Friday, 8 October 2010

The Ruler

After some weeks the first formers have settled in the new school. They have learnt that this new system predominantly is based on very short meetings with adults, lessons lasting only fifty minutes. All these teachers seem to have different ideas about what can be tolerated, and most of them are not too strict. Some give a lot of leeway. So it's time to see what you can get away with. In the art room you even are allowed to walk around.
A boy complains to me about an incident in which a mate broke his ruler. Unfortunately this happened behind my back. I ask him, what he expects me to do. He can't name the perpetrator, neither can I. That's it, isn't it? Take it as a thing in your experience. He smiles benignly. So I ask the class, nobody fesses up. Then the bell rings and the lesson is over. I forget about it.
Now this boy keeps returning to it every so often. Not every lesson, he doesn't nag. He isn't being insolent, he just smiles: “What about my ruler?” He holds me accountable, that's clear.
Most students learn quickly that the new school is a jungle in which minor infringements of rules that were severely implemented in primary school not even are observed. You'd better keep track of your belongings in such a dangerous world. If the behaviour doesn't obstruct the teacher's aims, you seem to be let of scot-free. The kids have to learn yet that bullying will backfire. Some teacher will notice, inform the class tutor, another teacher will complain, some casual talk in the staff room and things start rolling. But just a broken ruler in the art room will not do.
So this boy keeps reminding me: “What about my ruler?” Somehow his busted ruler has grown in his mind, I guess, and he surely makes it grow in my mind. This isn't any longer about a ruler, it is about the ruler. I am supposed to rule. I am the ruler.
Next lesson I will donate him a new ruler. It will break the ice to for a conversation about his role in the peer group.

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