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The lesson every student must learn

By M. Abdessalami

              I hadn't visited my home town since I got my Baccalaureate diploma about ten years ago, and when I had the opportunity to come back home, I felt so happy to meet old acquaintances and to visit the places where I used to study, hang out and play with my childhood friends.

              It had really been a wonderful holiday until the day I suddenly glimpsed a face that I immediately recognized despite the years. I stopped my car, and I went up to him to make sure that the frail weak man with those soiled shabby clothes sitting beside the garbage at the corner of the street was really the same person I had in mind. To my astonishment, he was the one.

              Oh, yes, he was the same old classmate of mine, who used to be the lively and energetic but so often very hostile with us all. He became twice older than me. His wrinkled skinny oval face hosted two short sighted, tiny, hardly visible eyes and a scattered messy grey beard. When I approached him, he smelt the odour of old times.

              He felt very embarrassed when he noticed my presence and knew me. Two big rolling tears gently slopped over his cheeks. He shook his head, and then he said gazing at me with a mourning look,

- "Oh, dear! I'm so sorry for everything. I am happy that you have made your way to success despite the difficulties we all had to endure at times. I am so sorry for what I have done to you all, my friends. I didn't want you to make it just because I was a mischievous lazy selfish rascal. I regret everything, but I think it's too late now to lament over the grave mistakes I had made. I also want to apologize to all my teachers who used to advise me all the time, but I didn't use to listen. I thought I was a hero, but I discovered very late that my "heroism" was only but a delusion. Some of my teachers even predicted this present wretched sort of life I am leading now. They told me I will remember their advice when it is useless to save me, and I do now."

              He stopped for a while to take a breath and sweep his tears, and then he resumed, - "I had been jailed so many times that I started to believe prison is my home. I can't complain now for I'm paying for my insolence and my foolishness. At the same time, I'll never forgive those who used to push me hard to go astray."

              No sooner had he finished talking than his eyes started pouring with hot tears. I have never witnessed the feeling of regret torturing someone like him! If only I hadn’t noticed him at all, but alas I did.

              I couldn't interrupt him because I was extremely shaken. That was the old classmate of mine who used to prefer to be called "The Cursed". I remembered him among tens of other classmates. He used to be the famous jerk of school. He used to make us laugh through his silly funny gestures, pranks and his imitation of teachers. He also used to be aggressive with new students. He used to cheat on exams, and he used to fight with the teachers and the school staff. He used to be well known for his misbehaviour. He had had a very bad reputation. He never let his classmates help him as he was hard-headed and arrogant. He used to upset and derange the teachers while they were giving lessons. He used to boast that his coming to school had not been for study, but rather for disquieting the class and annoying "the people".

              A ravaging flood of memories and ideas suddenly broke into my head. The very popular guy called “The cursed” had made himself a bad name literally and metaphorically, ignoring completely that his misconduct would have consequences on his future. All the same, he used to be proud of being the naughty guy. He liked to be drawn attention to as the toughest student of the school. He never knew that he had just been destroying his whole life forever. The majority of his old classmates became very important public figures in society except for him because he had been a loser who thought he was a hero. He must have admitted it, but admitting his old errors could not change anything. He was paying for what he had previously done wrong, and consequently he got completely lost.

              He was in such a wretched condition that he deserved alms, but I decided not to offer him any. I knew if I had given him money, he would have spent it on wine and drugs. Yes, I changed my mind, and decided instead -trying hard to forget about some of his unpardonable offences against all of us- to bring him decent clean clothes to have on. I couldn't do anything for him, neither could anybody else.

              He had been offered all the opportunities to redress, but he didn’t want to listen. He had been planning for this miserable sort of life with unwavering persistence building it brick by brick ever since he had been at school. I couldn’t blame or judge him after all those years, but I would blame the ones who never wanted to take the lessons that life kept teaching us gratis all the time. The numerous irreversible errors "the cursed" had committed in his former life made of him the person he merited to be, as the proverb goes, "As you sow, you will reap". Thus, he had to pay for his recklessness and idleness.

              In the end, I waved goodbye, drove away and thanked God I had not been affected by his evil deeds. He knew for sure that because they had been assiduous and polite, all his classmates were living comfortably whereas he was leading a very awful dog life.

              This is the lesson that life never ceases teaching people, but most of them just don't want to learn, and they regret it when regret is as bitter as gall. Certainly life is a very good and wise teacher, so never miss any of its interesting tests and lessons which are all very instructive actually. The trip on earth is very short my dear, so make sure you don't waste any second of it, otherwise your existence will be real Hell afterwards.


A. This is a story which unintentionally serves two significant purposes for the students.

1. They can see how most of the lessons they take at school can be used practically to make sense.

2. The moral of the story concerns them principally as

  • It is a warning
  • It is motivational
  • It focuses on ethics
B. The story includes the following lessons
  • The past perfect
  • The past perfect progressive
  • The past simple
  • The past progressive
  • The simple present
  • The Imperative
  • "Used to" phrase
  • Conditional type III
  • Direct and indirect speech
  • Wish in the past
  • Description
  • New vocabulary
  • The passive voice
  • Gerund and infinitive
  • Collocations
  • Modal verbs
  • Prefixes
  • Noun forming suffixes
  • Linking words
  • Addition
  • Concession
  • Advice
  • Regret
  • Recount writing

The teacher can make use of it by asking the students to identify each item at a time. For example,

  1. Underline the past perfect and the past perfect continuous in the text.
  2. What they are used for?

With this task the students will observe how grammar operates in natural language, and how it helps texts carry specific meaning to make sense.

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