|Thomas had woken up after four hours and was trying to get back to sleep.
His first waking thoughts had also been his last the night before.
One of his students had dropped out of his English class. Losing students bothered him and he wondered if there was anything he could have done differently.
Abdulrahman Mosin was one of two students who'd received Thomas's 'naughty letter'. The other was Ahmed.
The letter pointed out that they were tardy, lazy, hadn't shown any signs of progress and were on course for failing the class. However, it also told them that if they rectified this, they would probably pass.
There were always one or two students who needed a "kick up the arse" and the letter usually did the trick. With lower level students, he'd ask Asfaquar from customer services to translate it to make sure they understood.
He knew the letter sounded blunt but it was designed to have an impact, and the simple language was to ensure students understood. Besides, Asfaquar's translation always softened it.
When last nights class began, Ahmed, for the first time, was sat ready with his completed homework. Abdulrahman's seat, as usual, was empty. Thomas acknowledged Ahmed's punctuality with a subtle thumbs up.
The classroom door opened after twenty minutes, and Thomas was surprised to see Asfaquar's anxious face.
"Hi Thomas. Abdulrahman's father is here. Can you speak to him?"
"Yeah, two minutes?"
"Mr Thomas, my son is really angry. He won't come back. He said he needs a lower level class."
"Well, Mr Mosin, this is the lowest level class we run. Abdulrahman began with the same English as his classmates. We reviewed the alphabet, numbers and drilled classroom language and basic sentence structures. It was the most basic instruction."
"But my son didn't understand."
"Mr Mosin, your son arrives twenty minutes late and misses the instruction. When he gets to class, they're practicing and he's behind. Then he has a thirty minute break instead of ten and doesn't attempt to speak English or do any homework."
The old man sighed in resignation,
"Ah, Mr Thomas, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink, right?"
He offered his hand to signal a conclusion. As Thomas took it, he thought of his own sons and his hopes for their future and of Ahmed's positive reaction to the letter.
"Mr Mosin, another student received the same letter. He arrived on time tonight with his homework complete."
He leaned forward and looked into the old man's eyes,
"Sometimes you have to do more than just lead the horse to water. Sometimes the horse needs a tug on the reigns to encourage it to drink."
He watched the old man contemplate this then stood to leave the room.
"Your son's welcome back to class any time. Nice to meet you Mr Mosin."
Thomas wondered what his son would do at nursery today. He breathed out slowly and let his heavy eyelids close.
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