When last year’s Grade 9 class graduated in March, I thought my old nickname was gone for good.
With Tomoaki and his cabal of sexual harassers far away in senior high school, I figured there’d be no one left to scream out “Nippluss!” at me down the hallways.
Things were deceptively quiet at first. After the Grade 9 students graduated, more than 100 brand new Grade 7 students arrived to take their place. They were like a breath of fresh air compared to some of the surly punks who had gone before them.
The mood at school seemed to change overnight. Things were lighter and happier. My classes with the new students have been an absolute joy. The kids are so much fun. They’re really excited about learning English and they’re enthusiastic about participating in class.
I was particularly impressed with Koji, a cute little boy who was always raising his hand in class and finishing his assignments long before the other kids were done.
The Japanese English teacher was equally impressed with him, but for different reasons.
She pulled him aside after class one day and asked me if I remembered his older brother.
“That depends,” I said. “Who is his older brother?”
“Tomoaki,” she said.
“Tomoaki!?!” I sputtered.
She nodded and laughed at my reaction. She said she could hardly believe the two boys were related herself.
Koji was quiet and polite while Tomoaki was rude and obnoxious. Koji paid attention in class while Tomoaki slacked off. Koji called me “sensei” while Tomoaki called me “nippluss.”
I was amazed at how these two brothers could turn out so differently. But the bubble burst last week. I was walking down the hallway between classes when it happened.
“Nippluss!” a voice cried out.
I whipped around to see Koji snickering with a group of older boys. Suddenly the resemblance to his older brother was striking.
I walked over to where they were standing and asked Koji to repeat what he just said.
“Nippluss!” he said in the same cocky and defiant tone his brother used on a daily basis.
“Your brother is very bad,” I told him. “You are very good.”
“No, no, no,” one of the older boys corrected me. “He is Bad Boy Junior.”
After I turned and walked away, a chorus of "Nippluss!" rang out down the hallway.
I give up.