My first rugby coach was high school teacher Peter Fleming. I didn’t have Physical Pete as a subject teacher but it was obvious he was respected and appreciated by his students. Although my older brothers were rugby players it was Mr. Fleming who provided my first real introduction to the game. Rugby playing and coaching went on to become an important part of my life. Thanks, Coach, for pointing me in that direction.
These Boots Were Made for Walking
It was the first day back after the Christmas Break and Allison, a grade 12 student, was wearing her new cowboy boots, complete with wooden heels. Now, this wouldn’t have been a big issue except for the fact that her boots made a lot of noise, and she was often in the corridor during class time. She also liked attention, so I suspect she was giving the heels an extra thrust as she clogged down the hallways.
It was period 2 and I was teaching a Grade 10 Math class. Now, I didn’t say a word but during her third time of marching past my door my body language told the class that I was not impressed by the noise of her boots. One of the students in that class yelled, “Get some new boots.” The bear had been poked.
At morning break she appeared at my door demanding to know who had yelled out to her. During the course of our conversation I pointed out that her boots were, in fact, quite loud and encouraged her to stay in her respective classes during class time. She became more agitated and said, “You can’t tell me what I can or cannot wear on my feet.” I agreed, but pointed out that if she simply stayed in class then it wouldn’t be an issue. At this point, she dropped the F-Bomb. I informed her that the conversation was now over and that she would have to take the matter up with the principal. During the noon break, I explained to the principal what had happened and asked that he meet with her. He said that he would do so at the end of lunchtime.
Lunch ended and I was in front of my Grade 9 Science class. I had taken attendance and was introducing that day’s lesson when I heard sounds coming from the end of the hallway. As Dr. Seuss (The Grinch) once wrote, “It started in low …. then it started to grow.” As I was to find out later, Allison had just been informed that she was suspended for the rest of the day and that she was to go to her locker and gather up her things. To get to her locker she had to move past my door. As the locals would say, “She decided to give ‘er.” She let her boots do the talking. The heels were hitting the floor with as much energy as she could muster.
I avoided eye contact as she passed my open door. Her locker was on the opposite side of the corridor but not far from my room. Her locker door was opened and slammed into the next locker. The bear was just warming up.
“Mr. Caines is a F***in’ asshole. Did you hear that Mr. Caines?” she yelled. She certainly had the attention of my grade 9’s.
She continued, “You know what else Mr. Caines? You can kiss my F***in’ ass.”
The Grade 9’s were frozen. They had no idea what was going on but they were looking at me for a reaction. At this point I asked myself, How do I choose to respond to this situation? My first thought was to go to the door and say, “Excuse me, Allison, but is something bothering you?” But that would have been unprofessional; ie, intentionally poking the bear. I suppose no one would have faulted me for going to the door and expressing my displeasure with her behaviour. But then, I thought, what makes for a better story?
I let out a sigh, dropped my shoulders, looked at my class and said,”I am sorry you heard that. I was hoping to make it to retirement without anyone finding out that I am a F-ing asshole, but now it appears the word is out. But please do me a favour. If you ever meet my wife, please don’t tell her. She still doesn’t know that I’m a F-ing asshole.”
The next day the big story being told around the school wasn’t about Allison’s outburst. It was about how I choose to respond.
Allison was given another 2 days of suspension.
She never word those boots to school again.
My wife has since found out.
P.S. Did you notice she referred to me as Mister Caines? That shows respect.
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