Excuses, Excuses: Part 4October 10, 2007
Continuing the run down of excuses:
Excuse No. 10: He’s my cousin
Used: When told to stop attacking another child (“it’s okay, he’s my cousin”). When walking out of a classroom during a lesson in order to meet another child (“I have to meet Jason, he’s my cousin”). When arguing with another child. When being told off for doing something that another child has told them to do. In fact in any situation involving another child.
Notes: This one often highlights a social class difference between teachers and students. To somebody like me, raised in a two parent family with parents who spent most, if not all, of their working lives in offices, a cousin is nothing more than a son or daughter of one of my parents’ siblings, who lives at least a car journey away and who I would see once, twice, maybe three times in a year particularly in the holidays or at weddings. For the great British underclass a cousin is any child who lived in your neighbourhood whose mother once slept with your father’s partner’s brother. Why this actually means the school rules should bend to accommodate your cousinhood is unknown. However, there is something else odd about this excuse as well as its inadequacy: It’s always a lie. In fact the “cousin” usually turns out to the one kid living in a fifty mile radius who is not related to the child using the excuse.
Excuse No. 11: I have a Special Need
Used: When failing to behave or work.
Notes: It’s probably worth mentioning that this rarely comes from children who are formally statemented for Special Needs, who often want to keep their problems to themselves. It only seems to come from those students who have been identified as having a special need by the SEN department or, worse, their parents. A child will do the wrong thing and then tell you “my mum says I have a behaviour problem”. A child will refuse to work and then claim they have dyslexia, but they haven’t seen the doctor about it yet, but they are sure they have it because they aren’t very good at writing and they saw a programme on TV about it. Unfortunately our haphazard SEN system that can see any child identified as having any problem means this excuse is often taken seriously. Apart from the way any student can be labeled as being on the autistic spectrum for being introverted or clever, completely insane unofficial diagnoses can be made by unqualified individuals. My own personal favourite was when Gemma, my year head at Woodrow Wilson School gave us an IEP claiming that a boy who used to swear at teachers when he didn’t get his own way had “mild Tourects [sic]”, apparently you can be qualified to diagnose conditions you can’t even spell. The implication is that any child with SEN is no longer responsible for their actions, children are just picking up on this as they look for an excuse to misbehave.
Excuse No. 12: You can’t make me do it
Used: When given an instruction
Notes: Possibly this isn’t an excuse, more an obvious act of defiance. However, it serves the basic purpose of all excuses to start an argument rather than to take responsibility for one’s actions. The usual variations are either about the child’s system of authority “you can’t tell me what to do, you’re not my mum” or about power “You can’t control me”. Unfortunately the second is often true and replying with “it’s not my job to control you, you need to control yourself” has very little effect in an environment where every indicator says the exact opposite. Fortunately they are often mistaken about what you can or can’t do. You can use the school sanctions to do many things they are unaware of (if there are working sanctions). Legally you can restrain a child in order to restore order. There are few things more satisfying in a teachers’ life than watching a child helplessly mouth the words “you can’t do that” as you book them in for forty-two detentions, phone their mother in front of them, or throw them down the stairs.