Head and Tails 1/3

By Drum Digital
14 November 2013

A true gentleman doesn't eavesdrop.

And I've always tried my best to behave like a true gentleman.

In my 30 years as a teacher here at George S Nkoni Secondary, I've tried to be a role model for my pupils. I believe it's important ? especially for our young boys ? to have a good example to follow. But I couldn't help overhearing! Truly! It wasn't my fault. There I was in the school corridor, looking for a roll of brown paper in the stock cupboard. And the door of our headmaster's office was slightly open. He was speaking loudly to someone although I couldn't see who it was. And he was speaking about me. I confess I quickly found the paper, quietly closed the stock cupboard and moved a little closer to the office door. And yes, I eavesdropped.

??Poor old Mr Lecoge,'' I heard our headmaster say. ??He really shouldn't be teaching still. He has become so forgetful! I suppose it's his age.'' Forgetful! How dare he say I was forgetful? How insulting and how untrue! I'm not forgetful. I can still recite the full zoological names of hundreds of animals. In proper Latin. And I often do, just to entertain my biology pupils in Grades 10 and 11. ??Canus mesomelas!''' I say in class. ??Tockus erythrorhynchus! Tadarida femorosacca! And that, my dear pupils, is a jackal, a hornbill and a bat!'' And my Grade 10s and 11s laugh. The point is: my memory is just fine.

But our headmaster's voice boomed on through the open door. ??And Mr Lecoge is becoming incompetent. Inefficient. You know those test papers that were due last Friday? Well, I'm still waiting for his papers to arrive on my desk for my signature.'' Now that was just unfair! Yes, we were all supposed to hand in the mid-term test papers last Friday. But our headmaster knows that I only hand in my test papers once I'm satisfied they are good and ready. After all, I'm head of the science department, so due dates don't apply to me. And our headmaster has always been happy with this before.

There has never been a problem. In fact the Grade 10 biology test papers were still lying spread on my desk back in my classroom. Right next to the jars and bottles containing insect specimens I'd brought back from my trip to Namaqualand.

There were still a few hard decisions I had to make about some of the test papers. You see, when I mark test papers, I don't just tick all the right answers and then add up the ticks and then scribble the total in red at the top of the test paper. And then put them in a neat pile on our headmaster's desk for his signature. Oh no! That's not my way.  I believe teachers don't just deal in hard facts, in right and wrong answers. We deal with young people. We deal with their hopes and dreams, their problems and stresses. And when I mark test papers, I think about these young people.

There's Charles Moloi, for instance. He  got a double F for his biology test. But I know Charles is having a hard time at home. His younger sister was attacked the day before the test. His whole family is in a terrible state. The last thing Charles needs right now is a double F. So the question is: can I find enough extra half-marks in his test to let him pass at least?

 To be continued...

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