School Policy.....twenty years ago

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
First time teaching experience in a school.

Submitted: September 21, 2012

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Submitted: September 21, 2012

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The bell rang and the day seemed as if it had started. To some, it started as the tiresome long day to come and spend in agony. To others, it was the fun day which only had some trouble periods in between. To a third lot, it was a day of pride and glory. It was a day of new information; new understanding and new ways of thinking all bundled up in new trials of questions and answers that test the brain to the best limit it can reach.

To the teacher, someone like me, the day had started long before the bell rang. It had started the minute I woke up thinking how much of me was going to go to waste today? How much of me will drain away? How many nerves will be strung, either by the impudence of a child or a barrier of understanding not crossed between me and my class or by simple demanding questions which they every right to ask but which I could not afford to answer?

The bell rang and the teachers, the seeming pillars of knowledge and learning, crowded either with the tiny bodies and half formed minds of children or the fully mature bodies but immature minds of the older teenagers. I looked at my class. They liked me well enough. Their gleaming eyes and their smiling good-mornings told me so. I was their new teacher of English. The one who told them jokes, made them laugh at their own infirmities, scandalized them without hurting their feelings and touched upon topics which their parents and older generations might term as outrageous and blasphemous.

But in an Egyptian society such as the one I now live in, sensitivity is a predominant factor. You could not come close to any subject which would be embarrassing to a child’s stretch of feelings but you find red faces or sneaky smiles, the kind that tells you: “We know all about the facts of life, only don’t say them out so loud.” Also, if your anger chanced to surge up to the surface and you let out words of storm, you might see lots of tears and lots of other grim faces in sympathy with those tears.

I went into the classroom. I explained Shakespear’s simplified version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and after that I told the boys and girls of twelve and thereabout to prepare themselves to do the love scene. The girl was going to be the fairy queen and the boy was going to be the man with the donkey’s head. The girl and the boy I chose got up. The girl was too sensitive. The boy really could not care less. She could not utter the love words and her face became the colour of a setting sun. I spared her. The boy did not understand and wherever I told him to start from, he did it obediently, just like the role he was playing: a donkey.

Another cross-section was cut out of the day and the bell rang again. As I was going out of class, I heard two girls chanting at the girl I made stand up “Why don’t you tell him”. I presumed that meant the love words of Shakespear’s play. One of those two girls was fat and the other was thin. I stood in front of them and said: “If that’s the way you treat someone in your class, then next week you will say what she did not say.” And with that I left the class with a smile filled with complacency.

The day went on with its ups and downs till the first recess. I had hardly rested from my other classes when the two girls with whom I charged next week’s love speech came to see me in the teachers’ room.

“Sir” said the chubby one. “Please don’t let us stand and say this next week.”

“I see.” I said. “You embarrassed your friend and now you don’t want to be in her shoes.”

“Why should we be embarrassed like she was?” said the skinny girl defiantly.

I remained silent nibbling at the pen I had in my hand with my fingers. Then I told the chubby girl to send for the girl in question. When she arrived, I said: “Choose either you forgive them or I make them stand up next week. It’s your decision.”

The girl just stood there silent and confused.

“Make up your mind quickly.” I commanded.

“I want them to stand” was her reply.

“You stand.” I said addressing the two other girls.

“We didn’t say anything bad about her.” Complained the chubby girl.

“You don’t understand what happened.” Said the skinny girl. “a boy came and said…..”

“I don’t care about any boy.” I interrupted. “What I care about is that you embarrassed her. She was embarrassed enough already and you embarrassed her more when you had no right to.”

“Excuse me sir,” was the skinny girl’s swift retort. “But did that happen before your period was finished or afterwards?”

I was quiet. I scrutinized my eyes on her then I lost my top. I threw down the pen to the ground. It made a cracking sound and broke in two.

“What do you mean exactly?” I shouted at her. “Do you mean to tell me that you are polite in periods, impolite outside them? Do you divide good manners? Now, you have a choice. Either you apologize to your class-mate or we take this whole thing to the headmistress.”

Headmistress was a word every child in the school dreaded and it had that effect on them. They apologized to the girl. After that I just dismissed them.

I had put those three girls in the back of my mind in the course of the day. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of high heels coming from the end of the corridor in front of the teachers’ lounge. This sound was familiar and undesirable. When the sound stopped, a stout woman appeared at the entrance of the room and asked how her son was doing in class. As she was a member of staff, I tried to be careful in my choice of words. Not so good, I told her. What I actually meant was lousy. She told me that I should look after him. I told her that I was doing my best but he is neither responding nor working with me inside the class or out. She told me to be patient. I told her that if there’s one thing in class that I am, it would be that. Our eyes spoke, pupil to pupil. Mine spoke of me, the young who wanted the pure form of hard work written on a child’s forehead and hers spoke of the old and loving mother who wanted her for her child the tag of success at any cost. I was not prepared to pay and I had been warned earlier that where she was concerned payment was much better obstinance.

The bell rang and I was spared continuing the conversation. I excused myself and hurried off to my next period. The day was drawing to a close.

Before I left school I returned to the teachers’ lounge to look at some marks. While I was sitting at my space three girls, strangers to me, came into the room. One of them announced herself to me as the thin girl’s sister. Then the woman with the high heels came in and joined them.

We stood before the headmistress. It was me, the stout woman, the girl who had been embarrassed in class, the thin girl and her sister. I stood as the accused.

“Is it true,” said the headmistress in a sharp tone addressing the girl who had been embarrassed. “that your English teacher made you stand up and say love words to a boy?”

The girl’s blood surged and deposited passageways around her eyes, nose and mouth. “Yes, it’s ture.” Said the girl transporting just what the other adults in the room wanted her transport.

Then the headmistress directed her attention to the thin girl and her sister and said. “Did he shout at you and threaten you to say the same love words to a boy in another period?”

“Yes.” the thin girl said feeling as if she had won a trophy.

“How could you do such a thing?” blunted the headmistress at me. “How could I have known about you except from this good woman here?”

I looked over at the stout woman. She had her satisfaction.

“Sir, sir” I felt a hand shaking my shoulder. I looked up and saw the thin girl’s sister still standing in front of me.

“I cam to apologize, sir,” she said. “On behalf of my sister. I know she can be difficult sometimes.”

“Apologize for what?” nosed in the stout woman who happened to be around at that time. “What happened?”

“Do you mind,” I told her. “This is personal.”

I was given look of contempt and disgust then she turned around and walked away. I told the thin girl’s sister that I was not angry and that there was no need to apologize. I told her to consider the whole matter closed and there was no need for her sister to stand up in class and read the scene.

The final bell rang and I tumbled in the crowd of students and teachers heading for home. As I was walking towards the front gate, I spotted the stout woman standing alongside the headmistress. As I passed them, it seemed as if the stout woman was pointing at me. Was my imagination playing tricks on me? Could the vision that I had seen a while ago come true? Could I be the accused? For someone like me, who is just starting his practical life, it’s possible. Isn’t it?


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