Tough on a teenager

Friday 24th June 2011

BOYS find puberty unsettling: spotting, sprouting, sudden stirrings that add unexpected dimensions to a dull afternoon of double Maths. Growing pains can be painful.

The lads of the Stage Technicians Club at the comprehensive where I taught Drama were typical adolescents. Just as their skills progressed from stacking chairs to scene-shifting to rigging lights atop tall ladders, so did their interests move from the mechanics of sight lines to the electronics of sound systems to the magnetism of fifth form girls.

One such character – let’s call him Trevor Newton – was exuberance personified. He’d drop into the drama hall at every opportunity to offer his services. Any task given was tackled with brash confidence and an eagerness to please.

It was most unusual, therefore, one particularly hectic lunchtime, to see him looking glum and withdrawn.

“What’s up, Trev? Not like you to be down in the dumps.”

He was going through that awkward age when a boy’s voice breaks. Amid the din of countless kids chatting, singing and rehearsing fight scenes, I heard his reply as:

“Not feeling too good. My dad’s just died.”

“Oh, Trevor. I’m sorry.”

He sighed, shrugged, and wandered off to help somebody hammer nails into something.

At the next staff briefing, I alerted colleagues to his misfortune. Those who taught him duly noted the need for sensitivity.

“Don’t suppose we’ll see Mrs Newton at Parents’ Evening tomorrow then,” observed his tutor.

But no. The busy Mrs Newton and her gentle husband were loyal and reliable supporters of the school. They would never miss such an occasion – even if Trevor’s father was allegedly deceased.

I saw them arrive, hurried over, greeted them. We exchanged pleasantries.

“I… er… noticed Trevor was a bit unhappy yesterday. I hope nothing’s happened at Stage Technicians to upset him.”

“Oh, he’ll be fine in a day or two,” Mrs Newton assured me. “We’ve just lost the family dog. She and Trevor grew up together. It’s hard, even for a rough-tough teenager like him.”


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