The phone in my classroom rang. A student answered. The person needed to speak with me right away. I came to the phone.
After a sequence of yes, yes, tomorrow?, ok, what time?, yes, I’ll be there, uh-huh, yes, ok, bye now, I hung up the phone. I returned to the whiteboard. It was the call I’d been waiting for.
I was on the waiting list for a sports hernia operation. After a cancellation, my name had been next on that list. As soon as I hung up the phone, the students wanted to know the story, and this is where things took a turn.
I told them that I had been dropped on my head as a young child and that a steel plate had been placed in my skull. The room went absolutely quiet. Due to advances in medicine, a surgeon was going to replace the old plate with a titanium one. The surgery was going to be straightforward and I should be back in a few days.
To keep a deception alive, avoid too many details or you will trip yourself up. At least that’s what all the detective shows say. We continued with our lesson.
After the surgery, upon my return to school, the students were wondering why I was limping. I had to come clean, and we all had a good giggle. Well, not everyone did.
At the end of class, a student came up to me and said she’d been truly worried for me. She’d told her parents and their thoughts were expressed in a heartfelt greeting card that she passed on to me. I knew that she felt embarrassed and I apologized, but she was laughing now too.
During the five-minute break between classes, I immediately called the parents and thanked them for their warm wishes and told them the entire story. There were no hard feelings, but I learned something that day.
Fast forward to another occasion, when teachers, counsellors and administration at my school were sharing strategies to help one of our most challenging students. Due to circumstances, we had no choice but to remove the student from school.
This student had been in my teacher advisor class, which I met with every day. After noticing that the student had been missing for a week, another student, J, asked me, “Where is N?”
Having recalled my previous mistakes, and attempting to find the correct words without providing details, I simply said, “N is no longer with us.”
J quickly responded, “You mean she’s dead?”
I still couldn’t get it right, but I sure laughed! ❚
Now retired, Henry Knitter taught for 34 years with the Calgary Board of Education.
Moot Points is your chance to write about a funny incident, a lesson learned or a poignant experience related to teaching. Please email articles to managing editor Cory Hare: email@example.com.