Excuses, Excuses: Part 1

September 29, 2007

”I still maintain he kicked himself in the balls.”

Kat (Julia Stiles) – Ten Things I Hate About You (film, 1999)

”You’re giving me a detention for NUFFINK”

Every child I have ever given a detention too, ever.

The students I teach seem largely unable to take responsibility for their own misdeeds. They have never done anything wrong, they never have anything to apologise for, and they are the victims of the perpetual injustice of being punished for nothing. Sometimes their parents will even write a letter to point this out. Over the next few entries I will list the twelve most common excuses I encounter:

Excuse No 1: He started it.
Used: After all incidents of fighting, throwing or verbal abuse to another student.
Notes: Sometimes the claim is ludicrous, the smallest quietest girl in the class, despite speaking no English and having done thirty-seven pages of work, is meant to have spent the whole lesson bullying Chanel, who looks twenty-seven, weighs fifteen stone, is armed with a knife and has done no pages of work.

At other times this excuse might well be true, a skilled disrupter of lessons knows how to provoke other students without getting caught themselves. Usually this is done by throwing every object in the room at the victim or cussing their close female relatives. (“Your Nan’s got no bottom lip” was one particularly cruel cuss I once heard.) Eventually the child will react by throwing something back, or starting a fight, and it is this response that the teacher sees and punishes. Ultimately though, even in this situation the child brings it on themselves by reacting instead of doing the decent thing and grassing. For some reason there is a code about grassing: It’s okay to grass if somebody spits on you, takes your coat or beats up your younger brother. It’s not okay to grass if they throw stones at you, take your pencil case or beat up your older sister.

Excuse No 2: I said it to somebody else.
Used: After verbally abusing a member of staff.
Notes: I have lost count of the number of times I have been asked by an unhelpful member of SMT “Are you sure he said it to you?” It is an incredibly demeaning question. Say, for instance, Rhys has just shouted “stinky, saggy tits” at Mrs Collins after she told him to write the date in his book. Rhys now claims this insult was aimed at his mate Jordan. SMT asks the question “Are you sure he said it to you?” Mrs Collins now has a dilemma: does she say “yes I know he said it to me, because I do stink and now I think about it my tits are saggy” or does she say “I guess I just assumed it was aimed at me”? I have found the best way to answer this sort of question is to say “I was talking directly to him at the time that he said it”.

Excuse No 3: I didn’t say it, ask my mate if you don’t believe me.
Used:This is again used in cases of verbal abuse.
Notes: Even in the toughest schools the testimony of a “best friend” is known to be unreliable. In fact you can’t really believe anything about a child until their best friend has officially denied it. This excuse works best when the verbal abuse was mumbled or when it sounds like an inoffensive alternative phrase ( “flipping heck, you’re a banker”) or if it was in a foreign language (there are languages from the Indian sub-continent where the only vocabulary I know translates as “your mother’s vagina”). I often find that if a child is using Excuse No.2 (“I said it to somebody else”) and it isn’t working they will switch to this excuse mid-flow, like this:

“You have to leave this classroom”
“What for?”
“For calling me a gay knob who can’t teach”
“But I was talking to Lee, he’s my mate, I always call him that”
“I was talking to you at the time that you said it. Lee wasn’t even in the room.”
“But I never said it. Ask Lee, he’ll tell you I never said it.”

“But you just admitted that you said it.”
“OH MY GOD. You are sending me out of the room for NUFFINK!”.


  1. Oh yes. Much and all are true.

    Funniest sight I saw over the weekend, a young teenage thief / thug (sorry, didn’t see what he had done, but must have been pretty serious), being arrested.

    The store staff were blocking the doors so he couldn’t get out of the shop, he was yelling something like ‘ive done noffink!’, the police came and nicked him, which incensed him even more, yelling ‘gerret offf meee you cant touchhh meee, oooh my arm … ‘ etc

    And … exit.

    Even when presented with evidence, deny, deny, excuse. Some of them.

  2. As to foreign language abuse, when on supply I once reported a year six boy had called me ‘bitch’ in Gujarati. I happened to know the word he used (cutara). The school would never have me back for any year 5 or 6 classes – I suspected the school was covering up verbal abuse of teachers in foreign languages in the top junior classes and were not happy that I called attention to it.

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