How I Escaped a Miserable Life by Refusing to Salute

Years ago, I was a fairly inexperienced school teacher working in the British / Egyptian School in Egypt.

The salary was miserably low, so I indicated to management that I wished to leave at the end of the school year.

Instead, they recommended me to join their sister US school to teach an American English SATs program to Egyptian teens.

I appeared on time to be interviewed by a fat, ugly faced, Egyptian, a Middle Eastern lookalike of Ronald Dahl’s Agatha Trunchbull.

I knocked her door and entered. From her desk, her dead pan eyes walked me into her office. Then she snarled something as she returned to her phone conversation.

Staff at the kindly British School had warned me, so meeting her like this was no surprise.

I waited for more than an hour while the Egyptian ogre growled, huffed, slobbered and screamed orders at someone into the hand set.

Meanwhile, since she had ignored me from the start, I decided to familiarize myself with her set up. I walked about the office, picked up books, trophies, bits and bobs and other curious items to while away the time.

Instinctively, I knew this would really annoy her. She wanted me sat down on her tortuously hard, wooden Victorian school chair directly facing her desk.

After Trunchbull was done with her phone call, she turned on me. ‘Who are you? And, why are you poking about in my stuff?’

Without even turning to look at her, I replied that it was all quite fascinating and that I had so much to learn yet.

Miss Trunchbull knew very well why I was there. She indicated towards her torturous chair. ‘Sit!’

I continued looking curiously over the posters, papers and schooley items that littered her office.

Without looking at her even now, I answered, ‘I’m here to talk about teaching SATs on the American program.’

Then, I sat down, but slowly, and continued scanning the room trying hard to avoid her eagle eye line of sight.

We need someone special. Why are you here?’.

I’m that special one you are looking for, and I come highly recommended by the British School.

But, you’re not American. How can you teach this course?

I replied that I had the best English in the world and that you need only be a great teacher- a person’s nationality has little to do with classroom outcomes.

She shrugged her two mountainous shoulders and grunted out an assent.

Well, let’s get down to detail, shall we? Where’s your CV?’ I offered her a copy carefully placed in a transparent protective folder together with transcripts and certificates.

Okay, okay, right, ahem, good,’ as she scanned my CV. ‘Everything seems to be in order!’

‘You’ll be teaching six hours a day. You have to be here by 6:30am sharp every day. If you are late, we’ll deduct payment from your salary.

When the children arrive to school, we blow the whistle, line each class up, raise the Egyptian flag.

You should stand in front of your class, salute, watch the flag rise and continue saluting till the morning bugle call ends.’

I had already decided that teaching 6 hours a day or 30 hours per week was excessive and not sustainable in the long term. Besides, this Agatha Trunchbull behaved a like a fire breathing dragon to her downtrodden staff team.

I answered, ‘I’ll be having my morning coffee in the staff room. When the bugle call ends, I’ll come down to take the children to class.

You most certainly won’t, bellowed the Egyptian Trunchbull. Everyone has to salute the Egyptian flag each and every morning. You’ll be there at the front of the line.

I leaned forward and looked sternly into her eyes and these words came out, ‘I’d rather burn your flag than salute it.

Her massive truck swayed backwards into the chair her cavernous mouth dropped wide open.

What did you just say?’ she barked.

‘You heard me. Muslims only salute Allah (SWT) not pieces of old cloth that have no significance. Every day, have the children clean up the mountains of trash bags, cans and paper littering up the school grounds. Give them some exercise and clean the school up. That would be a better use of your time.’

Boiling, she raised her fat arm and pointed it at the door. Flushed and filled with disgust, she screamed, ‘Out!

I roared and rolled about with laughter as I strolled back slowly to my lovely British School classroom.

Salam Allekum! Hi there! Thanks for reading. Contact the Editor Mohammed Francis directly at with any questions or queries.