“Fantastic work. Brilliant effort lads. Give them a big clap!”
8F4 gave a ripple of applause that wouldn’t have been out of place at a low ranking golf event. It was polite enough, but said more about the effectiveness of the drama they had witnessed than any attainment mark Jim could give them as their teacher. Everyone agreed – it was alright. Except for Ethan. Ethan didn’t agree with everyone. Ethan hated it.
“Ethan – what do we do when someone performs for us?”
Ethan stared. Not a cute stare like Paddington might give you. This was more of a psycho killer look, confirming Jim’s earlier suspicions that he was simply babysitting this particular lad before Broadmoor was able to take him on in later life.
A single, solitary clap followed. No-one said anything. No-one made a fuss. No-one wanted to get stabbed.
“Okay, moving on then! Let’s evaluate what we’ve seen in the boys’ performance shall we? How did James and Imran use their facial expressions to show how Tybalt is feeling about Romeo?” The elephant in the room was not going to get in the way of Jim having a good lesson today.
“Grace? What do you think? What sort of facial expression would you expect to see from Tybalt at the start of this scene?”
More silence. Then enlightenment worthy of the Renaissance.
“Why?”Jim knew he had to get the kids to develop their answers a little bit more if they were going to get through the departmental ‘healthcheck’ that was coming up next week. One word responses wouldn’t cut the mustard in an observation – better get them doing some practice.
“Come on Grace, why is Tybalt feeling so angry towards Romeo?”
“I wasn’t in last lesson”. Grace didn’t like drama. He kept making you talk in front of everyone and she hated her voice. It sounded all croaky and the boys started whispering to each other every time she gave an answer. She hoped he’d pick on someone else, but the questions kept coming.
“No, you weren’t but do you remember when you read the play with Miss Crooks in English last year? Something happened at Juliet’s party? Do you remember what it was? Can anybody help Grace out a bit?” Jim knew he was beginning to sound a bit desperate, but he was sure that once he got them on a roll then the free flowing discussion about the nature of Tybalt’s rage and it’s translation into performance during Act 3 of Shakespeare’s great tragedy would be a diamond mine of speaking and listening marks. And he might get that moon on a stick he’d asked for for his birthday. If he could just get one of them to open up for a sentence or two then they’d be off. Unfortunately for Jim, it was Ethan that decided to take up the challenge.
“He’s p***ed off with Romeo after he crashed Juliet’s party”
Jim’s shoulders dropped. SLT had put a zero tolerance order on bad language this term and he was going to have to follow the escalation plan he’d been given last week after the INSET day. Wonderful.
He hated writing referrals and he hated dishing out detentions even more. It was such a waste of his and the kids time. It wasn’t going to cure Ethan’s potty mouth and would just mean Jim was half an hour later home on Wednesday when he was supposed to be picking up Danny from Katie’s Mum’s. Let’s face it, he wasn’t relishing the idea of spending some one on one time with Ethan either as he wasn’t entirely sure he’d see the other side of it alive.
Jim considered for a moment whether he may have a case for saying he misheard what he had clearly heard. Was there any way he could get away with turning a blind eye? He took a quick glimpse round the room. It was written all over their faces. “You heard him, now you’ve got to deal with it Buster”. Thanks kids. Love you too.
“Ethan, could you not use language like that please?”
“Well he is. I’d be p*****d off if someone who hadn’t been invited turned up at my house and started getting off with my cousin.” Damn, he’d repeated it. Now it really needed writing up.
“Ethan, come and sit over here next to my desk please while we try and evaluate the piece.” Damage limitation measures buzzed through Jim’s head as he glanced at the clock. They only had ten minutes left till break and he could still get to his plenary if he just nipped this one in the bud and ploughed on through.
He repeated his instruction for Lancashire’s answer to the Omen to shift seats, but Ethan wasn’t playing ball. He just stared. Jim knew the start of a sit-in protest when he saw one. He wasn’t going to shift for Jim. He wasn’t going to shift for anyone. No one moved. The word ‘awkward’ popped into many of the children’s heads and would be prevalent in most of their Facebook statuses when they reported on the incident after they got home.
“He was like this in Maths Sir, he swore at the supply teacher that we had”. Jenny, who loved moments like this, where she could demonstrate her civil duty by ratting on whoever she could, decided that this was an appropriate time to bring up Ethan’s previous misdemeanours during period one.
“He got put next door into Mr Khan’s room”. The word smug was invented for moments like these.
“Will you just shut the f**k up, you fat dog!” One comment from Jenny was enough to put Ethan straight into the red zone- he wasn’t going to take it from a suck up like her, even if it did mean digging a hole further for himself.
“Outside, please Ethan” Jim acted quickly. He needed to diffuse this before he ended up with a full blown shouting match. Janet was doing learning walks today and this was the last thing he needed her to bring up at one of their ‘chats’.
Surprisingly Ethan got straight out of his seat and headed for the door, but not before he managed to get his parting shot away.
“This class is thick anyway. They all sit here pretending not to know anything when we already learned why Tybalt hated Romeo in English. Tybalt’s annoyed because the families are feuding and Romeo’s made his uncle look stupid. Not that you’d have guessed from the gormless face that James put on when he was acting. He can’t act for toffee and if you’d answer the f****ng question Grace then we could have told him that and moved on to something more interesting. And Imran, you need to speak up ‘cos we can’t hear you when you’re talking. There’s no point in acting if no-one can hear it”
Ethan took a breath and seemed to falter a little, showing the faintest of tears in his menacing twelve year old eyes and giving Jim a chance to finally interject.
“Can you wait outside please Ethan?” he repeated calmly.
“Yeah. Sorry sir”
Ethan walked out, but didn’t wait behind. He walked down to the all-weather pitch and ducked under the fence to go to his grandma’s. Jim spent his break time writing up the referral and passed it straight to SLT. It was out of his hands now and Ethan would have to have home/school liaison meeting before he could come back onto timetable.
Janet phoned home after break but didn’t get an answer.
This shouldn’t have been surprising as Ethan’s mum had her parole turned down just a week before. She wasn’t going to be home for at least another six months.