I’m like a coiled spring at playtime. A fellow teaching assistant showed me bite marks on her neck from a previous playtime fracas. “A vampire?” I guessed, “No, a Year 4 kid” she replied.
I actually saw a group of kids intimidate the bell-ringer today. A girl arrived in the playground to ring the bell, signalling the end of morning break. She was quickly surrounded by a small group, who, in no uncertain terms, told her to keep her hands where they could see them.
An attempt at playing ‘Cops and Robbers’ was disbanded today, as nobody wanted to be the police (or ‘po-lice’ as these Americanized kids call them). A girl saved a worm from a marauding, feral, lynch mob and another kid told me how his great-uncle had once pooed into a sandwich bag and thrown it over a bridge.
“Your stomach is different to Adam’s” piped up another playtime progeny “yours is spongier”. I tried not to take too much offence, as Adam is the School’s resident male Adonis. I think I did subconsciously suck it in though, at least for the rest of the break. The same brat waltzed past me, singing “Mr Lonely”. I’m unable to socialise with the other teachers, due to having to keep a constant vigil on Zak. I do cut a rather isolated figure.
With the Year 6 kids away on an adventure holiday, from which Zak was barred, we returned to our usual nomadic lifestyle. We moved to any spaces we could find in the School, before being uprooted by others. Zak showed me a faint shiner, “there was ten of them” he informed me. Through a process of interrogation his story altered. “Ten boys” went down to “five boys”, which was then reduced to “two boys”, then “one boy”. Eventually it unravelled that it was a girl who had hit him. “She was 14 though” he insisted.
To most Zak is a bully that, in this instance, probably got what he deserved. It’s interesting how he so neatly fits the basic bullying stereotype. For example, he has desperately low self-esteem. You would only need to see how, days after the fact; he still can’t cope with being rejected. “She smells of dumb!” “She goes in baby classes!” “Her name doesn’t exist!” “She picks her bum!” are just some of his recent outbursts.
He also has a turbulent life outside of School, which feed his deepest insecurities. I do have to, on occasions, put my ‘social worker hat’ on (complete with dangly earrings). I do my best to allay his fears with what little experience I have. It always ends with us running just that bit quicker to our afternoon kick about.
The day ended in another classic blooper. This time, I was demonstrating the walk of Neanderthal man to Zak, just as the Head Teacher walked past. I could have pretended I was having a seizure, but sometimes you just have to start digging a hole.