Out on a Limb

Out on a Limb

I started my teaching career in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. It was a great three years, but after the birth of our daughter we decided that we wanted to be closer to home. The first job offer I had was to teach sciences and math at Rothesay-Netherwood School back in New Brunswick. It was an independent boarding and day school located not far from my hometown. We accepted the offer. In addition to teaching chemistry and physics, I coached rugby.

At this school if a student were guilty of breaking the rules, one of the forms of punishment was referred to as gates. If one were on gates, s/he was required to carry a small card at all times. Following class, the student presented the card to his/her teacher. If the student’s behaviour and effort in class met the expected standard then the teacher initialled the card; if not, an X was placed in the respective spot. An X usually meant an extra day on gates. After school and on weekends, participating students were required to find the master-on-duty and present the card. They could be up to five minutes late and the card was to be presented every hour, on the hour, until 10:00 P.M. Being a large campus with several buildings, the search for the master-on-duty usually started about ten minutes before the hour. It really was a rather nasty form of punishment. It certainly kept them on their toes.

On this particular Thursday night, I was the master-on-duty for the senior boys. Three of my rugby players were on gates. At 8:55 P.M. I was seated in the Master’s Office in the senior boys residence. It was springtime, there was still some light in the sky, and the maple tree near the entrance of the residence was in full bloom. I knew the boys, who were currently studying in their rooms, would be looking for me in a few minutes to initial their cards. I exited the building and climbed the tree.

I wasn’t long in the tree before the boys had exited the residence. They had checked the Master’s Office inside and were now standing a short distance from me.

“Where do you suppose he is?”

“Let’s check the staffroom”, and off they went to the administrative building. I could hear them knocking on the back door (staffroom entrance) to South House. They opened the door and called out my name. They then headed towards the science building, thinking that I might be in my classroom.

I waited twenty or thirty seconds, “Hey fellows, looking for me?”

“Where are you?”

“Over here.”

“Over where?”

I remained silent. They came running toward me but were unsure as to the location of the sound. They checked in the residence again and around the back of the building.

They stood near the entrance to the residence. “Where the F— do you think he is?”

“I don’t know, but he is being an asshole” (there’s that word again, but I didn’t think it was fair – I was being more of an arsehole).

They ran back to South House and checked in the staffroom again.

“Fellows, you only have a minute left to get your cards signed.” They ran again toward the residence.

I didn’t make a sound but one of them finally thought to look up the tree. He saw me sitting on a limb, I looked at my watch.

“Fellows, you are a full minute late. That means an X; that means another day of gates.”

“WHAT, that’s not fair!”

“What do you mean ‘not fair’? I’ve been sitting here the whole time and I kept calling out to you.”


“Hmm. I suppose you’ve got a good point there. Tell you want, you hand up your cards and I’ll sign them THIS TIME. Next time, I may not be so lenient.”

At 10:00 P.M., when they exited the residence they actually looked up the tree; however, I was over by the science building. It was dark.

“Hey guys, I’m over here.” I then turned and started running toward the rugby fields. At this point I had, indeed, graduated from ‘arsehole’ to ‘asshole’.


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