time I feel the urge to reign the chaos back in (without being shown the behaviour system, in the five minute briefing I receive), I think about the reaction that could occur and it scares me. So I don't.
I really don't want to be disliked.
That's the foundation of the problem. And it pains me to admit it. After all, these teenagers know nothing about stepping out of the high school hierarchy. Every day follows the same structure; bleary eyed mornings, bells, grey corridors, passionate or passionless teachers imparting knowledge, beige lunch, some laughs with mates, detentions, getting back home, homework, gaming and bed. Stepping in their world, I almost immediately pick up their stress and a concoction of hormones fueling deep seated insecurity. It almost knocks me off my feet! (That and the body spray...) They want to have a laugh and take the piss and quite frankly I don't blame them.
When I feel the classroom spinning out of control, I instinctively feel that shouting will not bring them back to me. I'll only have them wetting themselves at my inevitable breakdown and then I'll have to deal with mockery and the consequences of that.
I actually ask some of the kids during lessons what a supply teacher can do to garner respect. All of them are completely honest.
"Miss, you probably won't get it cos your supply innit".
"Miss, we do respect you!"
"Miss, you're actually alright tho..."
"Dunno, nowt really."
And my favourite one...
"You can't really do anything miss, it's our fault cos we are deliberately disrespecting you. Like that's got nothing to do with you. It's us, cos we can't be bothered to be fair."
God bless all teachers, supply teachers, learning support staff, dinnerladies, cleaners. Honestly, these people are energy warriors and the ones who engage with their students and don't give up on them when they are breaking down or acting insane are my heroes.
I see myself at the moment as a foot soldier being recruited into the army. That's honestly how it feels. Ridiculous comparison but sometimes you have to put on your armour and run out to tackle whatever obstacle will be thrown your way. I wish I'd learn to put on my armour though, flipping heck. I've been operating in classrooms without walls up and I left today feeling like an empty shell of a human. Not having any respect from 90% of the class for the whole day is a crushing blow to anyone humans self-worth.
I can flip this around and make it an incredible lesson.
Can I still love myself when others don't care about me, respect me or love me?
At the moment, the answer is no. Not a chance in hell. I still soak up approval like a hungry sponge. However, I have to give myself credit for the work I've done on my inner practise so far. I've been brave enough to step into this warzone knowing it was going to be an uphill battle. If you'd have asked me a year ago whether I would consider doing this, I would have laughed and blushed away the suggestion. Yet here I am, letting myself fail over and over again and learning how to deal with the inevitable embarrassment, exhaustion and humiliation that comes with it.
When I can do this, I truly believe I will be free.
I haven't fully learnt my lesson, so the universe is going to keep kicking my ass until I do.
I wonder what's next. Swinging from the light fittings? Glueing me to a chair? I wish I was Whoopi Goldberg and could get them all to sing, but I'm not sure that would work either.
Mann, I need to lie down.