Don't do what I did - What happens when naughty and nice collide

26th June 2009 at 01:00

What I did - and what you shouldn't do - was to get too close to a pupil. This wasn't a thrown-out-of-the-profession-in-disgrace situation. No, it was more of the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

As a new teacher, I wasn't short of good intentions and desperately wanted to make an impact for the better. And just as some of our more feral pupils can sniff fear in a teacher and exploit it, they can also get a whiff of chronic naivety - and take advantage.

Such a pupil was awaiting the appointment of someone like me. He cultivated the perception that he was the victim of a concerted campaign by other staff, and would "confide" in me about the various injustices he had suffered. This fed my misperception of other more experienced staff who I thought were too cynical and hard.

Rather than do the sensible thing and raise some of his allegations with them - one of whom was his year group leader - I made up my mind to ride into town with the shield of truth, wielding the word of justice. I made a beeline for the head's office to raise my concerns in an emotional fashion.

Her patience was clearly tested, but she heard me out as I blackened the names and reputations of colleagues. She then got out a file of similarly groundless allegations by the same lad, lobbed it on the desk and put me, very gently, in my place. I think I would have preferred an out-and-out bollocking.

The pupil knew that I would take the bait and wasted few opportunities to smirk at me. My colleagues, who had sensed what had happened, were fine. It was as if I had been subjected to a rite of passage, failed miserably and yet was accepted back into the fold.

The pupil progressed to gain local notoriety as a career criminal, exploiting the weak but not forgetting, of course, the naive.

Rod Pow teaches drama in west London.

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