I was teaching today. I am what they call in the States a “supply teacher” or a “substitute teacher” here, in Northern Ireland. I get phone calls in the evening or even early in the morning, mainly from primary schools and go in when a teacher is sick or on a training course.
Today it was a secondary school, for a change. A couple of years ago I had the privilege to work with some great kids there, from Thailand, Malaysia, India and China, who needed a bit of practice and encouragement with their English. Today I wasn’t so privileged and had a battle on my hands with every new class who walked through the door. It wasn’t me they were fighting but the institution I represented, the authority they wanted to usurp from their lives because it doesn’t stand for anything meaningful to them. They don’t see the point in studying and considering their backgrounds, I don’t blame them, really. For many of them, the sense of twisted peer recognition coming from mocking everything that stands for authority is all the praise they’ll ever know. It’s the safety of numbers, the safety of uniformity within the peer group, the false sense of safety only ignorance was give. I wasn’t shocked by their attitude today, has been a while since rudeness impressed me.
What impressed me today (and every time I go into a school from “the wrong side of town”) were the kids who did do their work and were eager to learn despite the mayhem and interruptions. These kids prove to me that strength isn’t necessarily defined by physical appearance nor age. These kids are strong in their spirits because they have chosen to literally stand out from the crowd and swim against the current. The defeatism and cynicism that characterises their peers have left them unscarred because they have chosen to believe. Believe they can be what they dream to be and not what their peers tell them they should be!
Hat off to all the good kids in big schools out there!