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A Story About Being Fair as a Teacher

Updated on September 17, 2015
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Sharilee obtained a degree in secondary English education from the University of Calgary. She has taught in Canada for 10 years.

The Test

It was Social 10, the biggest class that I taught, and the most challenging in this, my first year of teaching. This day, instead of me giving a test to the class, I was to be given a test, one that was quite unexpected. Fifteen minutes after the bell had rang, two boys, Chris and Brad, walked in late.Now, this private Christian school had a very strict policy on lates, and I as braced myself to reprimand them, they plunked down on my desk: a large coffee with two flavoured creams, two packages of sugar and a big muffin. "That's for you," Brad said, looking into my eyes with a mischievous and beckoning smile.

I Was Sick At Work

I gasped. I had mentioned to the class earlier, as to apologize, that I was feeling sick. Truth be told, I really didn't know how I would get through the lesson: I was stumbling and couldn't see straight through my blurred, sinus-driven eyes. You see, at this private school, they couldn't afford to hire substitute teachers. Therefore, we were encouraged to come to school, no matter what. If we had to call in sick, the principal had no choice but to give the students a day off, and he was very reluctant to have his students missing valuable instructional time.

Is there No Grace?

The whole class caught their breath in unison, in awe of the audacity and perfection of the moment. A first year teacher, I hesitated. How do I respond to this? They have clearly broken a rule, but with such style, generosity, and charm. How do I handle it? I beamed at them both, buying time. They beamed back -- irrepressible grins on their faces.

To say nothing would mean they have successfully circumvented the law. To punish them would be to reject their offering, plopped down proudly in front of me, as a cat bringing its owner a mouse. They had created the perfect trap for me, and how aware of their cunning they were, I do not know. But it was a test, a challenge I knew I needed to handle in the right manner.

"I'd like to talk to you and Chris after school, Brad." A murmur of disgust washes around the classroom.

"Oh brother, is there no grace?" one boy protests, "if they get in trouble, that's it. I mean, they got you a cup of coffee!"

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Play, Rewind ...

I smile enigmatically, and continue on with the class. We are scheduled to watch a movie today, a small grace for the way I am feeling, but in accordance with the rest of the day, I am unable to find the proper place in the movie, from where we watched it the day before. So it's play, rewind, play, rewind, and 30 bored teenagers watch and wait.

"We're spending more time rewinding than watching. This is such a waste of time.," Mr. Outspoken points out, and continues to comment, laughing with his friend. Finally, I lose patience with the film and with the boy who keeps pointing out my technical ineptitude. "You guys can go home. You're right ... this is a waste of time."

"Are you saying you're mad at us?" the spokesperson inquires.

"No, I just don't want to waste your time. Make sure you're quiet in the halls." They were right: it was a waste of time. I should have checked the film the night before, but I was busy marking, and learning the materials that I needed for the next day's class. I had thought the movie was fine, but it wasn't. I had made a mistake: a small mistake, but that day, and that year, any mistake felt like a big failure. I was hard on myself, and although i worked and worked, often til two in the morning, it never seemed like enough. Such is the first year of teaching, I'm told, for most of us.

"Yeah, we know."

As the two complainers file out, the two coffee boys stay behind. I smile at them. "That was so sweet, you guys."

"Yeah, we know.

"You didn't have permission, you know."

"Yeah, we know. But we went on the break. We just should have been faster. You deserve a muffin and a coffee every day, teacher." Flattering words, but effective nonetheless.

"Thanks you guys." I smiled and turn on the VCR. We had a movie to watch, and I had a class to teach. And somehow, we would make it through.


This was a story from my first year of teaching, ten years ago. All names have been changed to protect the innocent. Or guilty? Disclaimer: The movie we were watching part of the curriculum and part of valid a lesson plan.

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