Thursday, 15 December 2016

Of Strength, Anger And Beaming Smiles

Today, one day in the middle of December, is the last day of paid work that I have in the diary until the middle of next month. What a funny old day it has been too. I've known seven year old T since he entered the school three years ago. Throughout our music workshops he has had his moments, but today, between sessions, he kicked off in a way that I've never seen before. He was amazingly strong as I peeled him off the classmate he was attempting to claw lumps out of, but it was the screaming, swearing, lashing out and total loss of control as I became the object of his attention. As I would have done with any of my own children in their moments of frustration and rage, I wanted to hug him close to minimise the danger to himself, to me and to anyone else careless enough to enter his flailing orbit, until he calmed down a little, and we could talk it out, but being a visitor to the school (and wearing the recently-instituted lanyard to confirm it - "Why are you wearing a visitor's badge?" asked one of the older children today, "You teach here!") I was struggling with any number of potential outcomes of getting too close to someone else's child with prospective witnesses having fled the scene back to their classroom. There was also the unarticulated burden of the next class on the conveyor belt. I tried to catch his hand, but he was flailing too much, and ended up holding his wrist, which felt very risky and so very fragile. Having now got into that position I didn't dare let him go because he would have gone tumbling on to the playground and probably hurt himself quite badly. I had no way of knowing that he wouldn't do a runner either. I was only there to lead three music workshops. The rest of the morning was rather marred by this event and I was not looking forward to filling out yet another incident form. These have become a bit of a feature over the past few weeks.    

As I went by the office to sign out at lunchtime there was an envelope with my name on it. It was addressed in an adult hand and actually spelled correctly so I assumed it was from one of the members of staff. I loaded the van and sat in the cab feeling rather sad and useless as I opened it. T had now been excluded for, apparently, the third instance of similar behaviour in a week. This poor, angry young man has something going on in his life which is making him very unhappy. I turned my attention back to the card which, when I looked at it, turned out to be from a reception child, his name scrawled in huge letters, some reversed, most in the wrong order across the double width of the card. This particular only-just-turned-five-years-old boy has had some difficulty settling into the school's routines and I have had several indications that my music lessons have interfered with his priorities, which have mostly involved acts of violence against anyone sitting nearby. I got out of the van and walked to the dining room to find him and thank him. I squatted down beside him as he was setting about his "hot dinner" and thanked him for his card. His face lit up with the biggest beaming smile I had seen from him in the few weeks I have known him. "Did my mum give you my card?" he asked. "Yes," I lied, assuming it was she who must have left it at the office. "Wow!" he said, "Did she really?" I wanted to hug him too, but I didn't. "Have a lovely Christmas," I said.  

"Merry Christmas, Mister," he beamed back.


  1. This is both a sad and beautiful story. We can make someone's life better by being in it, for a while, for a smile.