Saturday, February 28, 2009

Oh, Susanna!

I don’t like Sister Suzy at all. I don’t think any of my students like her, either. She teaches them math (or, as they say in Ghana, “maths,” and the th sound is swallowed so that it sounds like “mass”). I’m usually teaching another class while she’s teaching them, but one time I sat at my desk correcting homework during the first part of her lesson. This is how it went...

She had a pile of exercise books on Adwoa’s desk. She picked up each book, one by one, and read out the name.


Henry walked up to the front of the class to collect his book.

“Turn around,” Suzy instructed. “You got the answers wrong.”

Henry obediently turned around... and received two lashes, right there in the front of the entire class. He winced, scrunched up his face, but managed to walk bravely back to his seat when his beating was over.

“You may sit down,” Suzy said. “Next! Stephanie”

Stephanie went up to get her homework book, but she also had made a few mistakes, so Suzy lashed her twice, too. Stephanie pleaded with her not to lash, and tried to edge her way out of a beating, but to no avail. When she walked back to her desk, she looked like she was about to cry.

One by one, over half of the students went up to collect their books and to receive lashes because they missed some of the problems. I only remember two or three who had gotten all the answers correct and were allowed to collect their books without being lashed.

When Adwoa’s desk was empty of books, she called up the children who hadn’t turned their homework in at all.

“Elorm! Come forward.” When he was before her, Suzy lashed Elorm, once, twice. Rubbing his buttocks, he started walking towards his desk. “Wait! You’re not finished yet!” she said. “You get two lashes if you got any answers wrong, but you didn’t turn in your homework at all. You get more lashes, for that.”

Etc. What a wicked witch!

Now I understand why all my students hate maths. They dread it like a visit to the dentist. Poor dears... they have it three or four times a week, too! I hope they get good math teachers in the upper classes, otherwise I’m sure they’ll hate math for life. I imagine that after having Suzy as a teacher, they’ll grow up hating all nuns, as well.

They love English class. Love it! They become excited about it. “We have English class today, Miss Kate!” I’ve never seen kids more excited about learning English! I wonder how much of their enthusiasm is from their love of English and how much of it is from their love of their English teacher (me!). It’s really cute and really encouraging. If I can make them excited about learning English... think about how far they could go in life!

I never lash them. Ever. Although, if they’re being really bad, I “sack them out” of the class and make them stand in the hallway with their nose touching the wall until I call them back in. If another teacher walks by and catches them fooling around and decides to lash them, I don’t stop it. That was our agreement. Rule #5. Obedient Classroom - NO CANING. I promised I would never cane them, but they must listen to me, because if another teacher thinks I can’t handle the classroom, he might come in and cane them. And it has happened a few times, when another teacher who was passing by heard the racket those two or three troublesome kids were making and lashed them. I felt bad about it, but once they witness one of their classmates being caned, the rest of the class is REALLY good for the rest of the day. I told them that if they are obedient, they will never be caned, because even the other teachers won’t have a reason to lash them.

However, being obedient in Suzy’s class is no guarantee that they won’t be lashed.

Yesterday, I had just finished English class in 4A when Elsie, one of my girls in 4B, came to the door, rubbing her arm. She looked like she was about to cry.

“Elsie! What’s wrong, my dear?” I asked, concerned.

“Sister Suzy lashed me and Lina because we didn’t know the answer in class,” she said.

“What? Wait, you were lashed just because you couldn’t solve it?” I asked in disbelief. Elsie nodded. “Were you trying?”

“Yes, we tried, but we got it wrong. Sister Suzy lashed my arm, and she lashed Lina’s arm so hard there’s blood.”

Oooh, that made me SO mad! It’s one thing to be rude to me -- I can deal with that -- but to lash my girls just because they got the answer wrong in class! It’s probably not even their fault... if they couldn’t figure it out, it must mean that she didn’t teach it properly. I especially couldn’t believe that Lina was lashed! Lina is always very quiet in class and always does her homework. She’s so sweet and meek and I can’t imagine EVER laying a finger on her! How DARE Suzy do that to her!

A couple hours later, after closing, I talked to Lina about it. Just the remembering what happened made her eyes water. She showed me the scar on her arm from the lashing. I gave her a big hug and told her how sorry I was that she was lashed. I reassured her that she’s a very smart, beautiful girl, so please don’t think otherwise. Her twin sister, Lisa, who is in the other class (4A), moaned that if Lina got the answer wrong, she would also get it wrong and be lashed during the next maths lesson.

I’m the exact opposite of Suzy. I always encourage the kids to try to answer, and I don’t put them down if they get it wrong. “Thank you for trying!” Even if a student writes the wrong answer on the board, I make the rest of the class to clap for him or her for trying. “It’s okay to make mistakes!” I tell them. “Everyone makes mistakes. Even I make mistakes. Plus, you’re only in Class 4! You’re still learning! You’re not professionals yet.”

I REALLY dislike Suzy now more than ever for what she did to my kids. I know if I talked to her about, it wouldn’t make a difference; she doesn’t respect me at all. I think I’ll say something to the Headmistress when she returns next week. That’s really so unfair the way Suzy treats these kids!

1 comment:

DeeDee said...

It must be hard to see that happening to your students. The kids will remember how kind you are to them. You may not feel it at times, but you ARE making a difference in their lives!!