The fact that I wrote about a brand new class only after a couple of months of their acquaintance and nothing about the other one of the same age – another group of people of a peculiar kind I have been with for 5 long years that we’ll identify as 5Afb – has aroused some sort of stupor among them; I guess because they found themselves unexpectedly stripped of the coveted title of “weirdos” mostly. Actually, it seemed pretty incredible that this event could ever happen, but it did. So, having the 5Afb been definitely surpassed by 5(I)D on matter of weirdness and desiring to make things even writing something worthy of 5Afb, I found myself running short of ideas. After all, you cannot write on command. But, one day, something epiphanic came in help.
The occasion was an unmissable training course given by the formidable Mr Cross, a former magistrate, deputed to updating school staff on the matter of norms, about the dangers of the usage of WhatsApp in class and in particular as means of communication with students. After more than an hour of endless boredom 🥱 Mr Cross came up with an incredible story which he thought to be pretty convincing:
Mr Cross: ” It is absolutely not recommended the usage of WhatsApp with students, hence, I wish to tell this story to dissuade you once and for all from using it for any school activity. So, listen carefully. I have been told that a student texted his teacher demanding if he could skip the test the following day and she replied he could not. The following day, as he was unprepared, he was given a bad mark. His parents read that conversation and sued the teacher for sexual harassment”.
Teachers : 😮😮😮😮😮
Mrs Tink ( texting a colleague) “If this is a real story, I guess there must be some parts missing!! How did we go from test to sex I can’t make it out”.😕
Nonetheless, despite the anecdote was absurd, it stirred something in my conscience and I found myself wondering about the massive usage of WhatsApp I usually have with my students, which, in a word, I could actually define ….over-the-top. I know, it was only five years ago when I pontificated urbi et orbi about the joys of disconnection, but in five years a lot has changed, there has been a pandemic and communication via WhatsApp has become vital…..and fun. It was exactly during this thorough examination that some episodes about the 5Afb in question came up to my mind.
But first of all I have to spend a few words on the general demeanour of this class. Their weirdness has always consisted in the fact that since early days almost all of them seemed to have joined the school by a twist of fate. To be more specific, their attitude has been for long that of a bunch of youngsters who are at a football stadium and the very moment their favourite player is about to kick an important penalty, for some sort of magic, they find themselves in a class while Mrs Tink is explaining the wonders of the Present Continuous tense. I still have this impression from time to time when I look them in the eyes. They are addicted to football and this is truth we have to deal with every day.
During the pandemic I even found myself in charge of the coordination of all the activities of the 5Afb, bureaucratic stuff in particular, and on that occasion it was clear to me they all had trouble in responding effectively to the word “deadline”. Every time I needed some papers and I set a specific deadline, if it was a good day, I had 2 in 22. Words were totally useless, hence, I thought about using the figurative, primitive but impactful way of communication that WhatsApp emoticons can offer. I actually used three of them in particular, according to my level of anger and consequent danger for them:
☠️: You did something wrong! Watch out! I am ticked off! There will be consequences (but in a way you still have a chance of redemption).
⚰️: Your time for redemption is running short, in fact, I am just about to seal the lids of your coffins ( I usually texted a sequence of coffins according to the number of those who had not accomplished their tasks)
🪦: Non matter what you mean to do. It’s over. Fertig. Fini. Finito. Tomorrow we will settle up (sequence of gravestones followed).
Well, it worked and it was fun. They have become soldiers in matter of deadlines, I have to say. I still every now and then text a skull, just to see how and whether they react, and they do (very childish of me, I know).
Mts Tink :☠️
5Afb : “What have we done, now?”🥶🥶🥶
But, I couldn’t help but wonder during that training course, what if one parent had stumbled across that group chat? The kind of parent Mr Cross’s story was about? I would have offered my head on a silver platter, especially if one wanted wilfully to misunderstand tones and intentions. So, I resolved upon being definitely more careful in the future. Hence, still full of concerns, I decided to test the waters telling the class Dr Cross’s tale and comparing it to our skull/coffin/gravestone episodes (and more🤦) to have a good laugh and check their reaction at the same time. While they were listening to this crazy story, I could see their faces enlighten and their smiles take the form of a smirk. Then, after a while, one of those “impostors”, a bold one, took the floor hinting darkly that in due time I might as well get a skull one day in remembrance of those “good” old times.
5Afb : ” Before the exams in June it would be a good timing, wouldn’t it?😇😇😇
Mrs Tink: 😈“ You won’t live that long”.🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦🪦