Thoughts. Ramblings. Heavy-hipped. Mango-obsessed.

Beneath the Bravado...

Back in December, I ran one of the most challenging workshops I think I've done in a long time with a group of Year 10 students. I've never come across a group of kids so resistant to writing. And yet, most of them ended up making such a transformation within the time I was with them. I was left amazed, humbled and honoured.

Before I started, I was warned (embarrassingly, apologetically) by a teacher that I shouldn't expect too much from them - that these children wouldn't do very well. How the hell can I go into a workshop thinking like that?

The kids came in dragging their feet, talking, not sitting where they were supposed to, dazed, rude, nonchalant, not participating much. It just all seemed disjointed. One girl just plain refused to take part - she vocally said it. So I asked her to leave. And as she left, she started mouthing off. Another student, quite firmly, told me to leave him alone. And when I asked a teacher to ask him to leave the workshop, she didn't. Instead she asked him to join her so he could work around her. He just sat next to her and didn't lift a finger. One student just kept on staring at me, not smiling or looking away when I noticed.

As the workshop progressed, I was beginning to feel out of my depth. I can't say there weren't times when I wasn't tempted to walk out.

Turns out the students were more pissed off than usual because they hadn't been told they were coming to a workshop. I assumed they had been told. You'd think they would have been. I felt I owed them an apology as we'd both been put in the dark about that. Some students do have a thing about creative writing, so not being told they're going to be in one, for a double period, well, I can imagine that would lower the mood somewhat.

Somewhere amidst all the chaos, most of them eventually got into it and an amazing amount of work was produced. These weren't the worst of the bunch at all, these weren't 'underachievers' (I don't believe in the word anyway) - these were very intelligent kids who were rebelling for whatever reason. Maybe rebelling makes them feel they have immediate power - 'cos if they're disrupting a class, they're having an effect on something, albeit negative.

I worked with 2 students whose circumstances almost broke my heart. I hate having one-off workshops with those type of students - they open up to you and then you say bye.

I also learnt that boys have as many self-esteem issues as girls do - just that they face different challenges to girls.

Beneath their bravado, these were really beautiful, highly-intelligent, creative kids.

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