Thank God it's Friday

22nd September 2006 at 01:00
Monday Today I'm working with Henry: 10, challenging behaviour in school, doesn't like writing. We're doing poetry. With his sense of humour he should like this. I start. "On the way to school I met an elephant..." He slides away, heads for the bookcase and looks at a Simpsons' comic. "Let's think of an animal," I say. I open Aesop's Fables and mention some possibles: elephant, bear, fox... He sinks into miserable silence, head in hand. Is he cross? Angry? Tired? He shakes his head. I ask for a clue. "B,"

he says. I need another letter. "O". He says I had promised him experiments and films.

Miraculously I've brought the animated Macbeth and I promise we'll watch the film after the poem. He writes a funny poem about a fox with a beard in his lunchbox. There's a flea in there somewhere too, but I can't remember where. He keeps the poem to show his mum.

Tuesday Charlotte texts me. I taught her in Year 11. Pregnant at 16, she's now in London with a son and a new baby. I send her my congratulations. She says that her children are on a social services register for neglect, and that her supported housing can't even run a bath, let alone a hostel. I reply. Would she like a visit? "Yeah that would be really nice," comes back immediately. I arrange to visit next week.

Wednesday Ben's mum phones, thrilled with his GCSEs: two Bs and three Cs.

He's got into sixth-form college to do A-levels. At 13, he dropped out of school after tonsillitis. Professionals couldn't agree on what was wrong. I started teaching him in Year 10; science, double English and maths for five hours a week teaching, plus a correspondence course in business studies. He wants to be a stock broker. He could succeed.

Thursday I take Henry to a children's farm. We do a risk assessment: no fingers in mouths and a meeting place if we get separated. With a sinking feeling I watch him tumbling into the sit'n'ride area. Will he be all right with the little ones?

He races around, snatches a hat and disappears. I move on while the going's good and tell Henry to return the hat. He does so and then follows me to see the animals. "You're a star," I say. "Yes," he says. "I've been called a monster, but I'm only that sometimes. I'm OK when I'm wearing my badge of responsibility."

Friday To the family centre. Nick, 14, is on a temporary care order and is delightful to teach - when he attends. He's starting his GCSEs; I'm doing the maths exam too, hoping that it will motivate both of us. We're doing interactive stuff. I've thought about his learning style and spoken to his key worker.

He arrives late, looking angry. Local schools have got Inset training - why should he come in? Five minutes later he disappears. He's back an hour later with his key worker to talk to me. That is an achievement and I give him a certificate.

Jane Lamb Jane Lamb is a home tutor in Surrey

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