What would you do if you were one of about 11 members of a pupil-led group that got invaded by 35 S3 boys? That was the situation for Hawick High School SU Group last September, and there was a range of reactions from the different members of the group - fear, anxiety, disgust, excitement, concern, worry, frustration, anger, annoyance...
For the first few weeks, there was absolute chaos - pupils standing on windowsills, chairs on desks, and biscuits and pens used as missiles around the room. The pupils leaders were at odds with each other about how to deal with the situation and each week at least somebody ended up in tears.
The leaders reported to one of the school deputes, and he was willing to ban the boys from coming to the group, but the leaders were adamant that an SU Group should be inclusive and that no-one should be permanently excluded from it. So gradually they began to work out a strategy for making this situation work!
Six months on, 25-40 boys still come each week. Every week there is still the potential for riot, but most weeks the atmosphere is more one of semiorganised chaos, or rowdy calm. Has there been any impact on the boys who come? I really don't know. But what I have seen is real growth in the team of pupils leaders.
In the beginning, the two oldest leaders disagreed strongly about the best way forward, but now a group of four of them are really working well as a team. They meet to pray together at the beginning of each lunch-time. They have become quite discerning about what might work and what won't work with their group, and evaluate and adapt material accordingly. One of the leaders has developed in people skills as she has had to deal with behavioural issues that have arisen through the group. Another has learnt ways of communicating her faith so that a seemingly uninterested audience might listen. They have worked hard at getting the balance between getting to know the crowd of boys as individuals, and still giving attention to other members of the group.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to the depute the group leaders report to. His comment was, "I can't think of another group (of any kind) in the Borders - in fact, probably in the whole of Scotland, who would tolerate, much less welcome, this sort of 'element'!"
Thank God for those young leaders, and please pray for the boys!