I don’t condone violence as a teacher: the children here quickly realised that the ‘Muzungu’ teacher will not hit them, but today it was a pupil who stepped in to help out with some of my ‘discipline’…

Scenario: quite chatty P7 class (but who could blame them). The time was just after midday, I had already taught them at 7.30am, it was the school holidays, and they were made to come back in and have ‘holiday lessons’ to make sure they pass exams. After a few requests for all pupils to be quiet I decided to move one of the ‘chatty back-seat’ boys to the front. He refused. I signalled again: he still refused, and other pupils started to beckon him to move to the front. Instead, he moved to the opposite side of the room and took up another ‘back-seat’. I repeated my instructions and said that he saw where I pointed and he should move there. He slowly got up, shuffled his way towards the front and then called out something to me in Luo (the local language). I assumed this was some sort of insult. (Now, my mind is in fourth gear: how do I deal with this situation – they didn’t teach me this at my London uni!). Instantly a girl in the front row got up, ‘decked him’ and he fell flat to the floor. Shortly afterwards he got up and had a ‘scuffle’ with the girl and were soon pulled apart by other pupils. (Now in fifth gear: what will I do?). Hmmm wait for them to calm down and then continue teaching. After setting an exercise I quietly asked the girl what the boy had said. His apparent insult was “I am an Acholi, so you talk to me in Acholi, you tell me to sit in the local language”. Not as bad as I thought, but I still have to do something. Hmmm: tell another teacher and he will be beaten to bruises…. I wait… and think… then go and approach him, kneeling next to him. I told him I was confused and needed his help to understand some things. I ask him what language the subject is in and what language the  exam is in he just sat. English. It then went something like this: “My mother tongue is English. My first language is English. I am from Australia and England. Your first language is not English. Do you want to improve your English? Do you want to get better in the exam?” (I get a meek yes in response).  “I left England and came here to help you improve your English and so you would get better results at school. I cam here to help P7 at Layibi Techo improve their English. I like you. You are a bright boy (smartest in the class). You could go to university. You could have a very bright future ahead of you. But you won’t if you continue to act like that. You need to think with your heart and your head before you act. You keep this up and no one will like you, no one will respect you, and you will not have a good future in life. I am your English teacher and you should respect me. I am here for you but it’s your future and you need to make the right decisions.” By now tears are streaming down his face and he is shielding his head in his arms. Did I break him? Did I succeed? Did I fail? Did I show weakness in how I reacted? Time will tell…


7 responses »

  1. Mark Tatton says:

    Easy on the emotions, Jodes, or you might invoke some tears; got a macho image to maintain here.

  2. Leah says:

    Good work Jody…a very tough situation and well handled!

  3. Jen Spencer says:

    Wow Jode! You are amazing and gracious! May the HS continue to be the one who leads and guides and empowers you in each and every situation you find yourself in. You’re rockin it!

  4. Elle says:

    Wow Jode, what a powerful way to handle that situation, I hear a huge impact on the little boy. It sounds like a positive impact, love to hear the follow up on how he goes. Very impressive 🙂 xx

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