The term “pointy-enders” refers, in Australian parlance at least, to kids in crisis, “at the pointy-end of things where getting meaningful help is always difficult and sometimes impossible.” Pointy-Enders collects a series of their stories, told from the point of view of a Behaviour Management Teacher. The book blurs the line between truth and fiction, but is never less-than-gripping to read.
Author Simon Petrie is himself a Behaviour Management Teacher and has worked with kids in crisis for much of his career. Pointy-Enders is narrated by Hugo Walker, who teaches at the “composite creation” Kookaburra Primary School, and rarely gets a moment’s peace in a workday. In short chapters, he lays out the stories of several children, their outlandish classroom behavior (fighting, throwing furniture, bringing pornography to school) and the steps teachers take to intervene. The parents who send their kids to school unfed and filthy are often addicts and abusers, and the school staff does its best to end the cycle while knowing its successes will be limited. It’s a bleak picture all around.
Petrie’s genial writing style helps lighten the mood. His Aussie-inflected English makes sense in context and adds warmth to what are often chilling stories. But there are so many stories that it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of misery on display here, especially since many end with no concrete resolution. Parents pull kids out of school, or they run away or transfer out of the community and essentially disappear. Fewer stories told in more depth would offer readers more food for thought than the obvious revelation that child abuse and neglect are awful.
Pointy-Enders is a stark cataloging of the legacy of child abuse. If Petrie were to narrow his focus and include resources to help readers take action and assist in some way, this book could inspire meaningful change; as written, it’s still hard to put down.
Also available as an ebook.