Teachers need tact to deal with kids

Tsale Makam

Tsale Makam

Untactful teachers have no business teaching lower grades.

Everyone must have had a loud and obnoxious teacher at some point in their lives. The kind that can scar a child's life, the kind that has no business being a teacher.

Enter Miss Mbuli, a sub B [grade 2] teacher at Ashdown Primary School in Pietermaritzburg decades ago.

A mooi van ver, fair-complexioned, voluptuous woman, she was loud to boot. Her demeanour was more that of a shebeen queen than a teacher.

Even with our seven or eight-year-old eyes, we knew she was just too much. Rough around the edges. At that age, children need firm but loving teachers, not shrews and banshees like her.

I still vividly remember how she loudly booted me out of the music class for singing out of tune, how I dragged myself out amid sniggers from classmates, how I dared not go back into my classroom and explain this to my class teacher.

While I was licking my wounds where I was hiding behind some classrooms, my wonderful class teacher, an elderly woman, appeared out of nowhere.

She caringly took me by the hand and led me back to the music class. My teacher asked lightly, treading carefully: "Uyixosheleni ingane yami? [Why have you expelled my child?]" To which Miss Mbuli promptly and callously responded dismissively, waving us away with the back of her hand: "Iyabhimba suka! [She can't sing, go away!]"

My teacher went and whispered something into her ear and I was allowed to rejoin the class.

As if that was not enough, Miss Mbuli walked slowly past every one, her hand cupped to her ear, intimidatingly passing her ear by every one's mouth. Fearing more embarrassment, I immediately switched to miming.

When she got to me, I continued miming as if I was doing nothing wrong. I exhaled as she passed me without an expected rude comment or kicking me out again. I think she was a sadist.

To add insult to injury, my siblings found this hilarious. Even my mother, who I had hoped would go and rearrange the loudmouth's face, was stifling a laugh.

I continued miming throughout the music sessions. We were practising for the local music competition in Ashdown. We won the first position trophy. On the day of the competition I did not mime. I sang my heart out. I felt triumphant and vindicated.