The middle school’s other English teacher, Monique, came to me on a Monday morning right before my first class. She looked concerned.
“We’ve been told that your sixième trois class has been disobedient,” she said. “Two weeks ago, some students were saying very bad things at you in Malagasy. Should we punish them?”
“No,” I said. “They aren’t disobedient. They’ve been very obedient with me lately.”
After Monique left I chuckled to myself. Since Sakalava is such a new language for me and I still have to remember what the meanings of words are, the concept of swearing was a little funny. Students had said a series of syllables, syllables incomprehensible to me, but they apparently had horrible meanings worthy of punishment. They could’ve said I was the Lord Jesus Christ and I wouldn’t have known the difference. At first I shrugged at their words, but the more I thought about it, the more I supposed some action should be taken. Students swearing at a teacher is a giant disregard of respect in the community, even if it didn’t bother me. If action wasn’t taken, it might have larger consequences later in the school year.
In the afternoon I met with Monique again. “Do you think we should punish them? Do you think we should tell the director?”
Monique smiled and shook her head. “Oh, Jordan, they’ve already been punished. Last week, before your class, the science teacher took the students who said very bad things and he made them kneel for a long time. Then he—what is it?—slapped them on their faces.”
That explains why the class was angelic last week. Silly me, I thought they were captivated by my lesson on the present continuous tense!