Ok, actually, any teacher worth their salt knows that naughty students don’t really exist. Those that earn that label are simply reflecting their own difficult circumstances, and are a challenge to us teachers to find a better way to engage with them, rendering them all the more satisfying to teach when this pays off. I firmly believe in the concept (quoted in Karate Kid, no less) that “There is no such thing as bad student, only bad teacher”. (For “bad” here, you can insert inexperienced, stressed, tired, overworked, underprepared, inflexible, lazy, uninspiring – uninspired! – under-funded, under-trained…. there is, in fact, also no such thing as a bad teacher, but that is perhaps for another time.)
But there are students who are decidedly more of a challenge, more of a reward if (when) they “come good”. Some never do, allegedly, but I am yet to meet a teenager without an ounce of good in them that cannot raise a smile, given the right circumstances.
One of those circumstances almost guaranteed to strike pride into the heart of any attending teachers is the end of year prom. Now, I am not by any means a fan of this import from the states – the expense, the dresses, fake tans and hair-dos, the competition over arrival transport – it all seems entirely unnecessary and costly, especially given that some of these prom queens have spent the last five years turning up to lessons without a biro. But there is something heart-wrenchingly special about the way students and teachers – many of whom have spent months, if not years, at loggerheads – can dance and sing and laugh together like old friends. Prom night consists of a parade of students approaching teachers to ask for a photo (a “selfie” these days, often accompanied by teachers trying to be ironic by sporting the duck-faced pout that we have seen somewhere on social media). Students will mingle comfortably with staff, sharing gossip and swapping happy memories. “In” jokes from classrooms are reminisced as though it was far longer ago than just the few short weeks since the last exam.
There was a very special moment at our prom last night. All the male teachers had been called to the dance floor to perform a rendition of YMCA, which was cheered loudly by the students spectating and clapping along from the perimeter of the dance floor. During the last verse a boy (young man now!) was coaxed into the limelight. This was a student who had rubbed up the wrong way just about every member of staff in the building at one time or another, myself included, and sported the grumpiest, snarkiest sneer for most of his school days. Yet here he was, laughing and smiling, surrounded by teachers and students slapping him affectionately on the shoulders, directing his appalling dancing to help it to at least begin to resemble what everyone else was doing… I am not ashamed to admit that I shed a tear.
I am proud of our school, of our profession, for the way we genuinely love and care for each of our students; the lovely, the lovable and those that will test our love to its absolute limits day in and day out. Seeing them all dressed up and ready for the world makes me realise how blessed we are to have the opportunity to share in their journeys. But, if I am honest, it is the “naughty” ones that make me smile the most!