Campfire Stories


Boys, Stop drawing penises on my blackboards

other than that you are OK

I have been working in an all boys school for the last year and a half now. I took the job to do a ‘Jamie Oliver’ with the food in the canteen or tuck shop, depends on who you ask. I have fed so many people from many different places.  The rules of food prep and service remain constant, the logistics are the slippery beast, but that’s another Blog.  I have popped a little tool into my knife roll from each job. On the whole, here my learning has been about the adaptation of familiar recipes so I can cook them in astounding quantities and the fight to balance healthy eating, with a low price point.  I have found that adolescent boys like to eat food they can hold, whilst karate kicking another boy, it must also be the size of their head and cost less than $2.50.

 The real learning for me has been about the boys themselves.  Girls Rule OK, but boys are pretty cool too.  They just do stupid stuff.

Thinking of an all boys school floods my brain with images of boys head’s being pushed down toilets.  I guess subconsciously, I have always been against single sex schools, I am not sure why; maybe a public old school, English hang up.  The fact that my son asked to go into the ballet for such a school, triggered a mass of such imagery, I crossed my fingers and hoped he would not get in.  He was 6th out of the bag.  My husband rubbed my shoulders and told me it would be alright, boys are boys and look after themselves.  My son was relieved, he would not have to look good for the girls.  I wanted to run away. A year went by and he was just fine, doing well, loving school and never he came home with a wet head.


The building I work in has three large glass windows, so basically we are the goldfish looking out.  I get to work before 7 am, grey shapes are huddled over books and phones, running past in steaming groups or sitting isolated with headphones in.  A very slight nod of the head, usually comes before ‘need help Miss?’ Normally they continue what they are doing, almost embarrassed of their offer, but offer they do. I get to see the gradual muster of 2000 something boys and serve the ones that knock on the window and make sad faces, because they are so hungry they might die, having been awake for a whole half hour.

Boys move like wilderbeast through the small spaces, as I watch they jump, kick, and huff but they sort themselves out.

While I stir my 10kg cauldrons of mince or butter chicken sauce I see them out of the window, rubbing the tops of each other’s heads with their knuckles, kicking each other’s bags or holding each other in headlocks.  These seem to be the standard greetings.  It also seems to me, from inside my glass hide.

  • Any food brought into the open is considered fair game.
  • The route from A to B is always the most direct.  It does not matter if there is an object or another human in that path.
  • Begging is acceptable
  • Someone always has a ball
  • Food is a currency
  • You must never be seen doing anything with urgency.
  • Organisation is overrated, you can always borrow a PE kit
  • Communication is for banter, tormenting, baiting, bartering and generally harassing unless technology is involved. Eyebrows and thumps do the rest.
  • appearance is of no consequence but difference is noted.
  • Drawing a penis on any surface is an absolute necessity.

I am glad I got this chance, to be here, with them.  Boys are different from me and mine and different from what I thought they were. The boys I meet are polite; I have never seen a fight, I see genuine acts of kindness and respect.  They are so very funny, laughing, howling, jumping, picking, kicking, hitting, chancing and daring.  These boys live in a simple world of rules, where they move towards or away from danger but never talk about it.  I don’t know what I was so worried about.  Boys are fine, I just wish they would stop drawing penises on my blackboards.

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