This is a story from way back . I was teaching 4th grade at St. Clement School in Venice , California . Way back , now that I think of it ,  in a previous century . Could that be ?

The 2nd grade teacher used to sometimes send misbehaving students to me for a time -out . Maybe she sent other students to all of the other teachers , too . There were only eight of us . Doesn’t matter .

One day she sent over to my room a little kid named Chance .  Chance had an assignment ; in his hand he carried a sheet of paper . I had him sit toward the back of my classroom and I continued my  thrilling , informative , exciting 4th grade lesson .  I don’t remember my lesson that day at all , but hey ! I should have the right to self-promote a little at this point, at this late date  , shouldn’t I ?  What does it all matter now ! You know what I mean ? St.  Clement  School is a thing of the past , too , as it happens . Relegate it all to the ether .baking powder

I noticed that Chance was not busy . I quietly reminded him that he had an assignment from his teacher . So he took a pencil and began scribbling on the blank paper . I watched him as I taught my class . Scribble , scribble , scribble . Scribble , Chance , scribble . See Chance scribble .

Eventually I walked over to his desk , leaned over .  ” Now , chance , you should be doing your assignment ,” I told him .

He looked up at me with an expression on his face that was , shall I say , dismissive . His little smirk said : You idiot ! , and his dark  eyes added to that analysis . ” I am doing it ! ” he said , rather indignantly .

I picked up the scribbled-up page  from the desk . Examined it .  He had done a thorough job of scribbling . The page was almost completely covered with a patina of pencil lead . ” What’s the assignment ? ” I asked .

” We have to draw something that starts with W ,” he said. He pushed the words out reluctantly , as if the question didn’t deserve the reply , as if he regretted getting involved with these trouble-making teachers , having to answer stupid questions , having to do stupid assignments .

I was patient , though.    ” What’s the W word that you’ve drawn ? ” I asked .

Chance scowled . Forced himself to answer me. ” It’s a walrus ! “, he said . He said the word walrus very expressively , as if to say : any fool knows that ; there it is ; can’t you see that ?

” It doesn’t look like a walrus , ” I said .

He put his head down on the desktop for a couple of seconds , as if he were summoning energy enough to answer this fool teacher again , forcing himself . He looked me straight in the eye . ” It’s under water , ” he said . He stretched the word water out about three times it’s usual length . He gave the first syllable special emphasis . To emphasize his frustration . To let me know what he thought of this whole school education business . As if to say : How could any living being be so dumb !

I wondered today what might have become of Chance .  I’m hoping that Chance had a little luck and made it through o.k. and is a happy middle-aged man now , doing something worthwhile per chance . He was one of my favorites , that kid .ENGLAND sept 2014 201



Filed under teaching

10 responses to “chance

  1. That’s a great story, but it reminds me that I”m glad I didn’t choose teaching as a career. As I read this, I felt the urge to slap him on the head and to start laughing. I’m guessing you weren’t really supposed to do either of those things.

  2. Anonymous

    I’m sure Chance remembers that day too.

  3. And that’s why you became a teacher – to reach that one….?

    • Actually , I never really went for that ” if you reach just one ” philosophy. With all the effort , teachers better be reaching most of the students , I would think . No , I didn’t reach this kid Chance . He reached me .

  4. Anonymous

    Chance and all your other students were darned fortunate to have you for a teacher. Your sense of humor was your strongest playing card. That sense of humor, most obviously, survived You are a great storyteller,sir.

    • Thanks . I appreciate your kind comment . Odd to be called ” sir ” , though , these days . Be well !

      • Joey

        In my book, “sir” is a title you earned. Even in the way back, when St. Clement School yearned for the kind of leadership you provided. Yes, sir, you gave it your all, and yet you managed, as well, to have your share of good laughter. A funny kind of sincere preacher, you were back then. Probably still are.

  5. Joey

    You, Mr. H., were one of the best teachers, even under stress. Your sense of humor saw you through and touched so many, many children.

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