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They Don’t A-peer To Be Very Responsible

, , , , | Learning | March 12, 2021

My school had a fun system where, in your first year at the high school, at thirteen years old, for one hour-long slot a week, you got to have “peer support.” Your class would be taken by a small group of final-year seventeen-year-old students who would basically act as cool older siblings, do bonding exercises, and generally encourage good social behaviour, etc. The final-year students were called “peer support leaders.”

I had a blast with my experience as a newcomer to the school, so in my final year, I was all too happy to sign up to be a volunteer. I got teamed with two classmates and their boyfriends — five semi-adults and a class of around thirty kids. Shouldn’t be too bad, right?

The class was rowdy. Barely any of the kids listened, fewer were interested in the actual fun times we had in store for them. A few actively would try and ruin it for the others. We all grit our teeth and tried to work through it. We were relatively successful and managed to make a dent in some of the bad behaviours.

The funny thing was, at the end of the semester, for the last class of peer support, you were allowed to do something fun with your group. This included taking them out of school! You had to get things signed off beforehand, but if you dotted your Is and crossed your Ts, your group basically got a cool afternoon of whatever fun activity you could devise.

So, of course, no one could agree on what we wanted to do for the outing. The five leaders talked and decided on a plan: on a specific morning, we would go to rōpū (home class) of our class and get them to vote on what they wanted. I got permission from my teacher to miss my own rōpū and then went straight to my peer support’s rōpū before class commenced. The other leaders were nowhere to be seen. I waited for ten minutes… no sign. Rōpū is only fifteen minutes long, so I finally went in on my own and took the vote. About two-thirds of the class was there, but it was enough. I included the whole list I’d been given, which included go-karting, movies, and a few other things.

Movies won by a fairly decent margin. Great! Fun video times. I made my way to the Volunteer Coordinator — a teacher who made sure we knew what “activities” were assigned week to week — and let her know what the kids had voted on. She wrote it down but said we’d left this too late to take them out of the school, so we’d have to do it on-site.

No worries! Still unable to find my other leaders in their designated classes, I used my first break to go and approach a teacher I had an awesome rapport with, who I knew had no class during the peer support slot. I explained to her what was up, and she agreed that it sounded like fun. She simply asked that we keep it down a little as she’d be grading papers in the office next door. Perfect! Kids have chosen an activity and we have a place to do it!

You know I wouldn’t be telling this story if all went right from here.

Fully halfway through the day, after checking at each class-change for my co-leaders, I found one at the start of lunch. I quickly told him that I’d taken the vote — without accusing him or the others of ditching me for that — and let him know the kids had voted for the movies. I also let him know I’d told the coordinator, and since we couldn’t take the kids out of the grounds, I’d also secured us a classroom. So all that was left to do was organise the snacks and the movie.

He looked at me like I’d grown a second head and then told me in a condescending tone that I was an idiot. Didn’t I know they had all agreed that they were going go-karting? I was a moron for running around and doing all of this stuff because they had already done all of this hard work without telling me. He made fun of me in front of several other people until I had to leave to go and hide somewhere in tears from distress. I knew it wasn’t true, thanks to having talked to the coordinator, but I had no idea why my co-leader was being so cruel to me.

As you might guess, this genius was lying. No plans had been filed, no permission slips signed. So, come the morning of the treat day, the other three finally decided they should come back to school — never found out where they’d been all that day— and told me that they’d handle the movie and the snacks and pizzas, since I’d already done everything else. I was a little reluctant, but they assured me they would get a good one. I figured the miscommunication about the vote must have been a mistake and they’d found out they weren’t able to just whip thirty kids out of school on a whim.

At lunch, they told me they’d gotten the movie. Perfect! Now to wait until the last class of the day to go grab them.

The previous week, I’d made a list of the kids. This was a treat, after all, so it was supposed to only be for the kids who’d been receptive and learned, while those who’d been antagonistic or disruptive would stay in the math class they’d normally get out of. I made my way to the movie classroom to get everything set up, and five minutes later, everyone was there. Everyone.

Okay, fine. Maybe the others had made a judgement call that even the naughty kids should be allowed this treat, too. Fine, I just wish they’d bothered to tell me before I went to the trouble of the list. As the kids were filing in, though, one of them turned to me and said, in a really snotty tone, “I hear we’re not going go-karting because you went and had a little crrrry.”

I had no idea how to respond, so I just muttered something about the vote, and figured that was the end of it. Time to watch a movie and relax.

Then, I found out what movie the others had thought was perfect for these thirteen-year-olds.

American Pie.

The kids went absolutely nuts. They started running around, drumming on the desks — hands, feet, drumsticks; you name it, it was hitting the desk — banging the fire-escape door repeatedly, howling… actual, kid-you-not howling. I started rushing around, trying to calm them, as I knew that there was someone next door trying to grade. As you can imagine, this only encouraged them. Meanwhile, the other four people in the room, my former allies, my supposed co-leaders? They were just sitting there and basically laughing at my attempts to stop this chaos.

It got so bad that the teacher stormed into the room and had to stay there for the rest of the period. I don’t know if she ever realised what movie was playing, which is one small mercy.

I’m pretty sure the other four did not get their certificates saying they’d done this volunteer program. It also took me a long time to trust people on group projects again, especially when others failed to turn up to arranged meetings.

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