I knew something was wrong the minute I walked into my form room.
They were quiet. Very quiet. And, the classroom was clean. Chairs and desks were in order and there were no candy wrappers, pencil shavings or crushed paper strewn on the floor. Something was up.
“What are you planning?” I asked.
They stared at me. Faces as innocent as a criminal on trial day.
“What you mean miss?” The speaker was Delano Clarke aka BAFF. An acronym his classmates used instead of ‘big and fool-fool’. I responded,
“The last time you guys were this good, there was a water war, 3 fights and two cases of missing cell-phones. What do you have up your sleeves today?”
“You seet,” Delano said. “You see why me tell onnu not to tidy up the classroom fi miss.”
“A true man,” Someone in the middle chimed in. “look how we decide to surprise her and she not even say thanks.”
I was not buying it. But, I quelled my gut feeling long enough to turn and write on the chalkboard. I headed up my subject topic and date, wrote my objectives, and made a sudden spin hoping to catch someone in an illicit act. No such luck. Nothing was awry. Nothing was wrong. Makak Moodie aka ‘Clitoris’, Boswell Clarke aka ‘Black & Shine’ and Clovis Jarrett aka ‘Cow Poke’, the usual troublemakers, were all in their seats. This should have placated my fears, but something about this scene still made me want to turn and run.
“You alright miss?” Someone from the back wanted to know. “How you so jumpy today?”
“Yea,” Clovis said. “Is like she paranoid star.”
I ignored them. Focus my attention on the only student in the class I could trust. The one I’d made Form Captain.
“Shango Simpson,” I said, “what are your classmates planning?”
“Nothing miss.” His face remained bland. “True a Teachers’ Day, the man them just decide to tidy up the classroom.”
I exhaled slowly. Now, their actions made sense. I told them,
“After eleven years, I hardly remember occasions like Teachers’ Day anymore. Thank you for making an effort to be nice. I hope it continues throughout the week.”
“Don’t push you luck!”
That was a shout from the back. I smiled and started my class.
“Today,” I said. “I would like us to have a discussion about Myths and Legends — specifically Jamaican Myths and Legends.”
That’s all I managed to get out. They were back to their usual selves.
“Micks and who she say?”
“Something ‘bout Legend, my yute”
“Which Legend, John?”
“She never say nothing ‘bout John Legend. Is Leggings she say.”
“Tights. A that them call leggings.”
“Fool, you a idiot? A English class this. Is must a book she a talk.”
The last response given brought some resolution to the discussion and I was able to retake control.
“Well, it’s not the singer, nor tights, or a book.” I told them. “These are things, ‘sayings’ you may hear your grandparents or parents quote.”
I wasn’t clear enough.
“Things like, if you walk under a broom you’ll have seven years of bad luck, or if you wash your face with salt water you’ll be able to see a ghost.”
“Oh,” Makak Moodie spoke, “things like if a man foot big, him have a big cock?”
Raucous laughter filled the classroom. Laughter which died when I said,
“Makak, that simply is not true.”
His four word response for the first time in my teaching career left me speechless. He asked,
“How you know miss?”
I stared at him stupefied. I couldn’t find a response amidst the hoots and irrepressible laughter.
Shango came to my rescue.
“For a class with pure man onnu love cock argument bad.”
That shut them up. I gave Shango a quick smile and went on with my lesson. All was going well. They were well-behaved, they were attentive, and I quickly forgot about my earlier fears that they were up to no good. I turned to erase my board and whispers of, “You see it? Me don’t see anything.” caused me to turn around.
“See what?” I asked.
They were silent.
Someone said, “Nothing miss.”
By now, I was beyond curious.
“Come on guys,” I told them. “We were having a great session. Let’s continue to be open and honest. Share with me. See what?”
A hand went up. Slowly, tentatively.
“Yes Makak,” I said. “Go ahead.”
“Well miss,” he said. “You been our teacher for almost a year and I — we — all of us — kind of curious.”
“Ok,” I told him, “Curiosity is fine. That’s where learning takes place.” I smiled at him, urged him to continue. I said, “Tell me, what are you curious about?”
“Miss,” he said. “Miss, we been looking and looking and we not seeing any panty line — miss, you wear panty?”
Written by Keisha Brissette