Tuesday, October 25, 2011


“Will you miss us, Miss?” Doe-eyed Year 12 student, Leesha, is all expertly applied foundation and eye-liner, a somewhat sexual Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, spangly red shoes included.
“Yes and no,” I say too quickly.  This is my character flaw; the weakness for which people either love me or hate me.  Don’t mean to be nasty.  I blame my early childhood and my dad who used to scare all the kids in my street.  I do the same, without even trying.  I’m the witch.   

Should have said that of course I’d miss her.  But thirty two years of teaching has taught me that she won’t ‘take’ in my long-term memory.  Some students will, but not the normally shy Leesha.  And I'll read this and wonder who she is.

Leesha isn’t that interested in my response anyway.  She’s bursting with the excitement of  another muck-up day and friends who might be heading out the door without her. She’s glancing surreptitiously at them, perhaps regretting her decision to speak to me.  But her politeness wins out  and she lends half an ear to my response.  I keep it brief, and it’s along the lines of 'as one class leaves, another one begins'.  Started to ask her if she was familiar with To Sir With Love, but saw her young brow furrowing and thought better of it.

After form assembly in the VCE ‘lounge’, Leesha and I walk through the school together and she’s happy to explain that she’d bought her costume ages ago, just for this occasion, on Ebay for $20.  Wish they’d put as much forethought into preparing for SACs and exams as they have into preparing for this “muck up week”.  It’s not one day of mayhem at our school.  It’s three.  Kids are supposed to attend classes.   What a joke.  It’s three days of harmless pranks, or vandalism, however you want to look at it.  Shaving cream, eggs, flour, silly string, noxious substances sprayed from water pistols and fart bombs.

And a bit too much near nudity on the boys’ part.  About six years ago, we had our first almost nudie ‘run through’ at assembly.  A skinny arsed, athletic young man donned a mankini and ski mask and at Monday morning assembly, charged past the principal on the podium, down the steps and out into the incredulous mass of students.  A senior teacher gave chase, but he wasn’t quick enough.  It was hilarious, but we all agreed that the student had gone too far.

Good old days.  This ritual has grown.  Yesterday, as I headed for assembly, I passed the First Aid room where the principal, grinning, had corralled about ten oiled, buff, near naked young men.  During assembly, on cue it seemed, they charged past the principal on the podium, down the steps and out into the unconcerned mass of students.  No one gave chase.  The boys raced one way, then they sauntered back in their g-strings, and stood in their groups, affording the year 7s a cracking view.

Today, I genuinely flinched when a black-hooded, bare – waxed – chested marauder barged into my classroom, where I was reminiscing with a group of students, and held a gun – imitation – in my face.  Tad intimidating, until he handed me his exit form to sign.  It’s the first class he’s attended all term.  “I’m going to get a B for English, Miss,” he says.  Hope he does.  Hmm.

Mixed feelings about this time of year. 
Anger.  Hate some of the punitive vandalism that occurs at this time. 
Frustration.  GAT scores indicate many of our kids could achieve higher marks than they do.   If they’d work harder.
Nostalgia.  Wheels go round and round. 
Loss.  Because I am very attached to many of this year’s students, some of whom I’ve taught for four of their six years of high school.
Freedom.  Because having taught year 12 for all but two years since 1981, I’m not doing it next year.  And, depending on how it feels on the other side focusing on middle school – and whether I can live without the masses of extra marking incurred with year 12 – I may never teach year 12 again.