Een les

Kan je woorden terugnemen?

(Verhaal uit Heroes and Heroines)

“Can I have your pencil?


“Oh, come on, give me your pencil.”

“No, you didn’t give it back last time. Why don’t you ask Maria?”

“Oh, you * * * ! I will ask Max.”


“Oops what?”

“Have you seen the teacher?”

“No. Should I?”


Whispering now. “What about the teacher?”

“I think the teacher heard what you said.”

The teacher is coming over

“I just heard you say something. Tell me, what did you say?”


“Let me be more precise. Which words did you use to address your classmate?”


“That is not what I heard. What did you say a minute ago?”

Oh, that. That was nothing.”

“If that was nothing, why do you think I came to talk to you?”

“It was nothing. You know. I just said something to her. And if you know what I said, why are you asking me?”

“There is some truth in what you say. It might indeed be better not to ask you to repeat your words. We both know what you said. What are you planning to do about it?”

“What do you mean?”

“You said something inappropriate. You and I know. What are you going to do about it?”

“I don’t know.”

“That is too easy an answer. I do not accept it. What are you going to do about it?”

“I have no clue.”

“I had higher expectations of you. Tomorrow I will see you again during class. I expect you to give me a reply by then.”


Later in the afternoon, with a friend

“Do you remember the conversation I had with the teacher?”


“What do you think I should answer?”


“Neither do I. What do you say is best to answer?”

“Dunno. Who cares?”

“Easy for you to say. Hey, come on, help me out here! I have to give an answer tomorrow.”

“Chill out, man! Just forget it.”


“You’ll see the teacher will forget all about it.”

“Yeah, maybe you are right.”

“Just make something up.”

“I do not like this. Why not just send me to the vice principal.”

“Sweat it out, man! It is only a teacher.”

The next day, at the end of class.

“There are a few minutes left in the lesson. Yesterday, I asked you to give me a reply. What is your answer?”

“I do not know.”

“That is still not an acceptable answer. What are you planning to do about what you said?”

“I don’t know.”

“I am expecting a proper answer. Let’s step aside while the rest can tidy up and get ready for their next lesson. I assume you have thought about your response.”

“I did.”

“Did you talk about it? With whom?”

“Just friends.”

“So what will you do about it?”

“I do not know.”

“Hmm. You really do not know, do you?”


“You want some help?”

“Depends ... Guess so ... Yeah, whatever ... Fine.”

“What happens if you write on the desk with a pen?”

“I just walk away.”

“What if one of the teachers saw you were writing on the desk?”

“I say sorry and walk away.”

“Is it that simple? Is that all you think the teacher will ask of you?”

“Guess, I will also say I will not do it again.”

“Is that all?”


“So, what are you doing about the words you used yesterday?”

“I do not know.”

“You still don’t know. OK. Let’s look at what happened when you made the graffiti in the hallway earlier in the year.”

“Oh, that.”

“What happened afterward?”

“Oh, simple. I had to see the principal. I had to say I was sorry and would not do it again.”

“That was easy, wasn’t it? And what else?”

“I had to clean the walls. And paint them again. That was OK. It was kind of cool.”

“So, it was pretty cool?”

“Yes, because everybody could see I had made the graffiti. And some said I have a talent for it.”

“OK. So, your creative talent got recognised. And you took responsibility for what you had done. Going back to what you said to your classmate yesterday. What are you going to do about it?”

“Oh, easy. I see. I will say sorry.”


“That I will not do it again.”


“And what?”

“And what else?”

“Guess nothing else.”

“Will you not clean it like you did with the graffiti?”

“No … Wait a minute; we are talking about the words, aren’t we? Or are you now talking about me writing on a desk?”

“I am referring to the words you uttered. Will you clean them like the graffiti?”

“No. How can I clean words?”

“Yeah. How could you clean words?”

“Not with soap and water. And you cannot paint over it.”

“No, you cannot. So, you cannot clean words. Thus what you said would always be there?”

“Guess so.”

“Imagine someone had communicated something negative about you. Would you want those words to linger around?”


“Going back to the words you used. Would you maybe want to have not said them?”

“Guess so.”

“What about taking responsibility and taking the words back.”

“That is an option.”

“Are you willing to say sorry to your classmate and take the words back? Your classmates are still here.”

“Guess so.”

The students are about to walk out of the classroom

“Guys and girls, just wait a few seconds before you leave. Your classmate has something to share.”

“Go ahead. Yesterday you said something and now you want to say sorry, isn’t it?”



“I am sorry.”


“I will not do it again.”

“Wait guys, stay inside the room, he is not finished yet. And do show some respect. Your sniggering does not make it easier for him. What else did you want to say?”

“Come on.”

“I uh … I …”

“Come on. Tell them you want to take the words back.”

“I am sorry. And … I wanna take the words back.”

“Thanks. You can all leave now.”

A few moments later, in the hallways, with the same friend

“Man, the teacher got you there.”

“Yeah, it was lame. Felt like a first grader.”

“Man, I really had to snigger. Almost cracked a joke.”

“I noticed. I had expected some support from you guys. Some help when the teacher is putting me through this.”

“Why? This was good, man; the teacher really had you work.”

“Yeah, yeah, cut it out.”

“Did you really mean that you take the words back?”

“Yes ... No ... Don’t know. Can you take words back?”

“No, man. How could you? Once said, they are out there.”

“Guess so.”

After some thoughts, with the same friend

“You know, the teacher compared it to me washing the graffiti off the walls to make it disappear.”

“Yeah, that was a cool graffiti.”

“Does it mean my graffiti is not gone either?”

“No man, it is gone. No one can see it.”

“True. But I guess it is not. I remember it. You do. And the teacher. It made a lasting impression.”

Later during a boring lesson. Wondering

But why would the teacher ask me to take my words back?

Or make such a fuss about the words?

Words cannot be taken back, can they? They are out there. And disappear by themselves, don’t they? Or don’t they? Hmm, I have never thought about it.

Maybe I should go back and ask. The teacher seems to know.”