I rubbed my eyes and looked again at that direction. The scene was next to my room in the long, half- a- mile length of corridor. Ali was mid-air, next I saw was, a slam on the floor. Adolf was now on top of him pounding left right centre. The boys cheered and jeered. A full blown circle had formed now to enclose the fight. I couldn’t see anything anymore. Only loud screams and voices.
Should I turn back, should I carry on. I was in a conflict. I needed to carry on before another accident occurred. I needed to visit the little room. I was suffering from Montezuma’s revenge.
Coming back, I saw the two boys being ushered away by the dean of discipline. They walked on either side of the wall avoiding contact with each other.
“Teacher where have you been, where have you been?” my boys chorused.
“I went to Mars, I went to Mars” I repeated.
“Mars? Where is this?” one of the boys asked.
Another replied “you mean planet Mars?”
“Or you went to eat a Mars chocolate bar” another quipped in.
“Exactly” I said.
“Which one?” they asked. “Figure it out” I said.
I turned the door handle and they wanted to barge in. I requested for a minute. I went in and turned on the white board, projector and wore my hallmark hat and stood at the door to receive them with the customary handshake and popular phrase of “good to see you.” The replies were what fascinated me. It always made my day. “Good to see you too, good to see you too.” Some, before I uttered a word, they had already made the pronouncement “good to see you too.” It was always a delight to shake their hands because that was where we started off on a good note. The transitioning might experience a few rough patches, but the rule was ‘always start on a pleasant note and try to end on a pleasant note’.
I personally enjoyed frustrating them just like they frustrated me. When they asked me questions about my person, I answered them in circles and it made them so jittery that they felt like strangling me, but I kept holding my smile with them.
“Good to see you” I said.
“Good to see you too” rent the air. That was one phrase they had mastered so well.
Nawaf stepped in, he avoided eye contact. I took his hand and asked him to connect with me. He looked at me and I rested my hand on his shoulder.
“You know you ain’t a bad kid” I said.
“Thanks Mr. B.”
“Outwardly you want to appear tough and act tough but I know that inside, you are a nice kid”.
“Thanks” he repeated.
“I am not here for you to like me. Neither are you here for me to like you. As long as you do well in your studies, I am okay with that. You are just acting your age.”
“I appreciate it Mr. B.”
A day before, we had had a mild altercation and he said he didn’t care about himself and about his future. I told him I cared and that was more important than whether he cared. I told him, that was why I was the adult and he, the student.
“Mr. B, I know you care about me and I am sorry.”
“You don’t have to be sorry. Just do your work and then you are alright. If you like me in the process that’s a bonus.”
“Yes Mr. B.”
The routine was simple. As soon as you stepped into the room, grab your book, there was some work on the board for you to start off with and settle down, while I poured some tea from my flask to my blue cup and made my customary walk around the room. This was my territory, this was my domain. I was in charge here. I dictated the pace here, I took control of what happened and what did not happen and that was the joy of being a dictator.
Adolf was one of the quietest in the class. Always minding his business and helping out. He wasn’t the smartest of the kids but I knew that he would go places in life because of his attitude. Always willing to learn, work and take corrections.
He didn’t function well in a group, so he preferred to work independently. During group work, he would work with the rest of the team and after the task he would retreat to himself and I respected him for that. He had good initiative. Sometimes he would hand everybody’s book out to them especially after they came in from the gym, tired and weary. Since he seemed to always have that extra ounce of energy, he went about serving his mates. He didn’t care whether they said thank you or not. He was also a bit of a strange guy. He didn’t have a mobile phone and was not into computer games. Quite an odd fella. If everybody was chatting and having a laugh, he would sit, smile and just be content being a listener.
It was this same quiet guy that slammed Ali. I knew that it was just a matter of time, that something terrible would happen to this Ali. He was so pesky. He irritated everybody. He would go about poking people and snitching on his mates, he would not do his work. I did not waste much energy on him. That was negative energy, instead I used that energy on those who wanted to learn.
It was hard to ignore him. He would cause havoc and disappear. I tried to encourage the boys to ignore him and focus. I knew that something needed to be done. I had written one or two reports about him and I knew that the mob up there did not know what to do with him.
In his characteristic way he went and messed with Adolf and Adolf did not waste a moment. From narration from the boys, Adolf had warned him way back, never to mess with him. He fell into a state of amnesia. Adolf lounged at him, kicked him hard, grabbed him by the throat and almost suffocated him. Next, he went down and came up with Ali and stretched him mid air as if he was a piece of paper and slammed him to the floor.
Few moments later, Adolf strolled into the class and picked up his book and sat in his place. He got on with his work. Ali appeared a little later and came in and sat down. The whole class went into a fit at his red face and all the bruises on his face. They should have sent him to the nurse to have a quiet moment there. I guess having him walk back to the lesson with the bruises was a way of sending a salient message to the school community about being a bully and a pest. This was insult upon injury. He was deflated.
He put his face on the desk and never lifted it up. He was clothed in shame and humility. For once, I think I liked what happened to him. Sometimes some folks need to be taught a lesson the way they will understand. From that day, he never messed about in the lesson anymore.
As they were filing out of the room, I took my customary position to shake their hands and bid them a good day ahead. When Adolf’ walked up to me, we shook hands and stared at each other for about five seconds. The stare spoke volumes.
“Thank you son for fixing him.”
“You are welcome” he nodded.
Uwem Mbot Umana©2017
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