Darren and the Siege Perilous
In the legend of King Arthur, the Round Table was a magical gift whose design prevented any accusations of favouritism or division by rank. In a table that was circular, everyone was equal. When Arthur received it, he was pleased because he liked the idea of equality amongst his loyal knights. However, Merlin, the wise sage, told Arthur that the seats around the Round Table were also magical because when any worthy knight joined Arthur’s forces, his name would appear behind the seat. Soon, every one of Arthur’s knights had their seat at the round table, but there was always one seat that remained empty. That, Merlin said, was reserved for the most worthy knight in the land. The seat of the Siege Perilous.
Thomas was always fascinated with how such stories of chivalry and honour inspired his students and eventually decided to design a classroom structure, which incorporated this theme. He led the class in developing a Knight’s Code of Conduct and a system of rules and procedures. Thomas also wanted to enforce strict discipline in his class and devised a way to reward students when they did well in their academic work and also a way to discipline them fairly when they went out of line. Each group chose a knight’s name and designed a shield, which would represent their group. It certainly cultivated a strong sense of class identity and pride in their work. But Thomas also wanted to have a way to recognize students who displayed outstanding character values. Thus, he came into class one day with a huge piece of cardboard which had in large print at the top: Siege Perilous. He announced that this noble prize would be awarded to any student who displayed outstanding moral fibre according to the Knight’s Code of Conduct.
Months passed and the students were enjoying earning points through their Knight’s adventures (puzzles and quizzes that Thomas put up behind the classroom) but everyone also noticed that the seat of the Siege Perilous was empty. Then one day, Thomas came into the classroom, set up the projector and displayed a picture of the Siege Perilous. It was a perfectly chosen picture, which showed the mysterious chair in all its decorated glory. The class fell silent as Thomas unfolded a piece of paper and cleared his throat.
‘For 4 months now, the noble Knights of Primary 4.8 have been waiting for a worthy champion who displayed the character traits that would earn him the right to sit on the Siege Perilous. Two days ago, one of your classmates, Rahman, was teased by another group of students and they demanded to peep into his personal diary and tried to snatch it from him. While Rahman is not small in size, he was unable to prevent his diary from being snatched from this group of bullies. I watched as many of you laughed at this cruel joke being played on your friend and noticed that many of you also cowered in a corner and shook your heads disapprovingly. How ironic it was that the smallest boy in the class sprung forward to defend Rahman. In that moment, Darren displayed the courage and moral strength that defied his small stature. He ran towards the bullies and snatched the diary back. Then he shouted at them to back off and stop disturbing his buddy. The bullies laughed and did back off, but I know that deep inside them they were also taken aback because they were not used to someone standing up to them. I will deal with these bullies according to the Knight’s Code of Conduct later but for now, I would like to present this award to your classmate for his act of courage and bravery.’
The words then faded in on the PowerPoint presentation and proudly displayed ‘Darren’. The gangly little boy walked up shyly to the front of the classroom to receive a fine certificate and a little gift from Thomas, it was a plastic decal that read Siege Perilous in a script font. As Darren reached the front of the classroom, his friends began to stand up to cheer for their classmate. It was a proud moment for the little boy with a huge heart. While he was in front of the classroom, Thomas challenged the class to practice the Knight’s Code of Conduct not just in the classroom and in school, but also at home.
Many years later, Thomas bumped into Darren’s mother at a supermarket and his mother was proud to share that Darren was enjoying his secondary school education. Thomas smiled and asked if Darren had joined a particular sport or uniform group for his co-curricular activity. Darren’s mother pressed her lips together in a tight smile and replied that he joined the St. John’s Ambulance Uniform Group. When he took the parent’s approval form home for his parents to sign, he was asked why he wanted to join the St. John’s Ambulance Uniform Group. Darren looked squarely into his parents’ eyes and said, ‘So that I can take care of you guys when you grow old’.
Just before Daryl’s mother left the supermarket, she asked Thomas, ‘By the way, do you know where he got that Siege Perilous decal from? He’s put it on his dining chair and it’s faded badly already. I wanted to take it out but he’s pasted a layer of scotch tape over it to protect it.’
Needless to say, Thomas was speechless.