It was odd to see such a young and innocent face fix a more deathly than Paddington stare on his new headmaster. The man walking towards me had his arm outstretched, and as we connected, I tried to match his firm but not over assertive hand grip. He seemed friendly, yet commanding, his smile said fair but his eyes said “I have no doubt in myself”. As my boy’s eyes bore deep bloody wells into his very being, part of me wanted to commend my young man for his bravery, the other side of me was inwardly pleading “whoa there youngster, back down a bit, I want this meeting to go well”.
As we were politely ushered into a large but plain office, the feeling of anxiety grew within me. It were as if a ping pong ball were floating up my lungs, into my windpipe and then becoming firmly lodged in the root of my throat. My breath felt shallow and uncertain.
The question asked was “where would you like to sit Tink?”
My boy responded with an under breath muttering, which was clearly audible to me, “as far away from you as possible”.
Others heard it too, and trying to keep it light the headmaster responded “well then it depends where I sit” as he rounded the table end, to sit on the far side.
Tink’s stare is fixed hard and fast from beneath his floppy, sand coloured fringe and he selects a seat on the opposite side of the conference table and I obediently take the seat next to him.
Of course his face is also flushed, the baby-faced boy, with the hint of sun kissed skin, has cheeks the colour of a rosy apple, reminding me of the face of a teething tot. It is obvious, to me anyway, that he is extremely nervous about the encounter we are about to have.
Tink had created quite a commotion two days previous when he refused point blankly to “reflect” on another, previous incident, declaring “I don’t want to talk about it”.
Insistent that some kind of conversation would take place, the support worker in question steamed ahead with the proposed talk. Now “steamed” may be a little unfair, I’m sure a great amount of delicacy was placed on these proceedings but in Tink’s eyes, he was being approached by a steam roller which aimed to flatten him.
My sound advice to the responsible adult in question is, don’t start something like this with Tink, in a room full of other students, if you are not prepared to clear the room of said other students when the boy digs his heels in. All students were removed from the room.
The eleven year old took firm control over the situation, spinning round and around on his chair, muttering and occasionally directing comments, which could be construed as rude, to those offering him the support.
The support, from his account was a succession of increasingly important people asking him to “stop and come to my office”.
“I mean an office, as if I’m going to go there with them, that’s way to formal, and she kept using that word consequence…. consequence, consequence, consequence, I didn’t hear her say anything else.”
The final straw was the headmaster. He came, he talked, he gave five to ten minutes for Tink to think about it, and the answer was still “no”.
The exclusion which follows is for disrupting the room full of pupils and wasting people’s time, it is made clear to me that Tink having wasted a good half an hour of the head teacher’s time is massively unacceptable. As is Tink completely having control over the situation, a power struggle between a small boy and the head honcho, the line needs to be drawn, clearly, so he realises this is not acceptable.
So for this reason we sit across the table from the head, me and the boy on one side of the table, him and the support worker on the other side. Tink stays five minutes listens to the speech about making right choices, is asked a couple of questions which he refuses to answer, and so I hurriedly answer on his behalf and he leaves, fixing me now with a stare.
I think this stare says “don’t make me go”. I feel a sharp pain in my heart as he is released from the meeting which I spend another hour in.
So we met the headmaster, he was okay, I say okay because I’ve been too quick to say “he/she was great” on meeting new possible allies. So we’ll start with okay because I didn’t leave weeping or with a sense of doom. Nor was there skipping down corridors with a fist punch to the air as, finally, early life trauma is triumphant and school punitive disciplinary rules fall to their knees in surrender. No, the small victory is that this time, the time away from school will not go on his record. However the same process of exclusion will apply the next time and we all know there will be a next time. So, the relationship with the school is improving, we understand each other a little more, there is confidence in long term commitment, we can even share a smile but it’s still a very long, long way from I love you.