For the two months since her school report had arrived in the post, ten year old Efua McKie could speak of nothing else but about being a monitor when the new school year began at the St. Simon’s Prep School in September. In fact, she spoke about little else and her brothers, Alexander, eight, and Sylvester, aged six, were thoroughly disgusted with her. They were even more so when she began to boss them around at home and warn them that she could hand out order marks against them if she wanted to.
“You’d better look out or else I’ll set Napoleon on you!” Alex warned. “He’s going to teach you a lesson. You think that just because you’re going to be a monitor you can tell people what to do.”
Napoleon Lyttle was regarded as being the meanest boy at the children’s school. He was so mean that most of the children, including the three McKies, were afraid of him. The rumour in the school was that Napoleon’s father had sent him to Kingston only after he had been expelled from his last school in the country because he had beaten up everyone there. No one at the school had ever seen him fight anyone but his reputation was so bad that no one teased him even though he was also one of the smallest boys in the school.
When he had to tip toe to see over the wall at Fort Charles during a pre-Christmas field trip to Port Royal nobody laughed and when he came in last in a race held during the children’s weekly P.E. swimming class everyone said that he did it just to spite the teacher who had forced him into the pool.
“… He’s too wild! He’s going to end up killing someone…” Carole Miller heard as she sat in the car opposite Napoleon’s Aunt Merle’s gate while waiting for her mother one evening. She didn’t hear anything more because her mother came just then and drove away but this titbit only cemented Napoleon’s reputation because Carole was the biggest gossip in the school, and she told everyone what she had heard.
It was then that the Black Heart Gang, a group of grade six students who were the school’s terrorists, invited Napoleon to be a member of their gang. When the school children heard that he declined the invitation his reputation for badness only increased and though he was even more feared by some of the children he began to be admired a little by others. Even the members of the Black Heart Gang were impressed though they were a little puzzled. No one had ever declined an invitation to join their gang before.
At lunch time in the days when some of the children snuck through the fence to play on the trees by the gully that ran behind the school’s premises if they saw Napoleon coming toward them they would leave the area even before he had to ask them to move. At other times the children would stand in the middle of the playground and stare at him as he sat, swinging lazily until the bell summoned them all back to class. Sometimes Napoleon didn’t bother to go back to class when the bell rang but since the teacher just ignored him it made the children believe that even the teachers were afraid of him. After dismissal in the afternoons no one asked for his marble or his toy soldier if it had been Napoleon who had picked it up. No one waited in the car park with him after school and nobody ever invited him to their house.
In fact, Efua noticed that his only friend seemed to be a large brown mixed-breed dog that growled fearsomely at the children when they walked past Napoleon’s gate on their way home from the park. Alexander thought that the boy and the dog suited each other and that was why they stuck together.
One day, a new boy arrived at the children’s school. His name was Williston Douglas and he was tall and thick-bodied and strong; and a rumour began that he was really a bad boy. The story was that he had been expelled from three schools before coming to St. Simon’s; including, it was said, a military academy in the United States! Everyone said that his father had to pay a lot of money to get him into St. Simon’s and that his presence would cause genuine trouble because there couldn’t be two very bad boys in any one school. There was going to be a really big fight one day and one of them would have to leave. Perhaps someone would get killed! That had never happened before and Efua didn’t want it to while she was a monitor.
In a way though, everyone was a little disappointed when nothing happened. The two boys kept out of each other’s way. This was fairly easy because Napoleon tended to stay by himself and didn’t really interfere with anyone.
Williston, on the other hand, tormented the other children mercilessly. He soon joined the Black Heart Gang and made many of the other children give him their lunch money every day. He was always threatening to beat up anyone who didn’t comply or who told on him but since everyone gave him their money and didn’t tell their teachers or parents he didn’t really get a chance to show off his fighting skills.
Then one day during the children’s lunch break Williston grabbed Sylvester McKie and threw him headfirst into the trash heap just because poor little Syl had bumped into him accidentally and had spilled some of his soda on Williston’s shirt. He didn’t care that Sylvester had told him that he was very sorry. He shoved him hard and then lifted him up and threw him into the pile of trash and called him an ugly name.
When an outraged Alexander tried to punch Williston for doing this to Sylvester he too was soundly beaten up and pushed into the trash heap on top of his brother. Alex then got up with a piece of broken chair to try to defend his family’s honour.
“Stop that!” Efua shouted at her brother Alex. “Daddy said that we are to behave at school! We are not to fight…! He is going to be so angry!”
The boys ignored her.
“I am a monitor and I am ordering you to stop fighting,” Efua tried again, futilely.
No one really heard her because all the other children were shouting excitedly. There hadn’t been a real fight since Napoleon had arrived at the school because everyone was so afraid of him. They surrounded Alexander and Williston so that they could see the fight. Some of them shouted to the fighting boys, cheering them on, while others shoved them back together if either one threatened to slip away and end the fight.
Then, an ominous silence drifted through the crowd. It began at the back, furthest from the fighting boys, but it soon travelled toward the front of the gathering. The crowd parted to allow Napoleon to stand over the boys who were still lying in the dusty ground.
He just stood there and stared at the two boys who continued to fight even though they knew that something was happening since they could no longer hear the shouts of the other children.
“Why don’t you do something?” Efua heard one little girl who she recognised from Sylvester’s class sniff through her tears. She didn’t like Williston at all and she was very scared.
“You’re the toughest boy in the school and you aren’t afraid of anyone so why don’t you just beat up that big bully?” she pleaded.
All the other children were now looking at him. They expected him to do something since he was wild and as far as they were aware, capable of killing someone. Surely, he must be the only person in the school who could really fight with Williston.
“Stop it!” Napoleon heard himself shouting at the fighting boys. “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” he demanded seizing Williston by the back of his torn shirt.
Many people snickered at this because Williston was at least ten centimetres taller and twenty kilos heavier than Napoleon. They stopped snickering though when Williston turned over and grabbed Napoleon’s feet from under him causing him to land hard on his back in the dirt. Napoleon kicked at him and his foot caught Williston in his side. Williston yelped and clutched at the spot in which Napoleon had kicked him.
The fight ended right there because the Principal, a very formidable woman called Mrs. King, and the school’s janitor came to stop the fight. They dragged the three boys up from the ground, rescued Sylvester who was still struggling in the middle of the trash heap, and chased the other children away back to their classes. Lunch time was now officially over.
Mrs. King was very angry with all of the children. She said that she was going to give the three boys two month’s worth of detention and she also wanted to see their parents. She also threatened to cancel the school’s sports day because all the children had been behaving like hooligans.
As things turned out though, it was only Williston who was punished because by now Efua was crying when she went back to her classroom. She couldn’t imagine what her parents would say when they had to come to the school for Alex. She was also very disappointed that she hadn’t been able to stop the fight. She had forgotten all of the peer mediation training that she had done in order to become a monitor. She hadn’t used her conflict resolution or listening or communication skills at all. She hadn’t thought out even one solution and she hadn’t got Williston or Alex to do so either. No one had listened to her. Perhaps being a monitor wasn’t anything special after all. It certainly wasn’t easy! Poor little Efua felt like such a failure.
Her teacher was a very kind person though and she was quite startled to see the usually cheerful Efua, crying. She asked the little girl what was wrong. The entire class was only too eager to tell her all about the fight and how Napoleon had beat up Williston because he had attacked Efua’s brothers.
This lady couldn’t ignore Napoleon’s behaviour. She took it as a sign that he really had a good heart behind his sullen face and despite his terrible reputation. She understood that he was trying to stop the fight. So she went to the Principal’s office and spoke with her and that was why it was only Williston, the original aggressor, who was punished – although Alex and Napoleon got a strong reprimand for fighting rather than calling a responsible adult to sort the situation out with Williston.
“Haven’t we told you that you are to call an adult if you see any trouble brewing?” Mrs. King said angrily. “Don’t you remember that you should talk things out rather than fight? I am very disappointed in you Alexander. I was thinking of making you a monitor like your sister next year because you have many of the qualities that we look for in our student leaders. You are such a good student. You are usually very mature and you’re bright and disciplined and you are easy to get along with; you show that you respect the differences in others and that you usually have good decision-making skills and a sound grasp of the values, and morals that are appropriate for your age group. Most of all though you are respected by your peers! I am very shocked to hear that you have been fighting and that you tried to use a broken chair as a weapon against another student! I am not so sure that I am eager to invite you to become a monitor anymore. I will have to keep an eye on you for the rest of the school year before I can feel confident again to give you such a big responsibility.”
Alex was very angry with himself because he knew that what Mrs. King was saying was true, but even more upset with her because he still didn’t think that it would be right to allow someone to shove his little brother around without having something to say about it. He didn’t bother to say anything though because it wouldn’t have made Mrs. King angrier and not caused her to see his point of view anyway.
Of course, the other school children only saw that Napoleon and Alex escaped being punished. They felt that even the Principal was afraid of Napoleon since she didn’t cane him for being in a fight. Nothing their teachers said to explain what had really happened would change their minds from this view of the situation.
Nevertheless, things settled down in the school and Dr. and Mrs. McKie didn’t actually find out that Alexander had been fighting. Naturally enough, the three McKie children began to speak to Napoleon at school because he had tried to help them and the boys even invited him to come kite flying with them in the park near their home. Soon their friends began to play with him too. They realised that he wasn’t a bad person at all. So now he had some friends; but the funny thing was that the other children who weren’t his friends were still afraid of him and they behaved themselves whenever he was around so there was very little trouble at the school when he was there.
This may have seemed good on the surface, but the teachers really didn’t want to have a little ‘Don’ in the school so they called Napoleon in and asked him to be one of the school’s monitors so that he could help them to instil discipline among the children along acceptable lines. They had noticed that, despite his reputation, he really didn’t cause any trouble and so they thought that he had a lot of potential and could be an asset to the school if he received proper guidance.
Napoleon accepted this job happily because the truth was that he really wasn’t a mean child at all. He was just sad and lonely and angry because he had always been picked on at his old school in the country because he was so small. The boys who used to beat him up would tease him and call him wingey. Being made a monitor caused him to feel very important and he began to smile more and walk more confidently.
There was nothing to like about bullies. They were really cowards who picked on persons who were smaller and weaker than they were. They were not real leaders who did productive things in their schools. He and his teachers knew that he would never be like that and as long as he was a monitor, nobody in the school would be allowed to be like that either.
This is just what he told the children at the school after his peer mediation training; and especially after hearing the explanation about bullies really being cowards, the other children weren’t afraid of Williston and his cronies anymore. It was they who were ostracised until they began to behave in a more civilised manner.
Questions for Discussion
- Why do you think that Napoleon refused to join the Black Heart Gang? Would you have joined the gang? Why?
- To whom do you think Napoleon’s Aunt Merle was referring when Carol Miller overheard her?
- Do you think that Napoleon was really a bad person?
- What do you think would have happened to Napoleon if the children hadn’t made friends with him?
- What do you think is going to happen to Williston and the other members of the Black Heart Gang in the long run if they don’t stop bullying other children?
- What do you think are some of the causes for bullying? What are some of the causes for calling people names?
- Have you ever been a bully or a tease?
- How do you think it makes people feel when you bully them or tease them?
- What can you do to make it up to the people that you have bullied or teased?
- Do Dons make any contribution to the community? Are Dons to be feared or despised? Discuss your answers.
- What do you think are the characteristics of a good leader?
- Do you have what it takes to be a peer mediator? Does Efua? Is she too young to be a peer mediator? Is she mature enough?
- Do you think that Napoleon will make a good peer mediator? Explain your answer.
- What is the difference between fear and respect?
- Make some sock puppets with the help of your parents. Act out this story with the sock puppets that you have made.
- Pretend that Efua’s teacher had not gone to speak with Mrs. King, the Principal. Make up a new ending for the story explaining how you think Napoleon would have felt about the other children, the teachers and Mrs. King.
- Describe the peer mediation process.
- Think about all the ways in which fear causes us to act in inappropriate ways. Identify these ways in the story.
- Please click here if you need other recommendations for dealing with school bullying.