A memory  popped into my tiny brain a few days ago when I was in Morro Bay visiting an old friend of mine . A Chance memory . A memory about a little kid named Chance .

I was teaching Grade 4 and Chance was in Grade 2 . Chance was what some people might say , a handful . His teacher used to send him to my classroom for timeouts , aka  getting  rid of him and his attitude for awhile .

st cems school

Chance had this disdainful look , a scornful gaze , which he freely shared with others . His voice reverberated continuous frustration .

One day he dragged himself over to my classroom . He had a note from his teacher . Could I keep him for awhile ? Sure . I pointed out an empty desk toward the back . Sit there , Chance . He dragged himself over there and sat down . He sat down with a weight of the world showing on his little body ; he was  doing his best not to completely collapse under the weight . Clearly .

Chance sat there for a few moments as if recovering from the journey from the door to the desk . He had a paper with him , his assignment from his teacher , and I told him to get to work on the assignment . He took his big second-grade pencil  and got busy .

As I continued sharing my pedogogical brilliance with my fourth graders , I looked over from time to time at Chance . He was scribbling . He was scribbling and scribbling . Scribble , Chance , Scribble . The paper was being systematically covered with the  grey patches and accumulating layers of thick pencil lead .

Eventually , I approached his desk and said , ” Chance , your teacher gave you  an assignment . You should do it . ” I was calmly encouraging . I was professional .

” I’m doing it ,” he said .

I wish you had been there to hear that short declaration from that little boy . Strong emphasis on the ‘doing’ .  That word ‘doing’ , in the way he dragged it out , contained all of the derision , exasperation , and condescension of an army of ill-mannered teenagers . Chance had in one moment out-done them at their own game . There was the attitude displayed , cast strongly out onto the schoolroom air ,  that had got him kicked out of his second grade classroom by a teacher just as frustrated as Chance was , she having the difficult task of  herding  her class full of young hyper-active cats , teaching them to read and to rite and to do ‘rithmetic . And science and art and whatever else they needed to know .

” What’s the assignment , Chance ? ” I asked . Oh ,mind you ,  I was supportive , professional , not for a second  biting at the bait . I’d get him on task . He didn’t know who he was messing with .

” We’re supposed to draw an animal beginning with  W ,” he said . Again the condescension , the disdain , as if to add an unspoken ” you stupid man !” to his answer . The look on his face supported his verbal expression . How can you be so stupid ! , it seemed to say .

I looked at his scribbled page . Cross-hatched marks .  ” What animal is it ? ” I asked . Put him on the spot . Called his bluff . I’d get him on-task . That’s what I do , kid . I’m a teacher .

” It’s a walrus , ” he said .

This time  ‘walrus’ was emphasized . He looked up at me with a direct gaze that said : You’re pathetic ! And you call yourself a teacher ! He didn’t shake his head from side to side , but he could have . Man , it was clearly a struggle for him to live among adults ! That was explicitly  apparent . He , no doubt , would have given me a supercilious smile , too , but Chance didn’t smile . The world he’d landed in  was too much of a strain for him even at his young age . Too many stupid adults , I suppose , for him to have to live among . No reason to smile .

I , nevertheless , persisted . Teacher ! That’s what I’m good at . That’s what I do . That misguided little thought held tight to it’s place in my tiny  brain . I made a point of again looking at his scribbling . Concerned . Interested .

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

Oh , then the look intensified . Oh , this poor pathetic , man ! it said . He hesitated . Should I entertain this fool any longer , his face said . Okay , maybe .  Just this once .

His face twisted up . He still  resisted engaging in such absurdity , such adult stupidity . Why do I have to do this ? he seemed to say .  What a colossal waste of time !  He forced the words out , though .

” It’s under water ! ” he said . He emphasized ‘water’ . Like any reasonable person would already know that .


Gotta love a kid like that .

He was always two levels ahead of the rest of us . It was easy for him , and he wondered why we couldn’t catch up .  I sometimes wonder what happened to Chance . It could’a gone really well , or it could’a gone really  badly . Maybe I don’t want to know . Sometimes a sweet memory will suffice .


Filed under humor

9 responses to “chance

  1. Hi dan – it’s me again (Mrs. Prior) and not sure if you know this but I have teaching in my background and before I stayed home with my kids I logged hundreds of hours in different classrooms and then taught on and off over 20 years -in different capacities and many subjects- so all that to say I extra appreciated the way you wrote this – with the teacher “thoughts” and little commentaries – brilliant!
    And super cool that the walrus was under water – I thought is was going to be the “side” or back of the walrus – like maybe a close up!

  2. I saved the photo, Dan. Sure brought back memories. Amazing that you kept it all these years.

    • The photo came from my friend Joe in Portland . He’s the guy who kept it all these years . I have some too , filed away on a hard drive . I have some shots I took when they tore the school down too . They do bring back memories , don’t they !

  3. Yes. The Walrus. “And children remembered but only a few, as down they forgot as up they grew” (e. e. cummings). Check this one out:

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