Gary is not an easy boy to get to know. He, like many of the boys, is sulky, reticent and reluctant to be in the classroom where application to school work is expected. The boys’ reluctance raises the problem of my own participation. I am careful not to involve myself in the classroom in a way that renders me like a teacher or her assistant and yet I am obviously not a child either. So what do the children make of my presence? For the first three months I am largely an adult person who observes and makes notes. I do not challenge bad behaviour or tell on children to the teacher and it is easy, therefore, for the children to ignore me if they choose to do so. In particular, I struggle to find a legitimate periphery from which to get to know the disruptive boys better. For obvious reasons I cannot participate in the pecking order of disruption, which dominates social relations in the classroom, and I cannot play football, which is the boys’ main preoccupation in the playground.1 I am, therefore, a marginal and largely irrelevant person to them. Gary is particularly surly: he resists any attempts on my part to get to know him: I smile at him, he ignores me; I greet him, he ignores me; I am insignificant to him and he is intimidating to me. All of this changes, however, on a single day in December. Just before the children break up from school for the Christmas holidays, my status in the classroom transforms dramatically.


Formal Learning School Work Physical Competence Opposing Team Classroom Participation 
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© Gillian Evans 2006

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  • Gillian Evans

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