Last month we took our high school students on an excursion to Luna Park. It had old school charm, but not very much else!
While I was queuing for a ride, I saw a bunch of older kids smoking, right in front of me. They probably had no idea that I was a teacher, or that smoking was illegal in the open-air park.
I called out to the tallest boy in the group. "Hey you! How old are you?"
He motioned one and seven with his free hand. I frowned and asked him if he knew he was underage. (They are all international students who have just arrived in Melbourne a few months ago.) He shrugged.
"I don't want you smoking in this park, especially when there are younger kids around!"I swept my accusing finger across the entire group.
He threw his lit cigarette to the ground and put it out with his shoe. The other kids followed. And in an act of the defiance, they all got off the bench they were sitting on and strutted off.
An hour later, I caught them smoking again, this time in a bigger group and in the centre of park. I marched up to the same boy and tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned around to face me, I realized he was at least 1 foot taller than me.
"I can't believe you are still smoking! I don't want to catch you all a third time, or there will be serious consequences!" I put on my most teacherly voice and put my hands on my hips, trying to intimidate him (much like a stick insect flailing its arm at its predator).
They walked to the nearest bin to throw their cigarette away.
I kept a close eye on the group for the rest of the afternoon, in case they persisted.
Later on, when I had to teach the whole school Maths, I got to teach and talk to all of them. I found out that the tallest boy caught smoking was a good kid after all, and where he came from, smoking probably wasn't much of a deal. Still, it was important that they learnt the rules in another country.
You can see the slideshow of photos taken that day here.