The teacher went about from group to group discussing with the students on how to complete the table they were working on from the information sheet. It was a complex task that needed a lot of observation skills, sorting skills and thinking skills. It was crafted to take at least one solid hour to complete. The smart ones would get it done in 45 minutes to an hour and the less able ones would perhaps finish the task in 70 to 80 minutes. By this time the lesson would be ended.
The review happened as each student brought his/her sheet to the teacher for marking and correction. This was what Mr. Nsutomkpoidomi loved, oscillating between the chairs in the classroom, facilitating learning while the students do most of the work. It also helped him in his work as a teacher because students loved to talk nonstop, so this sort of task gave them the opportunity to talk nonstop and be relaxed. Mr. Nsutomkpoidomi had a maxim – the right minimal input produces max output. He would often retire to his desk at the elevated podium while the students came to him. This empowered him. This made him feel so good.
Ten minutes into the lesson, Faouk was sleeping. His head was resting on the desk, the hoodie draped over his face and snoring away.
“Wake Faouk up” the teacher yelled. Saif who was sitting next to him shook him gently and he awoke and stared into the space for a moment and dropped his head again.
“Saif wake him up” the teacher carried on.
Saif, shook him harder and said something like *“Habibi.”
The teacher left his desk and walked down to Faouk and tapped him. He sprang up. Mr. Nsutomkpoidomi asked him to go to the bathroom and wash his face and come right back. Faouk stood up groggily and dragged himself out of the room.
To the far left corner at the back of the room, another group was busy, plotting the table with information from the data sheet. Samba was talking nonstop as usual. The teacher popped by the table.
“How is it coming along?” he asked.
“Good” everybody chorused.
“Let’s have a look at what you are doing” he said.
He pulled a chair from a side desk and sat with the group. He took a good look at Mazooq’s paper, Raqeel’s and Hassan’s and they all seemed to be on task. Samba’s paper was empty yet he was the cleverest of all the lot.
“Can I speak with you outside Samba” the teacher requested.
“Mr. N, I am just about to do my work…” he babbled.
“Stop right there. First of all my name is Mr. Nsutomkpoidomi and not Mr. N.”
“But, that’s too hard to pronounce.”
“No, it’s not. I pronounce all of your names right.”
“But our names are easy and not as difficult as yours.”
“How come the rest of the boys can say my name and you can’t? Rather than attempt to say my name, you opt for the lazy man’s guide which is Mr. N, not even Mr. Nsuto, huh?”
“Anyways, I need to speak with you outside now please.”
Once outside the room, Mr. Nsutomkpoidomi saw Faouk on the floor in the corridor sleeping his life away.
Samba burst into a fit of laughter and infected Mr. Nsutomkpoidomi with it too.
“Once again I am going to be very clear. I am not going to watch you disappoint yourself. I do care for you and I know your true potential. I am paid to ensure you work to the best of your ability. You may not like me for now which I don’t really mind, but five to ten years down the line, you will be looking through all social media network to locate me and thank me for being right on your case. All your mates are feeding off your Intelligence Quotient and you end up losing.”
“Because you do not do your work and hand it in.”
“But teacher look, Faouk is here sleeping, me I am not sleeping, I am awake in the classroom studying.”
“Are you comparing yourself with Faouk?”
“But he is a student too and in my class teacher, he is sleeping, but me, I am not sleeping.”
“My question is why are you comparing yourself with Faouk? Why don’t you compare yourself with Sallendo?”
“Sallendo? Sallendo is crazy teacher. He is too serious. Always study, study, and more study. No smile, no play. He is crazy!”
“That is exactly my point, you don’t need to compare yourself with Faouk who is always sleeping, sleeping, sleeping and not doing any work. Compare yourself with your true potential, your true capabilities and as your teacher I can tell you that you are under performing. You need to step up your game. You understand me Samba?”
“What are you going to do now?”
“Go inside and do my work.”
Samba went inside. Faouk turned over and curled himself up some more and changed snoring gears.
Once inside Samba picked his papers up to do the right thing.
Mr. Nsutomkpoidomi heaved a sigh of relief, one major work has been accomplished, and now to the next one. He pulled Faouk up by his ears, held him by his shoulders and addressed him sternly.
“Now listen up, I am not going to fold my arms and watch you fail. You are way smarter than you are acting right now Faouk. You sit in the class and mess about. Those who are not half as intelligent as you do their work; hand in their papers and get their marks, while you sit there and wallop in laziness. Don’t think that I hate you. I love you and care about you, but if you ever fall asleep again in class, and if you don’t get your assignment done in the next 50 minutes, then I will be forced to make you clean all the litter in the playground after break.”
Faouk was fully awake by now, his eyes popped on hearing the word ‘litter’. The playground was always very dirty after break. Despite all the bins lined by the playground walls, the students were fond of messing the playground up, and the cleaner employed by the school couldn’t even keep up the cleaning pace. No student would ever want to dream of picking the litter from the playground; talk more of actually doing so.
“Oh no teacher, you won’t give me such punishment?”
“Don’t dare me Faouk. Now move your butt inside the classroom and get on with your work.”
“Thank you teacher, I will do my work now teacher” Faouk replied, walking back to the classroom.
“One more thing, Faouk.”
“While you are at it, remember you’ve only got 50 minutes, ok?”
Day in day out, such sessions continued with Mr. Nsutomkpoidomi talking to students outside, inside, in an office, quietly, with a stern tone, with data analysis, and so forth. Yet, some are salvaged and some are lost. He labored at taking care of other peoples’ children while he was still praying to have at least one child from his 8 years marriage.
Experience had taught Mr. Nsutomkpoidomi not to waste all his time on those who do not even want to be salvaged. Better lose one, two, three, four, perhaps five, than lose the entire class because all the energy is devoted on the recalcitrant students. That same energy could and should be invested on the ones with the right attitude and the results are always fascinating. The other ones will catch up sooner or later or perhaps never. However, a teacher who has walked his beat like Mr. Nsutomkpoidomi could never ever be accused of negligence.
*Habibi- colloquial Arabic meaning my friend, darling or dear one.