From Start to Finish
I went to the grammar school that morning to start my teacher training. I think it was the teachers’ room I went to first for when they saw me they told me to leave the room immediately. I said: sorry but I am the new student teacher and I am supposed to start today. Oh, one of the teachers said: sorry but we took you for one of our students. A personal question if you don’t mind: how old are you? Well I said: I started school when I was six and now I have completed my university education. After that whenever I left school on my way home some girls sitting in front of their house doors started whispering when they saw me. I knew they were surprised for they had never seen a young teacher like me before. I then of course walked very proudly. I felt special.

Teachers were appointed by the state and I was sent to a grammar school about 200 km from where I lived. It was the day I left home and started my own life but most importantly I had a monthly salary of my own. Even before I got my first money cash on the barrel head my father demanded: Son, you need to give part of your pay to the family. We brought you up. Your mother suffered many a sleepless night because of you. I toiled to provide food and shelter. From now on you start paying back your debts till we die. In addition, if you come back at the weekends you can sleep and eat in your parent’s house. I didn’t mind giving all my money to my mother but my father never stopped asking the same question: OK how much do you want to pay?

I went by a small bus and after a long tiring journey on bumpy and unpaved roads I arrived at a small town. I walked to my school which was about a quarter of an hour’s walk from the down town. The head master was a friendly and sociable middle aged man. I could immediately establish rapport with him. He told me it was a school for boys and a few girls and I needed to be careful and avoid any thing that arose suspicion. The girls had their own room to stay in after the lessons. I was delighted to hear that and hoped to have most of the girls in my class. Unfortunately, when I started I had only one, not very attractive girl. After the lessons I enviously watched all the other gorgeous girls come out of their classrooms, wave their silky hair from one side to the other and disappear into their room. I wished I could go inside for a few minutes.

The head master went on: You know there is a newly built mud house nearby. It has two rooms. It is perfect for you. If you like we can go to the family and rent it. I said: yes, I need a place just for myself and I don’t like staying at hotels even for a short time. The two rooms he mentioned were facing each other and there was a big front yard with an earth closet or a latrine on the right and a tap in the middle. The tap was over a shallow water trough or maybe it was an outdoor sink in which water was collected for washing dishes or feet.

Some months later three new teachers arrived. They couldn’t find a flat so the head master asked me if I could possibly let them have one room. I didn’t like the idea but I accepted: In addition I thought it was a good idea to share the rent with me. From that moment on my privacy was gone - a psychiatrist would probably have said this is exactly what I needed. One day the landlord invited the four of us to dinner in his house. I sat in front of the open door and could see how his daughter, a rather plump hard-working young lady with a big round bottom move around in the yard preparing food for us. I fixed it with my eyes. The backside usually came third after face and breasts on my list.

A photographer appeared at the school some months later and took a big picture of our staff. After that the head master came running to me one day and said: you know my wife is a teacher at a girls’ school and she invited her staff to dinner. When they saw our picture all the ladies pointed to you and chose you as the best looking. They thought you don’t belong to this place. Why don’t you go away?

The three teachers in the other room made a lot of noise every evening. They never stopped singing, playing music and games. Then they planned an evening of drinking and treated me to a glass of whisky. After the first glass one of them gave me a pen and a piece of paper and asked me to write a letter for him. He started dictating: My love: I love you more than my life and I can’t live without you. I can’t stop thinking of you and I often dream of you…

From that time on whenever I entered my room I found it clinically clean and everything was spick and span. My colleagues in the other room told me that the landlord’s daughter was doing all that for me. They said: She must have fallen in love with you from the evening we were invited in their house. The poor girl started to follow me with her eyes wherever I went after school. I felt proud but I never loved her.

Almost a year later the girl in my class one day looked very excited and came to me with an envelope. She said: Teacher this letter is for you. I thanked her and opened it when I was home. She wrote: Dear teacher: Everybody and particularly the girls at our school are making fun of me. They think I have an affair with you. I am afraid if my parents found out it would be a big scandal. Please, help me out of this difficult situation. I can’t live any more like that. I was surprised for I was not interested in her and never showed it in any way. I felt she was laying a trap. I didn’t know what to do to escape the two girls. Then a week later the head master came to me and said: I am afraid; I have bad news for you. They have transferred you to a school far from here.

Bremen, 2 September 2007


What great writing, what a pleasant read. 

Doctor Ibrahim,

There is a picturesque frankness with which the story is told, that makes it so inviting. It is as though I am walking along with the teacher on this journey, free to observe on my own.

The protagonist has a frankness and innocence that I think would make anyone like him and many of the details I find contrary to my own mores and cultural background are presented objectively and without coloring, giving me the impression of a fair, considerate person.

Not to mention that the piece is written with the professionalism of a novelist. This ought to be published!

I understand that teachers may sometimes get in trouble for no particular reason - but I would stand my ground and ask for solid arguments in case I should be transfered. A teacher can be liked or disliked, adored or abhored by his students, and I believe that if he suspects anything like this to happen, he should have an open discussion with those involved. A good school will never dismiss the teacher on such slim grounds, unless solid evidence is provided. The fact that you are "too good-loking" to belong to a certain school - according to the teachers themselves - would make me question the quality and the values of that school. I wouldn't last there long. Yesterday I was tested to teach in a classroom of convicts - in jail - with videocameras inside the classroom. All of the prisoners were men: murderers, delinquists, the bottom of society. I can't say that I am good looking, but these people have not seen a woman so close to them in a long time. Behind my back, as I walked through the classroom, smth happened and one of the men fell heavily to the floor, while another one kneeled beside him and held his hands tightly on his back, yelling: "Keep your f****g hands to yourself!" I was shocked, but I didn't let show, only asked softly: "what happened? Go back to your places and sit down." I interrupted my teaching and discussed with them about what kind of relationship we share in the classroom and outside of it, and I also took up what happened with the jail's leading staff. To my surprise, they knew about it already - they had seen it all on the camera and were prepared to burst in, but they didn't have to.
There will always be situations when students will fall in love with their teacher, or hate them. A teacher ought to be prepared for anything and be a step ahead of such events, to nip them in the bud before they strike back at him.

In front of the school where I started my first job as a teacher.

Me in the black pullover sitting in the middle of the first row next to the headmaster (Salah) the man wearing a white shirt and a tie.

Me in the middle with two of the new teachers, Qusay on the right and Basil on the left.

Me with two of the three teachers who shared the house with me: Khalid in the middle and Jalil on the left.

With one of my classes in the grammar school. The headmaster (Salah) is standing in his white shirt and tie on the right.

A picture from Jalawla, the place I was transfered to as a teacher after finishing my college degree (B.A).