Friday, June 30, 2006


Apathy Jack writes:

So me and one of my lot are looking at the recently released prospectus – our latest effort to convince you to send your children to Hoodrat Academy for Higher Learning.

The front cover proudly displays out student leadership team: The Head Boy, the Deputy Head Boy, the Head Girl, and Miscellaneous Asian™. The Deputy Head Girl was absent when the photo was taken, so the Powers That Be decided that a tall Chinese girl could look short and Vietnamese if you put her in a blazer.

Inside the booklet is a dream of photoshop. The actual picture of the Deputy Head Girl showed her wearing the wrong blazer. We photoshopped her into the right one. A student, beaming a radiant smile at the camera to show just how happy he is to be at our school, has had his braces photoshopped out, to send the message that, I don't know, we don't tolerate failure in the realms of the academic or the orthodontic.

My favourite shot is of a photogenic wee blond thing, smiling for the camera with a book open on her desk – surely she's just looked up from her intent study to show how happy she is.

We photoshopped in the book.

Yeah, my head hurt just a little at that one too...

Probably the most altered shot is of some students intently conducting a science experiment (in a laboratory that is depicted as being suspiciously stain-free). Both students appear to be model youths, but that's because one of them has had his dog tags removed from around his neck, and the other has had his beard removed.

"Wow!" Exclaims the student reading the prospectus. "If I saw this, I'd want to come to this school too."
"I haven't read it yet," I tell her. "What is the written copy like?"
"It all sounds sarcastic."
"Yes. Even on the first page."
"But that's just all of the stuff about how we foster academic excellence and turn young people into mature adults and actually I see your point when you look at it..."

Come on, give us your kids. If the prospectus doesn't work, we're sending a guy with a flute to your house...

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

So I'm getting the latest gossip from one of my girls. As it transpires, one of my other girls was dumped by her boyfriend. The boyfriend dumped her because he was interested in another guy – one of my boys who has just come out of the closet.

I remember back when I was in high school – In the interests of breaking my friends out of their homophobia, I considered an experiment pretending I was gay. I never had the nerve to go through with it: I could handle the certainty that I would lose a friend or two. What scared me more was the fact that I couldn't guarantee that my friends wouldn't just kick the shit out of me before I had a chance to tell them I was kidding.

As my girl continues, I find myself smilingly slightly at the fact that the unthinkable has happened: The world has changed ever so slightly for the better.

A minute or so later, my girl is hiking up her skirt to show me the fresh cuts on her thighs.

See, her brother tried to kill himself. Made a pretty good stab at it, too. Rather than rally the family in this time of stress, my girl's mother decided to blame her, for reasons that are a little vague beyond "Mum's like that".

What she's sad about is her own hypocrisy. She's always denigrated cutters. She knows that the emotions from that night will fade in months or even weeks, but the scars will be there for years.

Every day this job makes me so happy I can barely contain it. And every day it finds another way to break my heart.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

So, the cellphone thing again.

The reason I went twenty-eight years without one of these toys was because I decided early on that I wouldn't get one until I needed one. They're tools, and in exactly the same way I wasn't going to buy a chisel to carry around and talk loudly into while people glared at me on the bus, the need had never arisen.

Anyway, there's this kid who's not safe at home. She can't leave for reasons that are far too unpleasant to go into. If she's not coming into school, she knows to text me in the morning so that I know she is alright. She hasn't turned up by the time my first class starts filing in, so I text her. I get back a clipped reply saying she is sick. This doesn't alleviate my concern, but gets me through my third formers. In my free period, I call her, but get her voicemail. I text her again, saying little more than "I'm still worried", which I hope she will recognise as a surreptitious request for proof that it is really her texting me and not her father (again: far too unpleasant to go into).

She does, and replies with a couple of facts that I know her father doesn't know.

Placated, I sit down to do some work, when my phone immediately starts beeping again. It's one of my lot in her English class. She's done some work on an internal assessment, but she doesn't trust her own teacher to check it. She asks if I can look at it before she hands it in.

Two minutes later she's in my room, note excusing her to go to the toilet in one hand, stealthily smuggled-out project in the other.

Shortly after she leaves, the bell for interval rings, and one of my lot borrows my phone. She's had some ridiculously convoluted breakdown with her family (she spent several minutes talking me through it, but I couldn't keep up) and needs to talk to her sister. But her sister has blocked her number.

She retires to a corner and has a hushed argument for several minutes.

That night I fall into bed at about nine-thirty, which I've been doing a lot lately. After a while, I'm awoken by the dulcet tones of my phone beeping at me. I figure it's the alarm, but notice that it's only ten-thirty and that I've received a text. It's my girl – the first one – saying that she's topped up her credit and listened to the message on her voicemail. She realises how worried I must have been, and promises to be more careful next time. I reply, apologising for being an old worrier, but she tells me Im realy hapy dat u r keepin n eye n me.

As it turns out, this thing has its uses.

Of course, I'd just like to point out two things to those now gloating about my transition to the twenty-first century:

1) I was right – I didn't need one of these before. The fact I do now doesn't change the fact that I was right for all those years.
2) No, you still can't have my number. If I wanted you fuckers calling me, I would have got a cellphone years ago...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Me "Here you go."
Gretchen "Is this an autobiography?"
Me "Yes."
Gretchen "I don't like those."
Me "Cady, convince her to read that."
Cady "Seriously, you'll really like it. You'll cry. I cried."
Me "Right, and here you are, Cady."
Cady "This looks dumb."
Me "Gretchen, convince her to read it."
Gretchen "No, seriously, it's really good. You have to read it."
Cady "Okay."
Me "Sorted."

Bang! I mean, Zap!

Josh writes:

Normally I'd e-mail this sort of thing to Jack for inclusion in next month's Broken Planet, but since the last one just went out, this may not be as topical in a month's time...

The moderate view on tasers seems to be that they'd be a good idea if they're used instead of guns; a bad idea if they're used as a replacement for batons/pepper spray. In any case, I think we'd all agree that getting it the wrong way around is something we really want to try to avoid...

More serious side-note: This is clearly a case of using a taser (well, trying to) not for self defence, but in order to "induce compliance", which our local boys swear blind they won't be doing. Well, probably not. Unless they guy was, you know, a real dick...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

So my little hypochondriac has finally been invalided out of school. All I really need to get her back is ten minutes with her away from her mother's Munchausen-By-Proxy deathgrip. Having failed to procure this by any other means, I enlist her step-brother.

"Yeah, about that," he tells me. "She doesn't want to come and see you, because she knows that you'd talk her into coming back to school."

This is notable only because he is the second student who has said this to me – in almost exactly the same words – about a drop-out older sibling.

I think I'm developing a reputation...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Broken Planet News

Apathy Jack writes:

Right, my internet is up and working, so the news returns. No more trusting regular media for you lucky bastards.

Thanks to those who sent me BPN stories while my intarwub was down - they're out of date now, but don't let that stop you sending me new stuff. (I can't believe BPN was on hiatus during a time when someone tried to prove God existed by feeding himself to tigers and a three-armed baby was born. Ah well, regrets, I've had a few...)

On with the news...

The teacher in me is angry, but the hillbilly in me is thrilled.


Man molests girl "to see if he likes it"; blogger blinds self in repsonse to world.


So many things wrong...


What, locking students in cupboards is a crime now? You want I should stop?


Cops: trustworthy as ever.



Thursday, June 22, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

So I'm standing by myself guarding the bags at Stage Challenge. I've just returned from a smoke-break taken by some of my students. I don't smoke, but I needed to do a bit of sleuthing to get to the bottom of the rumours we were hearing about them getting drunk at lunch time. I considered going the route of "not angry, just disappointed", but decide instead to go with "angry and disappointed". It works, and the kids walk back in muted shame.

I send them off to rehearse, to work out the kinks that have developed in their routine since they dulled their reflexes. Returning to the communal area where the Guidance Councilor and the Pastor are looking after our gear, I find that one of our lot has gotten stoned (well, more stoned) during the lunch break and had something of a meltdown. He's fine (for certain sluggish values of fine), but has managed to piss off one of our key players, who has disappeared. The Councilor and the Pastor go off to find him.

To alleviate the boredom, I go over the survey that teachers are given, asking such ludicrous questions as "How has the Stage Challenge® affected the fitness of the participants as a group?" and "How has participation in the Stage Challenge® affected the students' overall oral/communications skills?"

I reach the question that asks "How has participation in the Stage Challenge® affected the students' consumption of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs?"

After a while, I have to stop myself from laughing quite so manically, because the other schools are starting to stare...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

So how was your day?

Apathy Jack writes:

"Sir, do you remember Jasmine Connors?"
"Yeah, Big Jasmine, right?"
"Wait, you called her 'Big Jasmine' as well?"
"Well, I had to differentiate between her and Little Jasmine somehow."
"How many Jasmines were there?"
"Two that year: The big one and the little one."
"I didn't think teachers labeled people like that."
"You lot do it all the time. You created the name to begin with."
"But we're students."
"As arguments go, I"m not sure that one is as compelling as you think it is..."


One of my kids is depressed. Her reasons, what I know of them, are good. She wanted to stay home today, and her mother would have let her. But she couldn't, because she had English. She tells me that there's no way on Earth she's coming to school tomorrow. She doesn't have English then, you see. This means that she won't be missing the one subject she gives a damn about. It also means that she won't have me on her back about missing school – she knows I forgive people their wagging on days I'm not going to see them: out of sight and all – but my lot all know they're in trouble if the days off start mounting up.

There's hope for this one.


Half nine or so and a couple of my kids are waiting to be picked up. I feel obligated to wait with them because, hell, my school's not the safest place to be in broad daylight. If they turned up dead tomorrow morning, there'd be a lot of tiresome questions that would doubtlessly disrupt my mid-afternoon nap.

Eventually one of their fathers turns up, the car weaving about a little, because Dad is too stoned to drive, but just stoned enough not to realise it.

"You sure this is a good idea?" I ask my two.
"We'll be fine," they both reply as they cheerfully clamber into the car and it lurches off.

Have you ever been swamped by a feeling of pointlessness so overwhelming that it bordered on nihilism?

Yeah, me too.


Sitting on the bus at ten o'clock, reading poetry written by one of my little goths. It's a bit on the overblown side, and has borrowed a little from the Rollins I've been lending her, but hey, I like overly earnest angst poetry, and I like Henry Rollins (but I repeat myself).

This kid's actually good. And her stuff's more than a little scary.

I read the line

If you're hungry I give you my arm
Your hunger causes my veins to rise

I hunch down in my seat and pull the hood of my jacket down over my eyes, because I need to hide from an idea that intense.

Sleep deprived and half crazy though I may be, sometimes the little bastards amaze me.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Shameless Promotion

That Morthos Stare writes:

There's a new blog about; so new, in fact, that only the author has heard of it. It's call 'All Embracing But Underwhelming' and it's a blog about Conspiracy Theories. Well, it's a blog on the study of Conspiracy Theories. The author, someone rather close to me, is working on a research project on whether belief in conspiracy theories is warranted and he plans to throw a lot of the raw meat of the project on to the number ne home of Conspiracy Theories, the Internet. Go have a gander and, while you're at it, add it to whatever RSS-related thingamajig you are using.

'All Embracing But Underwhelming'


Apathy Jack writes:

See, over the years, all of the good English teachers have left my school. It's not the most problem-free of educational institutes at the best of times, and the Head of my particular department is corrupt and unprofessional to a degree that boarders on cartoonish supervilliany. Now, I'm not without my merits, but at a Real School™ I'd be exposed as a fraud in pretty short order.

For a while, I was the only one worth half a damn. That may sound like bragging, but you'll notice I didn't say I was any good – just better than the alternatives.

We got a few good ones, though. Most of them left after a year, or a month, or - in a record that has yet to be broken by any of the other departments - slightly under twenty-five hours. But a few have stayed.

So last week, the best of us left: headhunted by a decile ten carnivore – the same one that has had its eye on our land for a while now as a satellite campus. (I believe their plan is to rename us Hoodrat Academy for Higher Learning.) At the same time, the second best teacher announced that, while she'll see the year out, she won't stay any longer.

Concurrently, the aforementioned supervillainous HOD has decided to change the English course. Too many of the students are failing, so rather than talk about the staff retention issue, or the third-world lack of resources, she's decided to change the criteria on which we mark assessments. It would take too long to explain to an audience unfamiliar with the vagaries of NCEA, but the short version is this: A student who reads at an eight-year-old level will now be able to pass fifth-form English so long as they put in around twenty minutes work each fortnight.

And while I know I possess a gift for hyperbole, this time I'm not exaggerating.

This is deeply offensive to me as a teacher. My standards are famously low, but not that low. For the first time, the bullshit issuing from my immediate superior is going to affect how my kids learn. I simply won't be able to teach them anything, because they'll automatically pass by turning up and writing their names on the test paper.

For the last week I've been spring cleaning. I've been improvising my way through lessons and putting off various official pieces of paper demanded of me, while I systematically go through five years of old files and resources. It's probably all a bit too metaphorical to be healthy, but as I've been cleaning, I've been thinking about whether or not to stay. Being the only good English teacher was hard enough last time. If I have to do it again, only this time constrained by departmental policy from teaching anything of academic merit, then the payoff is going to stop justifying the effort.

So today I'm watching my kids play soccer, talking to the ones on the sidelines, when the sports coordinator strolls over. This guy is an ex-student of mine, and has a bugbear about me becoming a lecturer, where I "will be appreciated". He casually mentions to the three students with me that I'm leaving to work at the university.

For no reason other than morbid curiosity, I don't correct him, just watch the kids' faces.

They look so dismayed. So disappointed. Shock mixes with sadness, and one of them moves to anger, confronting me about it. I tell her that it's not true, and the kids are visibly relieved, telling me I can't leave.

But here's the thing: I've never taught any of these kids.

One of them is the youngest in his family. I've taught both his sisters, and I helped him deal in some small way when a friend of his was killed in a car accident a few weeks back..

One of them is the kid sister of a girl I lend books to. The books get passed to the mother. This kid is confused by the fact that there are now family discussions about books. She doesn't think it's natural...

The one who got angry at me has been on the receiving end of my comedy routine for over three years now. She's been through a lot, and I've been trying to convince her that having hard time is no excuse to stop using her brain, that she is better than some of the situations she gets herself into. For the most part, she's been entirely unresponsive to my efforts.

The little bastards need me, damn them. I can't leave them alone, because they don't have anyone else to look out for them.

Damn it.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Those cuddly black metalers...

Apathy Jack writes:

"Racism is a natural instinct of man. Humanist black metal faggots who praise global friendship and tolerance for all should start thinking about switching to another, more humanist style of music - like death metal for example."

- Vjohrrnt V Wodansson, singer and drummer of Night and Fog, and spokesman for Pagn Front, the Hammer of National Socialist Black Metal

At the Party

Josh writes:

Ben: "This is Josh. He produces cartoons about monkeys with AIDS."

Me: "Not exclusively..."

And in the privacy of my mind, a couple of seconds after it was too late to be funny, I added "...some have cancer." But it was too late. Such is the way of things.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I still hate text-messaging

Apathy Jack writes:

hi sir!

Hello. How are you?

You could read a book.
hahaha ur kiding right haha thats a good one! "read a book" hahahaha nice

Well, I tried.
party at doms tonite

Why do you feel the need to tell me these things?
wana come?

Love to, but I have plans.
with a girl?

No. Get your mind out of the gutter.
with a man...

See now, some people would say that the problem here is that I let my students get a hold of my cellphone number, but it isn't: The real problem is that I should never have taught my students to think they're funny.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Books You Should Be Reading # 14 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Girlbomb by Janice Erlbaum

My mother and I reconvened on the sidwalk.
"I think it's bullshit, Jan. I think this review process is a formality, and I don't even know what this 'waiting period' is about. Legally, you should be able to come home tomorrow if you want to. I'll check with Steinman. In the mean time, just hang tight, an we'll get you home over the holidays."
"Okay." I had to trust her. It was her or nobody, and I was tired of nobody.
Mavis and Sandy also doubted the decision. They cornered me in the living room, Mavis folding her big arms in front of me. "You think things are going to be different this time? Why?"
"Well, a lot changed... my stepfather is gone..."
Mavis peered at me. "But did you change, JuhNEECE? Or are you still the same girl that was taking drugs and messing around with boys?"
"Well, yeah, I changed." Before, I did all that stuff mostly out of boredom; now I did it at least partly out of spite.

Excuse for Not Posting #4873

Josh writes:

Mostly, it's that I recently [acquired through entirely legal means, you can be sure of that] the classic Goldie Looking Chain tune "Your Mother's Got a Penis". Very catchy tune, that. Veeerry catchy.

Ya muvver's gotta peeenis!
Ya muvver's gotta peeenis!
Ya muvver's gotta peeenis!
Ya muvver's gotta peeenis!
Ya muvver's gotta peeenis!

...and that's basically all that comes out when I try to write anything witty and/or interesting at the moment. It'll pass.

As far as excuses go, I think that one scores well for originality, don't you? There was the two-week headcold as well, but talking about that involves a lot more phlegm and a lot less "Ya muvver's gotta peeenis!" so it didn't really seem worth it.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Important Lessons I've Had To Teach My Trainee # 2

Apathy Jack writes:

If a student activates a home-made flamethrower in class that shoots a foot long jet of flame through the room, so long as it doesn't hit anyone, and the kid promises not to do it again that lesson, it's probably not worth making that big a deal over...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Books You Should Be Reading # 13 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Swerve by Aisha Tyler

We know no one is legitmately falling in love on these shows, or expecting to find their soul mates. It's a lark. An exercise. A fun way to spend a couple of months, and afterward you get into some great Hollywood parties and get to talk to Pat O'Brien. Maybe go to the Playboy Mansion. That in and of itself is a jackpot for most of us. So they think, "What the hell, it's only television. If it doesn't work out, we'll get a divorce." Which is the exact same attitude that most of us have towards marriage and relationships. Which is why none of us really believe in true love, or commitment, or any of that treacle. Which is why we love to watch these shows, because it reinforces the low-level despair we've been nursing about ever finding true love.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Important Lessons I've Had To Teach My Trainee # 1

Apathy Jack writes:

If you're yelling at a group of students for being "thieving bloody Maoris", so long as the students a) are Maori, and b) have been thieving from you, then it's not a hideous racial slur, it's simply the truth.