Friday, June 26 continued
About 20 minutes later, Mr. Caesar walked back in holding two students, one boy and one girl.
“See, we were just talking about students misbehaving, and look what happens when I leave the classroom to get some chalk,” he said, opening his palm to show two white sticks. “I come back and they are all fighting. Look what he did to her eye.”
The girl had two drops of blood in the corner of her eye. The boy was hanging his head.
“I told you I would try other ways, but this is unacceptable,” Mr. Caesar said.
“What happened?” I asked the students, getting out of my chair and sliding around the desk. “Wait, first, what are your names?” Let’s call them J and B. “You hurt her?” I said to J, crouching down so that I was at his eye-level.
He shook his head.
I turned to the girl, B. She said he’d been mad at her for talking but she wasn’t, and then he hit her with his pen. I asked J, and he said he didn’t think she had been talking, he’d just turned around and hit her with his pen by accident.
“Well, I don’t know what happened,” I said, “but either way, you were misbehaving, J, and you hurt her, and that’s one of the worst things you can do. You should never hurt your classmates. Can you please apologize to B? Are you sorry for what you did?”
J nodded and mumbled something.
“I can’t hear you, what did you say?
He spoke a little louder and said what I gather was “sorry” in Dangme, the local dialect.
“Can you look in B’s eyes, and say it in English too?”
J glanced up and mumbled, “Sorry.”
The teachers were fidgeting at their desks. They itched for their canes. “Kneel over there!” one of them said.
“Give me this, please?” I said shrilly. “J, I’m trying to get you not caned. Please look at B and apologize like you mean it.”
This time he did: “I’m sorry, B.”
“B, do you accept his apology?”
She nodded. “I forgive you.”
“Thank you. Now J, what you did was serious. I don’t want them to cane you, but it can’t go without punishment. I need you to write me a letter explaining why you’re sorry and it won’t happen again. I don’t want excuses, I want to see that you understand and are truly sorry. If the letter is good, I will ask the other teachers to consider not caning you. Okay?”
“Bring it to me at your next break.”
Mr. Caesar brought the students back to class, and I sat at my desk with a sigh of relief.
One small victory? Let’s hope that letter’s good.