Fighter pilot on a flight of fancy

30th July 2010 at 01:00

Brad again. Throwing paper aeroplanes in lessons. He has been a teacher's nightmare for years and we are all counting down the days until he leaves. He will leave school with very little. It is his fault of course. When he sees a teacher his instinct is to confront and destroy. His mission? To push them as far as possible, into spluttering rage, just for the entertainment.

Yet he believes he is going to be a pilot in the RAF. It is very easy, apparently. Just turn up and tell them and it's sorted.

Brad accepts no limits to his behaviour and sees no limits to his ambitions. Reality is not allowed to intrude. In so doing he undermines the achievements of others by refusing to recognise the effort required to be a pilot or a surgeon. Dedication and application are sneered at. You don't need skills; only decision making. Attitude and behaviour are disconnected from achievement.

His mother bears a heavy responsibility. She believes two things. First, that Brad is normal. He is not. Second, that he must be given whatever he wants.

She has had a tough time. Whenever her objectionable son is in trouble she has to take time off work to come to school. It happens far too often for her, and for us. You might think this would encourage him to behave, but life is never so easy. He is a pain; she has to come to school, and then she is a pain as well, becoming angry and aggressive.

I am really sorry these meetings are such an inconvenience. I understand that it causes huge difficulties, but like Brad she cannot see the consequences of what he does. Our standards and our wish to protect our teachers from the deliberate assault on their sanity are an inconvenience.

"Leave him alone. All boys are like this."

They are not.

She sees us as part of a conspiracy to make her life difficult, but it is only our response to the fact that Brad does his best to make our lives impossible.

We try to understand him. We try to imagine how his father's disappearance hurt him, how the knowledge that his father had run away with another man must have shattered his world. This explains his vile behaviour. But don't worry, someone will strap him into a multi-million-euro super fighter and let him fly around and shoot down anything he fancies. No training required. He will pick it up quite quickly.

Until then, lessons are trashed. Teachers are insulted.

He might well be a child in crisis, but he makes sure that everyone around him suffers. He is a teacher's nightmare, but his mother won't have it. Their lives have been defined by the father's moment. As a result, Brad should have what he wants. But the world doesn't work like that.

People are understandably shocked by a teacher attacking a child. Awful. But we understand how children can drive you deliberately to the edge of reason. And they do it for their sport. I have seen it happen. And Brad is one of those who find pleasure in doing so.

His mother, in her attitudes, is complicit in the disruption that he creates. By indulging him and by avoiding her responsibilities she is encouraging his attitudes. He always knows that he and his mother are throwing our concerns and difficulties back in our faces. He knows his rights and he knows that he can do what he wants. So he will push a teacher to provoke a response.

It is not understanding he seeks. It is confusion and discomfort. And could a teacher in his presence do something they would regret? Swear at him or manhandle him? Of course they could, and this is exactly what he wants. He has a licence from his mother, an expectation of chaos and a contempt for a teacher's sanity. His mission is to seek that out and destroy it.

There is an unbridgeable gulf between the expectations of some of our pupils and what a teacher should be prepared to accept. Brad is one who is always gnawing away at that boundary like a rat.

He thinks that he is untouchable. That he can do as he pleases without retribution. Teachers are hapless victims. And if one should respond inappropriately in the face of such sustained provocation, then it is their fault entirely and Mum is out to get you.

Most of us find a means of dealing with the madness that surrounds us. But if a teacher does snap after the most extreme provocation, we should not be surprised. They will have been singled out and the pack will have turned on them.

And then there are no boundaries. They will do as they please because this is what they believe. They can throw things, they can shout and swear and they can become pilots. Who are you to stop them?

Geoff Brookes, Deputy head, Cefn Hengoed School, Swansea.

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