Don’t kiss your teeth at me…..

blog-zimmerman

Someone reached out to me yesterday. Told me a home truth. She said that I don’t celebrate my success. When she said that I was shocked for a moment, Because I am sure that I do. But when I started looking at my blogs and such it was clear that I don’t share them with people. The following is the reason she reached out to me.

7 months ago, I was asked to work with a young person who had been moved from Peckham,London to Kent. Wait…let me go back a touch… So, I am at work and I am looking out a window, just watching the young people when I see this…presence… A young male comes strutting along. He has some swagger on him I can tell you that. He stands out like a sore thumb. Head phones on, not paying mind to no one. I craned my neck to carry on watching where he was going.

Later that day I was introduced to the young man and asked if I could have a chat with him. We sat down. This young man, we will call him R, He sat across from me, one earphone in his ear blaring out Drill music, legs wide apart, with one mean look on his face. I didn’t say much at first because he did all the talking and this is what he said.

“I know who you are miss. Your one of them do-gooders who thinks they can save me well you can’t, so lets just get that out there. You have no idea about my life or what it is in my head and I am never going to tell you. I aint staying here, I am going back to London and I sure aint taking no GCSE. I’m a shotter. I sell drugs. That is what I do.”

I took a long look at him. His London “Street ” accent strong. I asked him if he was selling drugs since being in Kent and he said no. I asked him why he is in Kent and he said “Ask my parents, now I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, I am just here because that’s what my parents want and now I will be going” and he kissed his teeth and got up. I carried on sitting. He got his stuff together and walked to my door and went to open it. I suddenly said “R..one more thing”. His body stiffened, but he didn’t turn around. “Don’t ever kiss your teeth at me again…ya get me” I said in my mum voice (I can take a lot from the kids I work with but do not swear at me or kiss your teeth at me). He still didn’t turn around, but I bet my life that he was looking shocked. He then said in a deep voice “Miss, don’t mess you have no idea who I am” and I said “Ditto”.

He opened my door without turning but he had less of a swagger. When he got half way down the corridor he turned around quickly to look at me and be sure I was watching him.

Next day I am working and this young man swings open my door and comes bounding in, big old smile and throws him self down on my couch, feet up on the chair in front of him. I don’t break what I am typing…. because I knew he would be back and I knew he would do this. He was testing the boundaries.

“So, you from London…yer” he says loud. I stop typing, look at him…not saying a word. I pick up my phone and dial. “Oi, don’t be talking on the phone when I am in here” he says. He then gets his phone out and starts playing loud music. “Hi, is that Mrs R” I say into the phone. My mans head flicks up so quick I thought his head would break. “It is, good, my name is Kendra and I work with young people involved with gangs and CSE, and I wondered if you could come in…today…yes that would be good”. R is now on his feet saying “What are you calling my mum for?” over and over “The reason I am calling Mrs R is for a few things but mainly I just wanted to tell you that your son just come in my room and put his dusty foot on my chair…and then he started blaring music out in my room…yesterday he kissed his teeth at me also…sorry Mrs R I didn’t catch that as R is standing here kinda raising his voice at me asking who I am to call you…you want to speak to him…of course”. I take the phone away and look R straight in the eye. He does not know what to say. His face is shocked. I pass him the phone and he puts it to his ear and his whole-body language changed. He was respectful as his mum cussed him down the phone. When mum was finished I took the phone and hanged up turned to R and said “I am a mother also and If my child just acted like you I would want to know. I am not a fool R and you would be wise to remember that now please leave my room”. His face was soooo shocked that when he left I smiled. Boundaries were now set. All I had to was make sure that BOTH of us stuck to them.

Later that day I met with parents and they explained why he was here. Lots of reasons, none good. Mum started crying and explained that R was a cleaver boy but had given up on school and without GCSE she knew he would stay with his gang in Peckham. He had already been involved in some heavy stuff and they had fled to keep him safe. At the end of the meeting mum looked me straight in the eye and said, “I think he will get killed if he carries on living like this”. I took her hand and said that we will work together to do the best for her child. Together.

Let me tell you, the 7 months that followed are hardcore. My boy has some temper!!! I have had to intervene in some madness. I have had to go above and beyond with this one. There was a day that I was so upset with his behaviour that I couldn’t even look at him and he spent 10 minutes apologising to me through my closed door.

This boy, I discovered early, had the wickedest sense of humour and even in dark times he would drop a one liner that would have me dying of laughter on the floor.

He is one of the brightest kids I have met. Not just academically, in all ways. This kid knows who he is, he just didn’t know how to be the best he could.

This kid was scared. It took us along time to get there but when we talked about what he had been through, like the time he got caught slipping and they chased him through the ends with a machete and he tripped for a second, when we could explore that we discovered that fear is ok and does not make you weak.

This boy is filled with love and respect. He …from that second day, has always treated me with the upmost respect. He only shows respect when it is a two-way process, and that caused issues. Not with me and him of course because I showed him the same level of respect always, but others did not accept this.

Yesterday… Yesterday was GCSE day. He came in to the hall to get his results. As always, sticking out like a sore thumb. He almost bounces when he walks. He walks straight over to me and we just smile at each other. He makes a joke because I had told him to come at 11 but it was actually 10 he had to be there. “Lucky I don’t listen to you all the time ay miss” he said laughing.

I handed him his envelope and the smiles stopped. For both of us. There were like 100 kids in that hall, all making noise, all getting results. Staff and parents everywhere. But in that moment, it was just me and him. I was still sitting, and he was standing. He put down his tea and held the envelope.

“Are you going to open it here” I asked. “Hush miss, we are doing this together” he said half smiling. He pulled the letter out and opened it, looking confused at the new markings. I suddenly realised I could see what he got through the back of the paper and….bloodfire!! I could see a 6!!

I jumped up and grabbed the paper from him “R you got a 6 in English” I shouted at him. He was just standing there smiling. I was like an excited mum finding out her child’s results. “OH MY GOD!!! Look what you got in Science” I shouted. “Have you seen this” I shouted at him waving the paper. He is laughing and goes to speak, and I just wrapped my arms around his neck. I calmed down and we looked at what he got.

My God…this kid..He had passed everything and passed it well. This kid who had refused to do many lessons. Who tried to run back to London. This kid who told me he didn’t need GCSEs to be drug dealer.

This young man standing in front of me. Smiling. Shining. Winning.

“You gonna cry miss” he says smiling. I say nothing but cut my eye at him jokingly. I tell everyone in the room that will listen about how well he has done. Pictures are taken. Then its time to leave and he just hovers. Gets his phone out and says can he have my number to stay in contact. I tell him no, we can’t do that. His head snaps up like it did that first time I called his mum “But what if I need you?” he says. “You know where to find me if you do” I said.

He came and gave me a final hug and as he did he said, “You saved my life Miss”. I held back the flood of emotions that almost escaped from my mouth in a very discreet sob and said “Na boy, you saved yourself, I was just there to cheer you on”

Yesterday evening a lady from work contacted me and asked me if I truly realised what I had done for R. And to be honest …not really…Its just what my job is. I don’t give up on the ones that everyone else has. She said thank you for making a difference in these young people’s lives and that I need to celebrate that once in a while.

So… I met a boy 7 months ago who was trapped by gangs and had zero aspiration to leave. Yesterday he received some amazing GCSEs and has not been involved with gangs for months. He is going to college to study music.

He is manufactured for greatness and I was part of the process.

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