I tutor high school students at a little tutoring-school near my home and yesterday I got an insight into some disturbing realities of teenage boys. I was waiting to go into my classroom to teach my individual grade 11 student (who is actually a lovely teenage boy) and was sitting outside another classroom in which 2 or 3 boys and one girl were seated, supposedly studying but mostly talking. I couldn’t see them but I could hear them. The boys were talking about pornography and how one of them could access it on his phone (I didn’t know you could do that - scary stuff). The girl was silent but I knew she was there because I had heard her talking about something else previously. She was trying to tell a story about how she saw some boys lift a really small car up onto an elevated garden. I could tell she was attempting to join in the boisterous conversation but the boys were trying to knock her down: ‘How could they lift a car? That’s impossible’ Girl says: ‘It was a small car. Anyway yeah..so they would lift…’. Boy interrupts in a ‘I know about cars – I’m male’ authoritative voice: ‘cars weigh 400kgs. That’s impossible’. Girl hesitates: ‘it was one of those really small cars. A group of big guys can lift a car’. She finishes her story and then asks, ‘have you guys seen Transformers 2?’ One of the boy responds, ‘aw, Megan Gale, she’s hot! aw….’ Girl says impatiently, ‘have you seen it?’ Anyway, somehow the discussion reverts to pornography and I didn’t catch most of it. I did hear, however, the girl pipe up in a revolted voice, with, ‘why do you watch porn?’ One of the boy responds, ‘because he’s a 14yr old male. I’m 15 so I’m wiser now’. (I think this implied he doesn’t watch it anymore?? One can hope). Anyway, I thought, ‘fucking hell, is this what girls have to deal with at school??’ How depressing. THEN, at 5pm they all stood up and the boys wandered out of the room, books in hand and the girl stood up and went to the front of the classroom as a new student, a little boy, entered. The ‘girl’ was the teacher. I was absolutely dumbstruck. I had pictured a 14 yr old girl, but here was a young woman in her early 20s. This young woman had been trying to engage in ‘cool’ conversation with 14 yr old boys?! And the teenage boys showed absolutely no respect for their teacher – in contrast they talked about pornography in front of her which, hey, when you’re an adult is sexual harrassment but when you’re 14 it’s ok? I felt pretty bad for the teacher because I thought, what would I have done if I had been in the same situation when I was her age? If young boys talked about porn in front of me back then I wouldn’t have known what to do. I would have thought ‘ew, gross’ but that’s probably about it. I tried to think about what I would do if any of my students did that now. I think I would have told them to shut up and then I would have talked to their parents (and probably get told to ‘chill out’).
Apart from the total lack of respect the boys showed their teacher, what struck me was the teacher’s attempt to engage with them by being cool and telling them stories and talking about movies. Would she have done this with girl students? How would 14 yr old girl students the same age have treated her? The boys were hostile and did not let her enter their territory – they made her try really hard, and this kind of made her sound desperate – as thought she wanted recognition in their eyes. I seriously thought she was a young teenage girl from their school trying to be ‘one of the boys’.