When seeing this title, you may think that I spent time in prison. Well, yes I did!
I could tell you that I didn’t do anything, and I didn’t.
Sorry to lead you on. I actually spent a number of years teaching young offenders in prison. I cannot name, names. That wouldn’t be fair anyway. I won’t name the Prison in question because again that wouldn’t be right.
It is, in fact very difficult working with young adolescent males with all of that testosterone flying around. They have an image that they have to retain and if they don’t they will be mocked and bullied. The age range I was working with was fifteen to twenty-one. Anyone who has teenage children will know, how well this age group responds to any form of authority.
The first day I started there I was put in a classroom, on my own, with a group of eight boys. I had a panic button on the wall that I could press in an emergency and there was an officer in the corridor. The boys had to attend classes, due to their ages. Most did not like it.
You always have one who is the ringleader and I spotted him within a few minutes. The class I was given was supposed to be a class that could work with minimum supervision. They were supposed to be self-motivated and generally well behaved. This was not the case with all of them.
My job was to teach them to use computers and to get them through a series of exams to gain qualification that would help them when they left prison. Their job was to frighten off the new teacher and to intimidate and control me, if possible.
I must say that at one point during that first day, I wondered what on earth I was doing there. I think the turning point was when the cocky leader asked me if I was scared. I must admit that, yes I was a little, but I would never admit that fact to him. I took a deep breath to calm myself and asked him why, should I be scared. He looked around at the rest of the group and smirked. A couple of the followers in the group seemed to be enjoying the conversation and chuckled. The other boys were quiet and seemed uncomfortable with his question. I was taking in all of their reactions, while waiting for his response. I knew it would be something to try and get a reaction from me, to scare me. On the inside my heart was pounding. On the outside I tried to keep a calm, semi board demeanour. I hoped it was working.
“Well, we could do anything to you and you wouldn’t be able to press the alarm” he said, giving me a smarmy grin.
I nodded thoughtfully in agreement. “Yeah, I dare say you could” I answered. The room was deadly silent. You could have heard a pin drop.
“I bet ye scared now, bet ye don’t come back tomorrow” he said as he watched me intently. I must have had a better poker face than I thought because he looked away from me and looked at the other boy around the table.
I answered him calmly but with a sternness in my voice. “No, I’m not scared.”
I survived my first day and was there the next day bright and early. I did find out later that the leader was incarcerated for sexual offences. Not all of the boys were like him. He was obviously a nasty piece of work. In fairness I did meet a lot of boys who had learned their lesson and would not go back to prison after they were released. I worked there for a number of years but I will always remember my first day.