A classroom experience

School days are a good reference to look back to. They don’t only bring back memories but they are an important source of information.

By Akif Abdulamir (Desert Classics)

  • Follow us on
  • google-news
  • whatsapp
  • telegram

Published: Sat 26 Nov 2011, 8:56 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 9:54 AM

The funny thing is that, with no apparent reason, memory of one occasion has always remained vivid in my mind. For a group of fifteen year-olds, it is always fun to roll papers and throw at each other in the classroom when the teacher is not looking. But that was not one of the proudest moments of my school days. A turning point came when our teacher got fed up with our pranks. One day, he picked up one of the rolled up papers, put it gently on the table and looked sternly at us. When the giggles from the naughtiest girls died down, the teacher raised his right hand and stuck out four fingers.

He very calmly asked, “who is the cleverest of you who can count these fingers?” The answer was obvious but we kept quiet, our minds busy questioning the motive of the question. He repeated the question and again there was silence. Then from the back of the room, a small voice from the smallest kid in the class, said, “ three.” None of us were surprised at the answer. We had already dismissed him as a dumb boy knowing that he was mentally challenged. To our surprise, the teacher said it was a correct count. He walked to the back of the class and rewarded the boy with money. He then walked back, picked up the paper roll and asked another question, “who would like to catch it?” He threw it up in the air and none of us made a move to get it. It landed on the head of a girl in the middle and dropped on the floor. He then turned to the writing board and started the lesson. I don’t remember anybody else in that class throwing things at each other from that point onward. I guess there are more than the core lessons to be learned in any classroom environment. If I look back at the days when a fifteen year old would look for attention at any cost, I find the experience quite stupid. But then, I guess it was part of growing up. How on earth, at this age, can we deal with the many challenges we face without experience? Since we spend nearly half of our growing life in a classroom, teachers do provide the backbone of that experience. When he stuck out his fingers, he was asking us the obvious, really telling us, there is no hidden agenda in knowledge.

The irony was that, while we were busy playing pranks, the mentally challenged kid was the only one who was paying attention to the teacher. For many years, I wondered if the teacher was trying to prove a point when he accepted the wrong answer from the count of his fingers. Now, I am convinced that he was. Unlike throwing paper rolls, not everything can be seen with a naked eye. We all saw four fingers and so had the backroom kid. But he saw more than that. Since he never participated in any classroom discussion before that, for him it was an opportunity to break his own tradition. The teacher sensed that and he had to encourage it. None of that was planned but from a bad situation, cropped up a useful one. Not only our paper throwing days came to an end but the boy moved to the front row and made reasonable improvement.

Akif Abdulamir is an Oman-based writer

More news from