“Wakey, wakey, sleeping beauty.” Mrs Zotwana flung open the curtains in Thobeka’s room. The early morning summer sun set the room ablaze in golden hues of orange and yellow.

Thobeka pulled the covers over her head. “Five more minutes, Ma.”

“You wouldn’t need more sleep if you didn’t stay up half the night tap-tapping away on your phone.” Mrs Zotwana ripped the bedding off Thobeka. “Vula amehlo akho – it’s a beautiful day. You don’t want to miss your transport and be late on the first day of school.”

* * * * *

Oh. My. God! Thobeka stood on the pavement in front of the school after getting out of the minibus. She stared at the massive building in front of her, and the sports fields to the side, stretching out as far as her eyes could see. It’s going to take me forever to find my way around this place, she thought.

“You lost?”

“Huh?” She swivelled to her right, wide-eyed. A hulk of coffee-coloured sweetness met her eyes.

“First day at a new school?”

Thobeka shook her head. “Sorry, I …was it my ‘Wow, I’m impressed’ expression, or do my brains looks scrambled?”

His broad shoulders shook as he laughed. “A bit of both, actually. Come on, this way. I’ll show you the ‘You are here’ board, then you can find your way around.”

“Yhuuu, this school has an ideo locator?” She lengthened her stride keeping up with him.

“Cool, you know what it is.” He stopped in front of a waist-high board. “Here you go. My name’s Alex by the way. What’s yours?”


“See you around, Thobeka. And don’t get lost,” he said, smiling as he walked off toward a group of boys, “cos I won’t always be around to rescue you.”

“Find a seat and settle down!” A stout, middle-aged woman, with fiery red hair, placed her bag on the table at the front of the class. “The holidays are over, it’s time to get serious. Welcome to Grade 11. I’m Mrs Edwards, your English teacher.”

Thobeka sat at a desk on the far right of the class, by the window, mesmerised by the mountain view, as learners scrambled for a spot. Desks and chairs scraped while voices died down to a murmur.

The silence snapped her from her thoughts.

“Now that I have your attention,” Mrs Edwards said, as she wandered between the desks, “and since you’re so eager to share your vacation experiences, I have a challenge for you.”

“What’s the prize if I win?” The question came from the back row.

Thobeka’s head whipped around. I know that voice.

A tall girl behind her jumped up from her desk. “Entlik, Alex, you said ‘if’, not ‘when’ – so you don’t need to know, since you’re not going to win, Chizboy.”

The class burst out laughing and hooted their agreement. Thobeka lowered her head. Tjo, I’m staying below the radar here, she thought.

A petite, dark-haired girl at one of the front desks, stood up, her eyebrows raised. “And what makes you think you gonna win? Just cos your name is Victoria, don’t make you the queen of England and English.” She imitated the Queen of England’s signature wave in response to the raucous laughter.

Mrs Edwards smiled as she strode to the front of the class. “That’s enough. A little restraint, please. I don’t fancy detention on the first day.”

“Awe! Miss nogals got jokes.”

“All jokes aside though,” Mrs Edwards said, as she turned and wrote on the chalk board, “this is your challenge. I want you to dig deep and show me what you feel, in 200 words or less.”

I’m not the same person I was last year.

“No slang, no swearing, just strong actions and emotive language. Engage me, using the senses.”

“What do you mean, Miss – ‘using the senses’?”

“You got no common sense, Alex, so why bother asking?” a boy’s voice travelled from the opposite side of the classroom.

“That’s quite enough slandering. It’s uncalled for and infantile.” Mrs Edwards swept her eyes across the learners’ faces. “Impress me with attitude in your writing assignments.”

A wall of silence greeted her.

“That was a good question. I want you to show me what you see, smell, touch, hear, and taste. Use those senses to set a mood, a tone, and immerse me into your world.”

Thobeka scribbled down Mrs Edwards’ instructions and writing prompt. This is so exciting. I can’t wait to dig into it, she thought.

“Assignments are due on Monday – no extensions, no exceptions.” Mrs Edwards perched on the edge of her table. “If you’re uncertain about anything, ask. Any questions?”


Tell us: Does Mrs Edwards seem to be a good teacher; a teacher you would like to have? Why or why not?