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It was my first teaching job, and I think I wanted to look cool in front of the cool kids, so I said to this student, Hiro, I think his name was, after he told me he liked hip-hop, that he should listen to DJ Rupture – don’t worry if you haven’t heard of him, Hiro hadn’t either – and he said ok, I will, but the next time I taught him, when I asked if he had, he said, no, he’d looked in Tower Records for something by him, but no luck.

I think I didn’t believe him – he didn’t have the look of someone who’d searched and failed to find, he probably forgot the name as soon as I told him, I wasn’t cool – but I ignored that thought and said, I’ll bring his first album in tomorrow, if you like. You can borrow it and burn a copy, and he said, thanks, though really I don’t think he cared either way, or was particularly interested in hearing this DJ Rupture, it would make him look uncool, and even if he did end up liking it, he couldn’t say so, not in public anyway, or to me, though he probably wouldn’t, he liked the music he liked and it was cool. His English teacher’s music taste wasn’t.

Anyway, the next day I brought it in and gave it to him. He was in the hallway by the tuck shop with his friends, and I called out to him to wait there a minute (I probably ignored his scorn and his friends’ laughter), so I could go to the staff room, get the CD and bring it back.

When I got there, he was on his own, and he said, thanks, and smiled as if he was excited, though I think that was me seeing excitement in his face, when actually it was a mocking smile saying, look at this dick giving me a CD thinking I’ll like him if he does. I bet he’d lick my shoes if I asked.

I think I thought I was doing him a favour, making him more interesting and interested, but I wasn’t. I just wanted to be loved. I didn’t even think I was hoping to make a difference. The way he sat in my English class was as if it was the most pointless thing in the world – it probably was, he’d never need it – and he made others think and feel the same. If I could make him like me, he’d like English. Or so I think I thought, though really him liking English was not as important as him liking me.

In the end, it made no difference. The next class he was the same as always. I thought about bringing up the CD, but I think I thought humiliating him would make it worse – look at this guy trying to be down with the kids one minute, then being like all the other teachers the next – so I didn’t say anything until a week later I asked for the CD back – a week’s enough to copy a CD – and he said, sure, I’ll have it next class.

I thought that was the end of it, but next lesson he didn’t have it. Or the lesson after that. The next time I saw him, I said, look if you’ve lost or broken it, that’s fine, just be honest, I can get another copy (how pathetic I was when I should’ve been shouting at him, though maybe he knew and I knew that I couldn’t get angry because I was a teacher and he was a student, I hadn’t lent the album to a friend or peer), but he said, no, he had it, he just kept forgetting to bring it in, and anyway he really liked it, thanks, which made me happy, though I know he was probably only saying that because he knew that’s what I wanted to hear when he was probably using it as an ashtray.

Eventually, after he didn’t bring it in the next two times I saw him, I decided to go to his form tutor about it, he could lean on him, but when I told him what I’d done, he just looked at me as if I was mad. When I asked him what was the matter, he said, you know what I found on that boy’s phone the other week? A snuff movie. One camera angle. A woman tied to a chair screaming her head off. Then a gun placed to her temple, and – bang. You’re never getting that CD back.

He was right. I tried a few more times after that – I think I tried to give him the disappointed look – but in the end I gave up. I never bothered to get another copy either. I didn’t want to. Every time I would listen to it, I’d just remember how pathetic I was.

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12 thoughts on “Lick My Shoes

    • You know, I wasn’t actually thinking about it from that perspective. Thanks for the fresh view. I thought Hiro was hiding something, but maybe that’s because I was in the narrator’s head – not seeing the wood for the trees etc.

  1. This is really unusual. I feel some sympathy for the young teacher, seeking approbation from a student rather than from staff. It is rather telling of the insecurities of the teacher, almost as if he has always been excluded from the ‘cool group’ and is still trying to penetrate into acceptance.
    He is foolish in how he goes about the whole.process and makes himself ridiculous by forcing his attentions on someone so obviously disinterested.
    I was not sure about the snuff movie coming in at the end, unsure how it related. Except perhaps to say that the teacher had totally misread the character of the student and would never penetrate beyond their indifference to life.
    I really enjoyed this and felt for the teacher. It’s a steep learning curve knowing how to interact with students and engage their interest. This would not be the way to do so. It feels, at the end, as if the teacher has learned this. The lesson was for him.

    • What you say about the snuff movie was exactly what I was going for. He misread him, thought he could influence him, when nothing he can do can do anything to the boy. At least that was what I was going for

      • I’m so glad I read that right – I like when that happens. 🙂 I feel more sorry for the young teacher now. That’s an awful lesson to learn in the early days of teaching and could lead to disillusionment with the job except if he remembers that the student is one among many and some of what he will teach will make a difference to other students less distanced from life. So, not a pathetic teacher but one learning a valuable lesson early on.
        Very clever all told. This would make a good submission to any teacher journals or periodicals if you haven’t thought of it.x

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