Don’t know much about Mireille, a girl in my year 7 Creative Writing class, but thirteen years ago, someone thought to give her a pretty name. Her mother, perhaps. Her mother who now, for whatever reason, lives on the other side of the country.
Mireille is short, physically mature and overweight. Her permed bleached blonde hair hangs kinkily around her face and shoulders. There’s a darker row at the parting where the roots are growing out. Her facial features are regular, and could be considered attractive, if you catch her at the right time. When she’s not sneering at you.
Mireille is at that point in the discipline handbooks where the ‘goal of her behaviour’ is revenge. Which translates into doing whatever the hell she wants.
That’s partly why she called me the c word today. (Weird. I can’t even bring myself to type it here, although I typed it out in the obligatory discipline report.) She said it under her breath, but I heard, and I couldn’t let that one go. Now she’s on a two day suspension. Dad’s been advised to find her another school because she’s just this side of expulsion. Very serious. Not my fault that she’s now at the expulsion stage. Swearing at me was just the last straw.
Mireille arrived late to class, ‘announcing’ herself by wearing a livid red cardigan, against the strict uniform rules of the school.
‘But it’s co-old!’ she declaimed, for the benefit of the other twenty-four students, when I asked her to remove it. School rules require a note, or a detention for uniform transgressions. ‘I didn’t have anything else to we-ar.’ A loud affronted whine. ‘I stayed at my friend’s last night, orright!’
It wasn’t cold, but I didn’t want to have that centre stage fight over something I didn’t really care about. I decided to let it go and didn’t issue a detention. She wouldn’t have cared anyway and probably already had one with a different teacher.
Mireille is fearless, confrontational and powerful. She has no respect for my teaching status. ‘I hate all teachers,’ she brags. It's as if she has no decent, ‘better’ nature to appeal to. I’ve goaded her into working occasionally but it’s been a waste of time praising or encouraging her. She wants to be bad; she thrives on disrupting.
Once she wrote a terrific piece. She’s a natural. Surprisingly neat – beautiful, careful handwriting, each paragraph in a different colour pen. Error free. She’d nailed the writing task, albeit in an abbreviated way. Of course, eager to encourage her, I was like a seagull on a chip. Great writing; terrific details, I wrote on her work. Can’t wait to read what happens next!
‘Nothing happens. It’s finished. Why should I bother writing more? I know how to write already. I’m really clever.’ This is yelled in my face, in response to my exhortations that she should keep writing because she’s good at it. And watching her while she wrote it, it was obvious that she enjoyed writing.
‘I don’t want to learn. Why would I want to be a goody-goody like them?’ She waves a hand towards a row of neat, enthusiastic, well-behaved students. ‘It’s more fun being bad.’ She’s unafraid of offending them, or anyone
Once she turned up to school with her school skirt hitched up under her large breasts, her school shirt splayed open and knotted at the midriff to showcase her black lace bra. Like a hooker, really.
It hasn’t been terrible having Mireille in my class. Just avoid cornering her; avoid the fight, which she’d inevitably win because she’s no holds barred, like many students these days.
But yesterday, this late in the year, I was under pressure to get the students to complete their ‘Individual Learning Plans’; to reflect on their personal learning goals – what a joke, but that’s another story. The kids were a bit loud and unfocused as I moved around the room trying to get the job done.
‘I haven’t got any goals.’ Mireille was loud and ostentatious, boldly defying the task, summoning her audience. Again I decided it wasn’t worth it. The ILPs are a crock anyway. So what if she doesn’t have one in her report? Move on. There were books she could read but she was happily drawing love hearts and silly pictures with a felt pen. As long as she wasn’t drawing on the desk I was happy to let it slide. Twenty-four other students needed my attention, including several other ‘discipline problems’.
Towards the end of the 75 minute period, Mireille was flagrantly breaking rules. Sharing headphones with another student, she was doing some exaggerated dancing motions, hands in the air, fingers twirling. Treating me like a fool. Challenging. I walked up behind her and her hapless, half-asleep side-kick and plucked the headphones out of their ears.
Mireille, outraged, turned in her seat. ‘You have no right to touch my property! If you’ve broken them, I’m suing you!’ This was screamed at me.
‘Hand over the phone, Mireille.’ My voice was calm, assertive.
‘It’s not a phone. It’s an ipod.’ One to Mireille, but stand back, for I am an expert in the ‘broken record’ technique. (Thanks, Lee Kantor.)
‘I hear what you’re saying, but hand it over.’
‘No, it’s brand new, you can’t take it.’ She’d zipped it into her uniform pocket.
‘Okay, it’s new, but hand it over.’ Reluctantly she surrendered it. Feeling pleased that she responded to my third request, I put the device in my office drawer. She was furious and let fly with the c bomb.
If only she’d called me a bitch. Could have let that one go through. Hate my part in this sorry mess which seems so pathetic written down, twenty-four hours later.