7 kids in 7 days: Malachi

I do not teach Malachi, but I’ve known his name since September. He is a BNOC.

Malachi is the politest child I see in and around school. Every adult is Miss or Sir. Doors are held open for adults. He’ll offer to carry your books for you if you’re struggling. He makes appropriate small talk: “how’s your day been, Miss?” None of that nonsense for his peers. But he does the teenage equivalents – whatever they may be – so his peers are enamoured with him too. The girls swoon around him. Basically, he’s incredibly socially switched on.

I have never seen Malachi lose his cool with a teacher or even be remotely rude. But he is more than happy to flout the rules in many other ways. He is one of the most prolific sellers in school. The last time the vice principal confiscated his bag she found over £50 and dozens of chocolate bars, doughnuts and fizzy drinks. He often implicated in “rushing”: a group of kids charging at at another group of kids – one form against another, one year against another, one ethnicity against another…

To be honest, I get why Malachi does it. In this school, the structures and clarity aren’t there for effective sanctions. The inconsistency makes the gamble worth it. And his charming ways extend to eloquent apologies, which mean punishments are inevitably softened. Malachi sees his misbehaviour as victimless, having fun and making some money in a place which otherwise offers very little to him. He’s a bright boy and school isn’t stretching or inspiring him.

Malachi loves being at school because it’s basically a glorified youth club. But in 15 years time, this clever kid will be 30, with underwhelming qualifications. I fear he may then look back and consider school the best days of his life. Which is pretty tragic. School should be but the starting point.

It’s our job to maximise the long term future happiness and success of the future Malachis, Sarahs, Abdis and Pauls in our care. However much they are enjoying the here and now of school, you only have to look at our exam results and leaver destinations to conclude we’re failing at that.

I love Malachi, but increasingly I find him frustrating. More accurately, I find it frustrating to see him unintentionally undermining the school’s authority and systems. He is a perfect example of what’s holding the school back from being a truly orderly, productive, learning-filled environment.

Hmm. Orderly, productive, learning filled environment. What does that sounds like? Oh, yeah. A school.

I’d nearly forgotten.

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