Make the decision to change your perception, then change your life.
|A good lesson
The excitement is wearing off, but the enthusiasm is still going strong. After all, Jessie concludes as she stops outside her door to put on her jacket, who goes into education and sticks it out for 10 years if not lovers of knowledge and those who want to pass it on? Jessie sighs. Perhaps at some point the hammering heart and feeling that she doesn’t belong will subside or disappear before she reaches the gate, and it will be exposed as the product of an awfully overactive imagination.
“Are you coming, Jess?” Denise is looking at her, hands on hips, a gentle smile on her lean, brown face, simultaneously acknowledging Jessie’s reverie, but also encouraging her to let go of the day. The Lord is standing at the gate, seeing the staff off. “See you tomorrow, don’t work too hard,” he calls out gaily to Mrs Chetty’s niece and Mr Reddy. Jessie recalls hearing colleagues mention that Mr Reddy would be the next vice- principal, following Mrs Chetty who has been working there almost as long as Jessie. “Yes, I saw that Reddy did not attend the function the other evening,” Denise says as if reading her mind. “Wonder what the excuse was for that.” Rumours are also doing the rounds that those in the “inner circle” – sitting at the same table in the staffroom, at functions, selected to go on extended workshops during the term, having misdemeanours overlooked… -were the ones who would progress fast at that institution. Mrs Jordanis waiting impatiently by her car. “Come, guys, traffic!”
As they approach the gate, Lord averts his gaze, and it is so painfully obvious to the driver and passengers that he is not going to acknowledge them.
Mrs Jordan looks at Jessi, seemingly unperturbed at being ignored. “I believe that Shaira Chetty, newly appointed a year ago, will now be moderating your papers, Jessi.” Jessie blushes, her heart starting to hammer against her ribcage.
“God provides. I come here to do a job. If I am not deemed to be sufficiently capable of becoming a moderator, … “ Jessi pauses. Ten years of giving her all, trying to benefit these kids with her knowledge, striving daily to encourage them to work ever harder, divert their admiring gaze from what get-rich-quick gangster activity can offer, and meting out (unpopularly so) tough love to achieve these goals, constantly striving to improve her own knowledge by continuing her studies…And then they look right past you. She bit her lip, the sharp edges of her uneven teeth cutting into the soft flesh of her full lips. “Doesn’t matter. I’m trying to focus on becoming the best that I can at what I’m doing,” she continues lamely. She cannot look either of them in the face.
“Aw, man, don’t worry. Things will work out. I wanted to tell you, “ Samuels continues shyly, “that I have received another prophecy. I have been told that I should leave. My destiny is elsewhere.”
Jessie blinks, confused.
“Leaving? For Australia? But these kids love you!” she protested.
“Yes, and perhaps there is a lesson there, friend. We are exactly where we are meant to be, for a season, even if we don’t always understand why…”
“ Hey, now who will brave the taxi with me if Mrs Jordan is unavailable, and who will metaphorically slap me back to my senses with a gentle reprimand when I wallow too deeply in misery?” Jessie is trying hard not to show her disappointment. It seems impossible that amongst a group of twenty educators, she should have only two friends. Who does that?
“He has spoken, my friend. One door closes, and all that jazz.”
“You’ll still have me, Jessie. When I’m available,” Mrs Jordan laughed. This banter continued until they dropped Sammy at the terminus.
“My hubby will be back late tonight, and my sister from New Zealand is visiting, so I don’t know how much grading I will get done. Wish me loads of energy for the next few hours,” Sammy quips.
Jessie looks at her admiringly as she walks. “What a great person she is, looking after other people’s children and taking her as their own, at her young age, and on top of her own two teenagers.” Jessie shook her head. “I could never do that."
Mrs Jordan smiled briefly. “It takes all sorts, Jess. Here’s your stop.”
The next day she took her seat next to Denise, who squints at her from under long red lashes. “Don’t ask. I did nothing. Nothing.” Denise takes a long drink from her coffee. “How did it go with your grading?"
“Nothing to it, friend. I’ll come to you this afternoon to help, if you like.” Before Denise can respond, the Lord of the Manor speaks.
“Another beautiful day, and the long weekend awaits us. Next week, examinations start. Everyone is ready?” No one responds. He regards that as affirmation.” A few lame jokes follow, and the chosen ones as well as the hopefuls ooh, aah and laugh when expected. Jessie doesn't, never looks at him.
Never will she forget what happened on her birthday a few weeks ago. She was called to the office to discuss her admin. He opened his lambasting, as usual, with inanities to “set her at ease.” "How’s the kids? Everything o.k. with the granny?” “They’re fine.” She never volunteered information, never enquired about his family. He didn’t really care about hers. Jessie did not believe in pretension. If she disapproved, her face would reveal it. Her whole attitude would. Perhaps that is the problem. She does not go out of her way to please. And she speaks her mind on occasion.
Mrs Chetty, slim, blonde and youthful for her age , entered with the file Jessie handed in the day before. She was unable to purchase a new one before handing in. Appearances count.
“Now, you know that evaluations are not just about what happens in the class, but also about how you keep your books. This,…,” he barked, the expression on his swarthy face suddenly distorted with distaste, “this is only good enough to throw in the toilet pot.” He paused, as if daring Jessie to object. She did.
“My records are up to date…”
“Professionalism, Miss,” he interrupted. “Your rubrics are incomplete, and your assessments were handed in half an hour after Mrs Chetty requested it. This,“ he blared, handing the file to Mrs Chetty, who did not think to acknowledge Jessie’s presence in the office, of which the door was open for all the world outside the office to hear, “will be copied and kept for the district manager when he next visits. You have a warning. ” He turned to Mrs Chetty to give further instructions, as if Jessie had already left the office. Stunned, Jessie hurriedly got up, rushing to get through the door before the first tears came.
Out by the door. Instead of returning to her class, she headed for the library; no one was there that time of the day. It came before she reached the library: a deluge. The aftermath of months of being picked on, singled out by Lord for negative attention, to the extent that even that wonderfully polite boy who, as opposed to her, was a people-pleaser, was severely reprimanded in front of his classmates, for standing on the desk to fix the curtain. All because he had a mother who was not a chosen one (his mother had been let go and the niece of someone the principal knew appointed instead), and because the despicable Jessie was his favourite teacher. Jessie knew his father would not fight her dismissal, like the two or three other husbands, and two or three other teachers, who had already laid a complaint against him.
What a birthday.
Jessie, spent, dried her tears, hoping no one in the library (today there were kids) had heard her. Rushing to the toilet, she washed her face. Forcing herself to smile bravely, she straightened her curly brown hair. She remembered seeing rubrics of another teacher who happened to be friends with Mrs Chetty. It had been approved, and Jessie’s rubrics had more detail.
She was struck with an awful realization. He wasn’t going to stop, until he was stopped. At that moment, something inside her changed. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” She had survived a disastrous first marriage, twice. being penniless for a year. Looking after herself from a very young age. There was a reason she was still there. That was where she was meant to be. Everything in life is a lesson, and good things come to those who wait. Clichés aside, she couldn’t wait to see how life would repay his tireless efforts at razing to the ground those who did not enjoy his favour, and raising in position those who did.
Slowly, with all the dignity she could muster, Jessie walked to her class, a steely resolve reflected in her amber eyes.
With the same resolve, she gets up from her chair, a sudden calm suffusing her being. Throwing her long curls right back, she glides past him with a smile on her face. Who cares what he thinks? She has more important things to take care of.