Student or Savior | Act Youth Force
It was a bright sunny day when the seventh grade students filtered into the class chattering and laughing, making their way towards their respective seats. All were happily gossiping with their friends while on the last bench, a boy sat unsmiling. His hair was a messy bunch and he was in a disheveled condition with crinkled, half-tucked shirt and worn-out shoes. Nobody paid him any attention; it even looked like as if the other students were avoiding him altogether. To Miss Tania, he presented a very sorry and worrisome sight.
Miss Tania had been a Science teacher in this school for about almost a year and these seventh graders were her best students so far. Except for that distraught-looking boy, Haider. From the start, she had noticed a major difference between him and his other class-fellows. His mind was as disheveled as his appearance, if not more. He didn’t seem to pay any attention in class. Didn’t participate in any of the in-class or out-class activities. Moreover, he didn’t have any friends. In the beginning, Miss Tania tried to coerce him to study by scolding him, calling out to him in class or just frustratingly admonishing him for his continuous bad grades. However, Haider never seemed to listen. So, after some months, she just stopped saying anything and just started giving him a big red “F”. She even felt a vindictive joy in doing so as for her, he was a student who didn’t heed her words and was now going to be the reason for her to lose the ‘Best Teacher Award’ this year. She let other students make fun of Haider; after all he deserved it, didn’t he?
This day was no different. She handed out the graded quiz to her students and said, “You all did well, that is, almost all. There is this boy who failed as usual.” Saying this, she gave a look to Haider while the whole class turned and stared at him, everyone laughing at him under their breaths. Since finals were coming, Miss Tania had asked them to bring their previous report cards as she wanted to get an idea of their performances in the past years. As she went through the reports, she came across Haider’s. She prepared herself for the expected remarks of his old teachers about how incompetent he was. However, she was in for a shock. All his report cards had praises written for him on how academically brilliant he was, a little shy, but brilliant and his excellent mannerism was mentioned more than a few times. Until the last two report cards. Where it was written that his mother’s death took a mental toll on Haider and he started to change as a person, becoming less interested in studies and more introverted day by day. All these reports made Miss Tania’s head to spin. She felt extremely embarrassed and a bit angry at herself. It was time to mend her error.
The next day, she started by changing her tactics altogether. She silently handed Haider his graded quiz. The usually expressionless boy looked up at her in surprise for she had given him a D for ‘attempting’. She smiled lightly. It started small. The change. With her not allowing anyone to demean Haider and actually admonishing the students in private and telling them to show some empathy towards him, involving Haider in class activities and praising him for his efforts even if all he did was to stand silently for a project. When students brought gifts wrapped in fine sparkling papers for her birthday, she also received a lumpy parcel packed in a simple brown sheet. It was from Haider. She opened it and out came an emerald bracelet with a few stones missing and a half-filled bottle of Kasturi (deer musk). The whole class laughed at the miserable looking things. However, Miss Tania shushed them, put on the bracelet and sprayed a little of the scent on herself. This act changed something in Haider. He came up to her and hugged her lightly, whispering, ‘You smell like my Mother, Miss Tania’, and it took all her courage not to break down then and there.
Nine whole years have passed since then and she couldn’t have been more grateful and proud when she received a letter from her favorite student asking her to attend his graduation ceremony. She made sure to wear that mostly stone-less bracelet and the Kasturi scent as she stood in the front row with tears in her eyes watching Haider receive his Graduation Certificate with highest honor. She clapped enthusiastically with the rest of the hall as Haider made his way towards her, sending a silent thanks to the Almighty for blessing her with a student who changed her as a teacher and as a mentor forever.