Living ‘The Bells of St. Trinian’s’
My hands are clamped around the scrawny neck of a squirming thirteen year old boy. From the corner of my eye I see a kid who is high up in the air stomping on his desk. He screams “EIEIO, and on his FARM he had a PIG, EIEIO…WITH A…”
he screeches out pig oinks. I have been in my classroom for four seconds. The kid between my hands pasted a girl in the face as I walked in the door. She is bawling, head down, on her arms folded on her desk. The kid in my hands is looking at
me wide eyed and open mouthed, terrified. I’ve got him, what do I do with him?
Two girls are necking while another videos them with her camera. A boy sits in his underwear, while his classmate sews up the split seam of the arse of his shorts ripped out by another girl who doesn’t look one bit sorry.
A group of bigger boys have a poker game going on in the corner. Betting is heavy. A boy names female body parts on the board then draws them with fine details and great accuracy. He’s been studying I see. A girl runs to the board with glee and produces the male parts.
A flash back of the movie “The Bells of St. Trinian’s” runs through my mind’s eye. Forty-nine minutes to go before the bell rings. It is my first day teaching. I am drenched in the sweat teenagers bring out in adults when the adult looses the upper hand.
How do you squash anarchy? A local teacher wanders by, sticks her head in to see what the commotion is about, smiles when she sees who is in my hands, she nods to me and carries on to her class. I am left to my own devices. 2.15 is my first class. I lift the boy off his feet a bit which gives me an advantage, he quits moving around somewhat because without being able to use his feet for leverage he’s lost a degree of squirmability.
I abandon my lesson plan (a well thought out chat about the value of English with q. & a. followed with self introductions) for another day. Being Irish, I believe I can suppress the riot. How do you handle anarchy? I draw from my experience on the cobblestones of Monto where school was a place of strict learning and discipline.
I’m from a large family, we lived in a grand neighborhood, Monto. All of us, the families living in cramped flats without running water, were poor. Times were hard in Ireland in those growing up days. We took care of each other, we shared food when we had it with those who didn’t and chipped in so no family had the disgrace of burying a relative in the pauper graveyard. Monto produced seven national boxing champions. We behaved in school or we were caned. If we were punished when the parents heard about it, heaven help us. We’d get it again harder and longer. Cutting my teeth in Monto didn’t prepare me for this however.
The kids are out of control, smacked up on sugar, (empty cola bags in the garbage bear witness to the sugar shock) and growing louder.
I release the neck and push the kid down in the closest chair and tell him not to move. I seize the money from the poker game in one hand and swing the kid making animal noises down off the desk with the other. I carry him sideways down the aisle, by his waist. He’s thrashing at both ends, having a whale of a time. Eight girls want to go to the toilet together.
“You can bloody well sit down and hold it!”
I do a headcount. There are twenty-six in the room. Ten are awol. I stuff the money in my pocket. The kids are texting each other around the room, some are playing games on their phones. A girl hurls a bottle of water at a rude classmate (something about a buffalo) and it smacks her in the head. The two jump to their feet and square off, pulling hair, shoving, yelling, slapping. I separate them and put them in different corners. The first kid I grabbed is crawling on his hands and knees sneaking out of the class room. I beat him to the back door and lock it from the outside, and push him into his seat again.
A boy, pink lipsticked and wearing eye makeup blows me a kiss and winks at me while a sweet young girl asks me if I have a girlfriend. My head is done in. There are forty-five minutes left. Saints preserve me!
I’m to teach English. That’s what I’m going to do. I bellow at them. The force of Hurricane Katrina blasts out of me. There’s a lull in the action, the students are stunned silent by my ferocity.
“Right! Boys down on the floor, girls you too. Boys, pushups, girls sit ups! Ten of them! NOW!”
The kids look at me like I’m nuts. I bellow again. I take the kid I had by the neck and get him down. They get the idea. The physical effort wears some of the sugar off. I count, when I get to eight, I call out eight and a half, eight and three quarters. They groan.
Back upright, in their seats, I write across the board in huge block letters THIS IS YOUR ENGLISH CLASS!
The kid who I held by the neck can not sit still. He is perpetual motion, the worst case of hyper active, attention deficit disorder I have seen. He’s in his desk, slams the drawer breaking it, he dives under the desk, then runs around the room, I grab him again and tell him to do five more sit ups.
The kids start calling out. “Game! Game!” I decline.
I tell the kids to get out their notebooks and a pen. Their assignment is to write three sentences about their family. The kids copy from each other, discuss the project in Thai but I do have some semblance of order for the time remaining. I walk around the class taking phones, playing cards, several mirrors and combs, and confiscate a condom balloon.
The bell sounds. They all stand up and scream “Thank you Teacher, see you again tomorrow!” as I run away down the stairs, notebooks and their stuff in my arms.
In the teachers’ office I hand over the cash from the poker game, phones, combs, mirror, and condom balloon to the principal. I report ten students were absent. I sit down to mark the sentences. I have twenty-six books. Each book has the exact same three sentences as the others. Each sentence has carefully been corrected with liquid paper to record the same mistakes.
I famlee have four peeples. I love famlee. Them went to go to home night sleep. She name is Mother.
I really hope this is fiction….