Better Never Than Late?

Better Never Than Late?

I had relatively high expectations when it came to students being on time for class. I wasn’t overly aggressive, but I like to think that I was consistent in my approach. For the most part the students responded well and tardiness didn’t become an issue; however, occasionally I had one of those students who would be late every day if a consequence wasn’t in place. Patricia was one of those students.

It was 1988 and I was teaching at Kennebecasis Valley High School. That year the student population was approaching 1700 (it was 1900 three years later). The school was designed for 1200. To accommodate the numbers, eighteen portable classroom was connected to the building. They were organized in three pods of six. It was my first year at the school, and my classroom was at the end of one of the pods.

Patricia was a good student and a pleasure to have in class. She had a good sense of humour; however, she was trying my patience when it came to arriving on time. She admitted that she had enough time to get from her previous class but, perhaps, spent a little too much time connecting with her friends. I finally drew the line and explained the consequences that would follow if her tardiness continued.

There was a ten minute break between classes and a two-minute warning bell sounded prior to the beginning of each class. The following day I was at my desk when the warning bell sounded – most of the students were in the room.

A minute passed – no Patricia.

Another thirty seconds passed – still no Patricia. This was going to be a close one.

Within seconds of the commencement bell sounding I could hear someone running down the wooden floor that existed between the portables. They were getting closer as the bell sounded.

The good news is that it was Patricia. The bad news is that she slipped as she turned to come into the classroom. Her head collided with the door casing. She was now on the floor with blood running down her face. The faint echos of the bell could still be heard.

First aid was administered and arrangements made for her mother to pick her up and take her to the hospital. I called her home that night to see how she was doing. Her mother told me that she required several stitches over her right eye but her spirits were good.

The next morning when she arrived, and ON TIME, I had the rugby goal-post pads positioned on both sides of the door entrance. She saw the humour and had a good laugh.

One evening, about ten years later, I stopped for coffee at a local Tim Horton’s. As I pulled up to the drive-through window a voice said, “HEY, Mr. Caines.” I recognized her as a former student but couldn’t place the name.

Pointing to the scar above her right eye she said, “It’s me, Patricia!”.

I wonder how many times she has explained the origin of that scar.

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