‘Where’s your badge?’
‘What do you mean where’s your badge?’
‘Why aren’t you wearing your badge?’
‘What do you mean why aren’t you wearing your badge?’
‘Why aren’t you wearing your seasonal badge?’
‘What do you mean why aren’t you wearing your seasonal badge?’
‘You know exactly what I mean. Why aren’t you wearing your bloody Academy Santa School Status Christmas badge?’
I love it when I make him swear. Ever since Peter became responsible for badge wearing under our Academy+Santa School Status it has been my personal challenge to never wear one and to force him into swearing when he confronts me about this. I always refuse. He then always ends up sort-of swearing. I know he hates this because he produces a sanctimonious frown when he hears me swearing and so Peter spends most of his time with me frowning. It is a glorious symmetry.
It has been a full year now since the school achieved Academy+SSS and at every significant national holiday, but especially Christmas time, all members of staff are expected to wear ‘seasonal’ badges. My badge was, as usual, placed in my staffroom pigeon-hole and inside a small box neatly labelled with the dates for which it was meant to be worn. I didn’t have any expectations that this one would be any more acceptable than Easter’s badge or The Patron Saint of Special School’s badge, but when I opened the box and read the festive nomenclature Ho Ho Ho Ferguson it confirmed that this was another holiday I would not be honouring on my coat lapel.
‘By the way Peter, where’s your bloody Academy Santa School Status Christmas badge?’ I ask sarcastically.
Peter’s face glows bright red as he makes a panicked look down to his tie and it then turns explosive as he realises that he is of course wearing it and I have tricked him yet again with this simple but what should by now be an all too familiar ruse.
I am not in the mood to be gentle with Peter. This has been a tough year. It’s not the Academy+SSS business that’s made it so, because as annoyingly facile as it is to state, there are far more important matters to shape reality. It has been a year of loss and struggle. Not the loss of students’ work or important documents or teaching resources or every seasonal badge for the entire year, though these are realities too. Nor is it the struggle with marking or planning or difficult students or having to deal with depressing data and targets, though these are frustrating familiarities too. It has been personal.
Perhaps as teachers we should be allowed to wear our own special and personal badges. In dealing with the individual’s real world of teaching, they could say bluntly I’m Too Tired To Mark or Don’t Talk, Just Listen or Silent Reading All Day or Don’t Fuck With Me. Or they could say cryptically Loss and Struggle: however any is underscored, it’s something to signal that our personal lives can impinge on the grand educational designs others have for us. Something to send a message to students that they too will have lives that transcend learning and today I am acting as an illustration of this. Or just to Peter announcing that I don’t quite feel like cuddling up to his cosy idea of how we are purposeful and focused as a teaching unit.
Christmas is a time of ‘thanks’, whether this is a religious or secular gratitude, and I am thankful that I have the will not to wear my badge and that I have survived one of the worst year’s of my life. As a teacher, I have for years been hit with the reality of the anguish in so many students’ lives and how this explains the pains and miseries behind their behaviours. Only today I have learnt of the most appalling experience one of my students has had to endure in her life and I imagine how her Christmases and all other celebrations struggle against the dark nightmare that will always be there. She will forever wear her badge of despair but I hope that at school we can provide her with a care that can ultimately help her to transcend this.
I am obviously in a ‘transcendental’ mood. Peter’s brash and simplistic demand has made me this philosophical. I wonder if he has any idea how much I have had to endure in order to be here now taking the piss out of his posturing but also seeing beyond his triviality to the greater comfort of the family and friends who see me and my students through their tough times? Does he possess this empathy behind the façade of his ever-present badge?
‘I hope you have a great Christmas,’ I tell Peter just as he is about to storm off in a sulk.
‘Pardon?’ he turns and looks at me.
‘I just hope you have a great Christmas despite your anal proclivity for badge wearing,’ I clarify for him.
Peter walks back towards me. There is a look of utter confusion on his face. It’s either because I have called him ‘anal’, which he will understand only as swearing, or the use of ‘proclivity’ which he will also probably think is some kind of posher swearing because he won’t know what it actually means. His face is returning to crimson again.
‘You really have no idea how important we think…..’
I interrupt Peter with a burst of guffaws before he can continue. Whenever he uses the pronoun ‘we’ to somehow align himself to a corporate power-base in the school, I cannot help but find him ridiculous. It is also the colour of his face that amuses.
‘You really have no idea how important we think badges at Christmas time are,’ he continues in a rising scream and half turning to walk away in disdain from me, ‘because you are so obsessed with being an INDIVIDUAL…!’ Peter fully screams this last word as his sentence comes to an abrupt stop.
As he moves further away, Peter’s hand instinctively moves down to locate the Ho Ho Ho Ferguson I have slammed as hard as I can into his left buttock cheek.
‘That’s what we get for badgering people!’ I scream back in laughter as I too turn to walk away.