Number one for English language teachers

Anecdote: An outsider in the classroom

Type: Anecdote

A heartwarming story from Mohamed Miled.

It happened at the beginning of my teaching career. I was teaching then at a private school at the opening of a school year in the late eighties. I was with a class of young people aged between 19 and 22 - this was the usual age range for students in the final (seventh) grade of the secondary cycle. No adult students were expected to attend-except on very rare occasions. Five  minutes after I began the session I noticed two silhouettes through the window. One was the headmaster and the other was a well-dressed person walking with all respect.

The headmaster introduced the newcomer briefly,

'Mr. X would like to attend a session to get and idea,' he said.

The headmaster didn’t say any more; he seemed in a hurry. After we shook hands, Mr X came in and seated himself next to a young, smart girl. By then I was wondering:

'Who could he be? What would he like to have an idea of: my teaching, the class, the school, or his own English skills? Was he an inspector?'

Yes, I was embarrassed for not knowing the drive behind his presence. He was a tall, imposing figure of about 45 years old (I was only 26 then) sitting in my class with all the respect and serenity in the world. He said not a word while his classmates did participate actively.

Once everyone left the classroom, he came to talk with me. As it was the last afternoon session, he suggested going to a café where he ordered a hookah! Then he told me his story. He was working as a member of a hospital staff and a certain senior post happened to become vacant. Some people proposed him for the vacant position. But others objected for, they said, he didn’t have even the baccalaureate certificate.

As he was told about this, he was deeply affected. His instant decision was to go back to the school benches-which he left in the sixth grade of the secondary education. He was determined to study and get the baccalaureate certificate. Yet he was not sure whether he was still able to study or not; thus he came to my session to get an idea about his readiness. And the girl he sat beside was none other than his daughter. Of course I sympathized with him and appreciated his resolution. I helped him as much as I could even outside school. Despite the age difference we did become friends for a while.

Epilogue: Mr. X and his daughter passed the baccalaureate exams that year. He passed with high honors! He went to study law in a nearby city and got a university degree after five years!!

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