The Troubled School

(A quick 15-minute write up)

The Troubled School

There was once a school which was host to hundreds of students; all different and unique, yet all the same and similar.
It was a very old school in which time had seen the best and worst of students pass through its doors.

One day, in the morning classroom, as the students waited for the teacher to arrive, they hung around in groups, or sat and conversed amongst themselves, doodled on their workbooks or just sat alone at their desks. Some would even bring in their card collections and swap cards with one another.

One of the students, whom we will call ‘Circle’, pulled out a shiny new juice box from his backpack. “Wow”, proclaimed Circle, “I didn’t know I had this in my bag! It’s been such a warm week, and now I shall not go thirsty.” Some of Circles friends congratulated him on finding the juice box, and admired its shiny packaging.

Unfortunately, not all of the students felt that way about it. In another group of students on the other side of the classroom, one student was not happy. ‘Square’, as we will name him, looked on in anger as the others admired Circles juice box instead of his own.
Although the two had never been friends, and from time to time had bumped heads a few times in the past, there wasn’t exactly too much animosity between the two prior to the announcement of the juicebox.

Square, being much bigger than Circle, stormed over towards Circle with a small group of his friends. “That’s mine”, yelled Square, and snatched the juicebox from Circle after pushing him so that he stumbled backwards.
“Teacher, Teacher…” cried Circle, “Square pushed me and stole my juicebox.”
Upon hearing this, Square quickly hid the juicebox in his pocket. “No I didn’t” yelled Square, “But Circle has been cheating on his tests, I saw him with answers on his arm, that’s why  I came over here”.
“I didn’t cheat, look, my arms are clean”.

The teacher shook her head and sighed. “You must learn to speak to one another calmly to avoid misunderstandings. You are both in this classroom together, so if you want it to be a happy environment, show one another compassion and kindness.”

The next day was Sports Day, and all of the students were to participate in the sporting events in order to build a strong team spirit.
During the relay race, the signal went and the first runners flew into action. Unfortunately, for some students, “team spirit” was confined to their own perception of who they wanted in their team and not the whole class, as half way into his sprint, Square tripped up Circle who stumbled forward onto his back and grazed his knees in the process.
By this point, both teams were arguing and fighting in defence of their own teams.
“You tripped our teammate on purpose.”
“No I didn’t, he came into my lane”
and on it went.

The other students were now becoming anxious because of the squabbling.

“Teacher, teacher, Square tripped me.”
“No I didn’t. Teacher, Circle came into my lane.”

The teacher turned to the other students who had seen what happened and asked them what they had seen. No one spoke in fear of making enemies.
“Friendship doesn’t mean that you agree with your friend, even when they’re wrong. It means being able to tell your friend that what they’re doing is wrong but still loving them as a friend.”

The next day in class, during break time, it was clear to see that groups had begun to form within the classroom and those who didn’t want to have anything to do with either group would find themselves being pulled one way or the other.

Suddenly, a paper aeroplane zoomed through the air and skimmed passed Circle, but struck one of his friends in the eye.
“That’s it,” yelled Circle, who had become tired of being picked on, and threw a paper ball back at Square. This resulted in an all out paper projectile battle between both sides, and unfortunately meant that the others who were not wanting to get involved would also find themselves drowning in the paper bombardment.

One of Squares friends punched one of Circles friends, so another one of Circles friends punched another one of Squares friends.

“Stop it, this instance” yelled Teacher. “At this rate none of you will graduate. How can you expect to graduate and have a better future, a better tomorrow, if you can’t try to get along today?”

Later, during lunch time, the divide between the groups had become wider, and even within those groups smaller groups had formed. Some students had become so fed up, so pushed to the edge, that they had broken away from their original groups to come up with their own… radical… ideas. Most of these ideas would be kept secret from the main groups as they knew that they wouldn’t be accepted.

Over the next few days, what followed was an onslaught of fight upon fight by those ‘radical’ groups from both sides, during which many innocent students had been injured and hurt.
One student, originally from Circles side, cut the hair of one of the students who sat near Square.
In retaliation, one student, originally from Squares side, used permanent marker all over one of the students who sat near Circle.
When Circle and Square both heard about what those students had done, they realised that things were getting out of hand now and that  they were no longer in control of their respective sides.

It was spiralling out of control, “We are right and they are wrong”. This was the chant of both extreme sides.

Some students would even try to coax or bribe students from the other side to join them, or to give them inside information.
“I’ll give you some extra lunch money, if you give me some information.”
“I’ll give you some paper aeroplanes, if you give me some of your juice.”
“I’ll give you some juice, if you give me some paper aeroplanes.”

One of the students from the ‘radicalized’ groups, from Circles side of the classroom, would even steal from Circle’s bag and distribute the goods to the other side in order to gain power himself.
This then led to arguments and fights within the whole group.

The students who wanted nothing to do with it all were now becoming fed up too. They were getting hurt in the process and wanted nothing to do with either side.
Some students were even trying to plan on how to leave the school and move to another one.

The school was a mess.
There was graffiti all over the bathroom walls, notes passed around the classes with rumours and lies on them, and even the lockers had been smashed up.

“You have all failed” said the teacher during the end of week assembly.
“Instead of trying to come together in compassion, kindness and understanding, many of you have instead turned to violence and wrong means.
It shouldn’t matter where another student sits in the classroom, or what his grades are, but remember that you are all students in this school. By misbehaving, you have brought this school to ruin – who would wish for their children to come to this school now?
It was wrong for all of this to start to begin with, but each group has done wrong by then involving those innocent students who just wanted to graduate, but now can’t either.
Each side has done some wrong in their own way.
Do you not all see how far the effects of your actions have travelled? It was never just about you as groups, but as a school as a whole.
Hurting one fellow student, or doing them wrong, is like doing wrong upon all of the students in this school.
This once beautiful school now lies in ruins.

However… there is still hope. If you learn to get your acts together, study hard, and respect your fellow student regardless of your differences, then you can all graduate together for a better future.

It’ll be a tough journey as hatred and ill feelings don’t exactly disappear overnight. However, if you try hard enough, and think about the wider picture as opposed to just your own interests, then there is still hope of graduating.

We are all one. We are one school. Let’s take care of it.”

Alas, that was the story of the troubled school.
What? What did you think I was talking about, World Politics?


© Naziyah Mahmood, 2016.

Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)


I’d like to say a huge thank you to the City of Glasgow College (COGC) for asking me to be a representative and champion for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as a speaker at their “Women and Girls in STEM” event. I had the honour of speaking to many young women and girls who were interested in what the STEM fields were about, and was able to give them a little insight of what it’s like, as a woman, to be in these fields.
I later joined the girls in some of the experiments available on the day, including the “make a rocket car” Bloodhound experiment!
As I mentioned in my talk, there is still such a strong underrepresentation of women in STEM and we don’t only ‘want’ more women in these fields, but ‘need’ them for so many reasons.

I later had some of the girls approach me to tell me that their perception of what STEM was had changed during that day, and that they were now hoping to pursue a future in these fields – as you could imagine, it was a very proud moment for this STEM mama bear!!
From meeting the other incredible speakers (Dr Peter Hughes from Primary Engineer, Talat Yaqoob of Equate Scotland and Susie Mitchell from Glasgow City of Science), to being able to deliver the message of how STEM isn’t always what we’re shown in the media and by stereotype (I.e. simply just lab coats, boiler suits and hardhats!) it was a very successful and insightful day for all!

Most of all, being able to watch the future generation of our women in STEM growing a passion for these topics was so rewarding!!
COGC, keep up the amazing work!

(Will hopefully upload a short video from the event soon!)

(Image from gatcrva)