(about 1100 words)
Fatima shuddered as she saw her ten year-old son, Jassim with his head down in an obvious pout as he approached the Lexus SUV. Behind him marched Mrs. Bos, his teacher, looking stern, her diminutive frame only slightly smaller than her charge in front of her. A tear started to form in the corner of Fatima’s eye in anticipation of the bad news that must be coming when the two arrived at the vehicle.
This had been such a good year for Jassim, who was just two weeks away from completing his fourth grade. The previous three years had been disasters for Jassim, who was always in trouble with one teacher or another, or with the principal. Why did they all have to pick on him? Was it his extra-large size? Was it that he was the only National in his grade? Or was he naturally a trouble-maker?
This year Mrs. Bos had turned it all around for Jassim and he was blossoming into the fine young man that Fatima and Hassan had hoped for their son. Jassim, who had proclaimed at the start of the year, “I never thought I would ever make it to grade four,” had nothing but respect and admiration for Mrs. Bos, who had been stern, but fair with him all year. That’s what made this impeding approach all the more frightening. If Mrs. Bos had bad news, then it must be real, not made up like the others.
Jassim opened the rear door and bounced his rear into the plush leather seat, slamming the door behind him, with his head still bowed in obvious disappointment. Mrs. Bos approached the driver’s door as Fatima pushed the button to lower the window.
“Did Jassim do something wrong Mrs. Bos?” Fatima quivered. She was always in control of her situations, but this tiny teacher erased her confidence.
“Fatima,” Mrs. Bos started with a firm voice and solemn look, “you should be very proud of your son.” She continued, but now with a broad smile stretching across her face. Fatima looked to the rear seat to see Jassim with a big smile, his fake pout now erased. Then he began to laugh as he looked at his mother’s worried face.
“We got her, didn’t we Mrs. Bos?” Jassim laughed out loud.
“You got her, Jassim. This was your idea,” Mrs. Bos joined Jassim with a laugh. Jassim had concocted the ruse on the way to the car and Mr. Bos agreed to be complicit.
“Will someone tell me what’s going on?” Fatima said, half laughing, half crying.
“I just wanted to tell you what Jassim did today that made me feel very proud of him. Jassim decided on the way to the car that he wanted to play a little trick on you and I went along. I hope you aren’t upset,” Mrs. Bos explained.
“Hamdolila, thank goodness. I was so worried that Jassim might be in trouble again. If Jassim is not in any trouble, then how can I be upset? Please, tell me your story.”
Mrs. Bos began to relay the events that had taken place since the lunch hour at school. When classes resumed after lunch, Mrs. Bos entered her classroom which was unusually silent, even though all the students were in their desks. Haruna and Lauren both had their heads on their arms, faces buried in obvious sobs. Mrs. Bos, not wanting to interfere with individual spats was about to start the afternoon lessons, beginning with a trip to music class, when Jassim, not noted for his diplomacy, asked Mrs. Bos if he could address the class.
Mrs. Bos had emphasized with the students all year that they must take responsibility and accountability, so when any one of them made such a request it was hard for her to say no. However, with Jassim, she never knew what might come out of his mouth. He was a good, well-meaning boy, but often pushed a bit too far causing grief for himself and for others, thus his reputation in the school for being a trouble-maker. Only this year, with continual guidance from Mrs. Bos, had Jassim been able to control his impulses.
With some trepidation, Mrs. Bos agreed to let Jassim address the class, but she remained ready to pull him off the stage if he went too far.
“Everyone, listen to me. We only have two weeks left of school and we may not all be in the same class again, or might not even see each other again.” Jassim began with an unusual display of control and maturity. “We all saw the fight between Lauren and Haruna on the school ground. I want everyone to be quiet while I speak to them.” Dead silence filled the usually boisterous grade-four classroom.
“Lauren, Haruna, listen up. You two have been best friends since kindergarten. You can’t let a little spat ruin a life-long friendship. This is the end of grade four. This is no way to end the year. You two need to make-up before you never speak to each other again. We have music class right away and we are all going, except you two. You girls must talk in out and settle your differences right now.” Jassim plunked himself down in his desk without another word and looked at Mrs. Bos.
The remainder of the class had never held Jassim in high regard, due to his previous antics, but the entire room broke out in spontaneous applause for his eloquent address.
Mrs. Bos was the one to issue orders, not the students, but she couldn’t find it in her to overrule this mature common-sense message coming from this young man, especially with the universal acceptance from the remainder of the class. Choking back a sob, she nodded at Jassim and said, “Thank you Jassim. That was excellent; I couldn’t have put it better.” She and the remaining students left the two sobbing young girls alone in the classroom and marched to the music room.
Upon returning to their home classroom, Mrs. Bos and the rest of the students, including a beaming Jassim, saw the two young girls in a strong embrace.
Lauren looked at Jassim, and while she had her arm around Harun and said, “Thank you, Jassim. You were right. We need to stay friends.”
Fatima’s face glistened with the tears that rolled down her face, as Mrs. Bos finished her story.
“Are you OK, Mom,” Jassim called from the back, his smug look turning to concern at the sight of his mother’s tears.
“Yes, my son. I’m OK. Mrs. Bos is right. I am very proud of you.”