Extracurricular Lessons Part 1: Opinions (Part 1)

Categories: Opinions Series, Léo’s Insights 2018-2019 Academic Year

Posted on

Blogging is interesting to say the least. It is an opportunity to share my views with those who may be interested in them. This means that I am never sure who my audience may be. That makes, at least my blogs, a bit of a gamble!

Not only am I not really clear on who is taking notice, learning or perhaps being offended by my efforts, but there is a question of how to best make them available. Blogs can be unrelated to one another or delivered as a series following a particular theme. I tend to favour this latter approach to blogging as most topics usually require a few instalments to be properly addressed.

However, it is probably not a good thing to split a series up with breaks such as Christmas. This means that we sometimes need a few blogs to bridge a gap. The next few blogs are a bit of a mixture of different things that I trust you will enjoy.

You are likely aware of the fact that I spent 25 years as a classroom teacher, mostly at a high school level. A lot of things can happen in twenty-five years. I am sure you will believe me when I tell you that I have many a story to tell. I have two I would like to share with you. I’ll tell you one today and the other one will just have to wait until next week.

Let’s just say that even the best teacher has bad days and students, likewise, can make rash decisions that put them in a bind.

One day a grade 12 student decided to call me a bad name in the last class of the day for reasons I am still unsure of. His dad was the chairman of the school board so perhaps he thought he had some clout. Who knows? In any case, I promptly removed him from class and he promptly called his dad.

As soon as the class ended, the principal was at my door asking whether I had kicked this child out of class, to which I answered in the affirmative. Pale with fear, the principal announced that “Bob,” the chairman of the board was on his way and he was mad. When I suggested that he send “Bob” to speak with me directly, the frightened principal readily agreed.

I may not be a tall man, but I am not intimidated by those who are. Both the father and the son towered over me, an observation that was not lost on the son, who sprawled out in a desk, anticipating the imminent slaughter of the small teacher.

After brief introductions, the dad got right to the point by asking me if I had indeed kicked his son out of class. I could see why the principal had been so fearful of this fellow as he did portray a bit of an aggressive posture. I admitted to the charge, then politely asked if I could get some clarification respecting this issue. “Bob” concurred.

I then asked what he would do if his son called him a son-of-a-“bad word”. He replied immediately with an answer that implied something akin to murder. I replied that I did not do that, but I did kick him out of class.

At this juncture, with “Bob” now glaring at him, the student’s countenance changed from that of a blood sport spectator to being keenly aware that he was in very serious trouble.

Seeing that the power positioning had now changed and before “Bob” could fulfill his threat to cause his 18-year-old son harm, I quickly took control of the situation and addressed the young man directly. I reminded him that he had publicly disrespected me and that if he was any kind of a man, he would rectify that with a public apology. Today, that would be seen as toxic masculinity!

Having saved him from whatever his dad would have done to him and having given dad a bit of time to cool off, everyone left with handshakes and an intention to let the weekend put some distance to what had happened.

Weekends come slowly and end fast, it seems, and so we found ourselves back in class as usual. The last class of the day was about to begin when this same young man interrupted the beginning of the day’s lesson. Honestly, I had put the entire episode from last week completely out of my mind and was just a bit annoyed, but he clearly informed me he had something to say.

He then got up, walked to the front of the class, reminded his classmates of his indiscretions during the last class, looked me right in the eye and apologized to me before the incredulous looks of his peers.

Two things happened that day. Although I was well respected by my students, they deepened their appreciation for me. And, no doubt, that young man grew up to be a well-respected colleague with his fellow students.

I can imagine that this young man remembers me by name, to this day. I doubt he remembers me for my “awesome instruction” in French 30, which was the subject I was teaching him. I am sure he probably learned more from this experience than he did all year. This lesson likely stuck with him. He probably long ago forgot his French.

Life lessons teach us how to survive and thrive. They stick with us because there is a practical application to our lives. That is why we are far more likely to remember the times we got in trouble than our English, Math and Science. Not that these things don’t matter. It is that they are not as important.

Home educators can zero in on these types of teaching moments.

Previous Post:

Next Post: