I have a couple of stories I tell at various points when teaching human rights. They're magical. I'm not entirely sure why they work so well. And I'm not entirely sure that I should share them (what if they loose the magic?!) but this morning they led to a vaguely amusing anecdote, so I'm letting them out of the vault.
Today's magic story was used on my new bottom set year 10 class. There's a picture of a very sad, very tired looking little girl on the board, and they've been discussing what might be going on. (Well, I say that - most have been having their phones confiscated, or being stood over and glared at until they'd written the date and title, or discussing who poked who on facebook last night.)
So I start. Talking loudly enough to be heard over those who are still murmering to each other.
"This is a little girl on a death march. She's Jewish, and the Nazis made her walk thousands of miles, from Germany, all accross Europe, to Poland." (At this point I show them on the map of Europe on the wall - kids in my school have a shocking level of knowledge about where Britain is on a world map, let alone central European countries). "Look - you can see that she's exhausted. That's because she's walked so far. And look, there's snow on the sides of the road, up to here. It's winter, so the snow is higher than her at points. She's been walking for days, carrying everything she owns, everything she might need for the journey. If her little brother is getting too cold and tired, and falls down, or her elderly grandmother can't keep going, she won't be allowed to stop, and mourn them, she'll have to keep on going."
By this point, the story has never failed to get every kid in the room to a point where they're staring up at me, open mouthed, in total silence. Even the most hardened wannabe gangster wants to hear how this ends.
"And finally, imagine, she gets to a camp. And she doesn't know what's happening, but she's told she's going to be able to have a shower. She can finally get warm and clean. She's told to tie her shoes together and hang them on a peg, to put her clothes on the same peg and remember which one it was. To put her jewelry in her pockets so it's safe. And then she's told to go into the shower rooms. But instead of water, coming out of the shower heads, it's poisonous gas."
During a magical story is pretty much the only time I can pause for effect. At any other time, a pause is an invitation to madness.
"Hitler and the Nazis murdered six million people like this. Not just Jewish people, but also gay people, disabled people, travellers - all sorts of people who were different, and so he denied that they were humans at all."
This morning, at this stage, this red haired kid sitting at the front (not by choice!) shook himself out of the magic story stupor a couple of seconds before the rest, and looked around.
"Skeen you lot, what you doin, sitting wiv your fucking mouvs open like fishes, like you's fuckin interested. It aint interestin, I aint interested. Skeen blud."
I actually laughed out loud at this, which is something you shouldn't ever do if you want to build positive relationships with mental children. "For God's sake Charlie, it's ok to be interested, you were pretty open mouthed yourself. But that just shows you're human."
"It's ok" says the second hardest wannabe gangster in the room, in complete seriousness. "We won't tell no-one."