I've just finished working at a special needs secondary school, where i was sent for a month. I would have been there longer, but my shiny new job as a gay/bi women's sexual health worker (woohoo!) just started, so for two days a week I'm now a professional lesbian, so I'll only be doing short term school jobs on the other days.
Much as I'm excited about my new job, I'm hoping to be going back to this school occasionally. It's completely awesome. The kids all officially have 'moderate' special needs. that is, severe enough to be taken out of mainstream school, but moderate enough in comparison to a lot of special schools. it's basically the 'we're not sure what to do with this kid' school, leading to a chaotic mix of learning and behaviour problems and a huge spectrum of ability and attitude.
I'd like to celebrate my time there by writing about some of the turns of phrase I heard that made me boggle and giggle...
The kids at this school are socially aware enough to swear and use slang and generally appear far more knowing than they are. Like all teenagers, but more so. Interestingly, many of them come from backgrounds where it is considered normal to use terms like 'spaz/spacker' and 'mong' (see previous posts on these terms) to mean 'idiot', despite the presence of students with cerebral palsy and Down's syndrome. They simply don't connect the word with the meaning, and if you try to explain it, they rarely believe you.
The girl who really surprised me was the one who regularly used the phrase 'monging me out' as in 'stop it, you're monging me out' or 'that really mongs me out' basically anything that's disturbing/annoying her is doing this. She is one of the more able kids; no actual 'conditions' as such, just a subnormal IQ, and usually finds the more extreme physical special needs exhibited by students on the school's sister site particularly unsettling. Persuading her, on visits to the other site, not to loudly proclaim 'MIIIISS, can we go back to OUR school? THIS LOT ARE MONGING ME OUT!' I tried to explain why that wasn't a cool way of expressing herself, pointing out that we had Down's syndrome kids in school and comparing 'mong' to racial slurs such as 'Paki'. Her response? 'But Amir IS a Paki. AND he's a right mong.' Amir, incidentally is one of her best mates. He is Pakistani, but is not Down's syndrome. However, he has very similar behaviours to Down's kids. He doesn't care if she calls him a Paki. It's tough to explain to both of them why it's not cool.
Another kid I enkoyed working with was obviously from a very articulate and intelligent family, with at least one parent/carer who reveres Richard Dawkins as a god (There's a lot of that about: can't they see the irony?).
She's great, taking on creationist kids (mostly muslim but some christian) to argue for evolution and against religion (bear in mind this is a special school. you do NOT expect to walk into 'But look at pictures of skeletons. we LOOK like animals.we are animals. we CAME from other animals. your book is WRONG!') She also stands up for gay rights on behalf of her uncles who I'm told are planning to adopt. If a kid uses the word 'gay' as an insult she is down their necks faster than any of the teachers, citing her uncles and demanding that they explain themselves. She's hard. there's not generally much homophobia in her class. Except from her.
Previously mentioned 'mongs me out girl': Why have you got silver toenails?
Darwinist: My little brother painted them for me. Just 'cos he wanted to use it himself. Ended up with it all o'er his hands though. Little Poof.
Me: I thought you said it was OK to be gay. What about your uncles?
Darwinist: oh yeah. My uncles are gay. it's normal. I don't know why people are bothered.
Me; But... you just called your brother a poof.
Her: yeah, he IS a poof. He's gone to school today in nail polish. Poof.
Me:That's a bad word for a gay person.
Her: I know. but I like gay people.
Me: I know, but if you use words like poof, other people will think it's OK to call gay people names.
Her: Then I'll smack them one.
There's a logic there, I suppose.
In the same class, later the same day, much male adolescent giggling was occurring about the title of the new(ish) film Lesbian Vampire Killers. Comfortingly, 'Mongs me out' girl had taken the earlier conversation to heart.
Beavis-like Teenage Boy: Heheheheheheheh Lesbian. Heheheheheheheheh, Lesbian Vampires. Heheheheheheheh.
M.M.O girl: Shut up! There's nothing wrong if two vampires love each other very much! Stop picking on vampires!
At this point, I fell off my chair.
I'm gonna miss these kids.