Just before winter break, an injured monkey took up residence at Kitini School. Since the school was empty and peaceful for a month when it arrived, it seems to have decided to stick around. It’s kind of a milky brown, about the height of a small child when it sits on its haunches. It can be quite fast when it wants to, and it does a nice job distracting students and teachers alike for vast portions of the day. It’s male; which I know because today it sat outside my classroom window and played with itself. In this instance, I was actually happy that my students haven’t mastered questions in English just yet.
Did I mention that the monkey is terrifying? Because it is. It has nasty looking sharp teeth, makes scary noises when provoked, and definitely seems ferocious enough to send a kid (or an American volunteer) to the hospital if it wanted to.
But no one else seems concerned. Most of the students now spend their breaks taunting the monkey. They like to throw food at it and then see how close they can get before the monkey lunges at them. It is a horrible game, but I have yet to see an adult make the effort of approaching the herd of screaming children and encouraging them to leave the monkey alone. I frequently try to warn children by miming a scary monkey biting them. Apparently I’m not very convincing.
Today the monkey (and the mob of animal hating children) were between me and my classroom. It was unfortunate. I worked my way up to the front of the group and then made all the kids go back downstairs…which meant they backed up in the general direction of the stairs. With more enthusiasm I got some to leave at least temporarily. But when I turned around one poor little boy from grade one had been left alone on the opposite side of the monkey. Without the protection of the older kids, he was now realizing that being trapped in a 3 ½ foot wide hallway with a wild monkey between you and the stairs was not an ideal situation. Especially if you are six years old and the monkey probably weighs more than you.
Annoyed that I somehow seem to end up as the only adult around in these situations more than my share, but also sympathetic for the kid, I took on teacher role #1356: human shield between student and aggravated wild monkey.
Getting past the monkey to get to the kid was no problem because I just walked really close to the wall. But escorting him back to the other side meant I was suddenly a full child’s width into the middle of the walkway…a clear invasion of the monkey’s territory. Plus once said child was an inch past the monkey he was no longer interested in matching my calm – let’s not frighten the animal – walking speed and he bolted.
The combination of proximity, sudden motion, and loud footsteps startled the monkey. Obviously. And it basically lunged at me. The few students who remained within sight laughed because I’m pretty sure my entire leg visibly trembled and I may have made a small noise of terror. I don’t entirely remember because the whole time I was just thinking, “what are the nurses going to say if I go back to the clinic and ask for my THIRD post-exposure rabies series?”
All’s well that ends well and, for now, the monkey has yet to actually make contact with anyone at the school. But perhaps Hope College should consider some interdisciplinary courses for education majors like: Animals in the Classroom 101 or Introduction to the Schoolyard Dynamics of Primates and Immature Homo-sapiens.