Standing outside at breaktime, I became aware that a circle of boys had formed. They wanted to know what I thought about the Champions League results on Wednesday, whether I was going to the Saint Patrick’s Athletic match that evening, and whether I had a ticket for the match against Shamrock Rovers match this coming Friday (the answers to the latter two questions were “yes” and “yes.”
Such conversations are important, they establish a rapport between teacher and students. Such a rapport provides a foundation for appropriate behaviour in the classroom, students are less likely to disrupt the lessons of a teacher they regard as a friend.
It is talking to girls that I find difficult. Individually, they are not a problem, there are always responses to questions about how they are doing. The problem comes with groups, there are no easy opening lines like, “what about the match last night?”
There was a Dave Edmunds song in 1979, Girls’ Talk, which described a moment I never experienced, but which captures a sense of why female students are unlikely to chat with a male teacher in his sixties.
There are some things you can’t cover up
With lipstick and powder
Thought I heard you mention my name
Can’t you talk any louder
Don’t come any closer, don’t come any nearer
My vision of you can’t come any clearer
Oh, I just wanna hear girls talk
Got a loaded imagination bein’ fired by girls’ talk
It’s a more or less situation inspired by girls’ talk.
Perhaps Dave Edmunds had carefully researched the song and discovered that girls really did talk among themselves about particular boys.
Without having a clue whether they might, it always seemed odd that an individual person would have been the subject of a conversation. If such a situation did occur, it would have been unlikely to be reciprocated among boys, there were too many sports fixtures and other activities to be discussed.
The male propensity to avoid discussing anything remotely touching upon anything personal may be a sign of strength, it may equally be a mark of weakness, a sign of being uncomfortable with oneself.
Perhaps Dave Edmunds’ character is intrigued at a girl’s mention of his name, for it is certain that no boy is likely to mention it, at least not in a complimentary way.
Perhaps one day I must ask my fellow Saint Patrick’s Athletic supporters what it is they think that their female fellow students discuss at break time.