Many years ago in my first year of teaching, a little girl taught me a lesson about the real nature of power.  I started out my career as a grade four teacher, full of energy and idealism.  My mission was to train and mold my young students into the best citizens they could be.  It never occurred to me that these were just kids who loved having fun.

I don’t feel so well!

During the first week of school as I was getting introduced to my class, the school nurse tried to fill me in on the things to watch for.  I hardly paid any attention to her.  I should have. Knowing the symptoms of head lice and what to watch for before ‘pink eye’ breaks out in your class is really important when dealing with large numbers of kids on a daily basis.  Nobody talked about head lice, pink eye and school nurses at teacher’s college.

With a head full of lesson plans, learning objectives and teaching goals I approached my class backed by all the authority and power of the school board. Sure and certain of myself, I never listened to the nurse’s warning that little Francine could throw up at will.  We were no more than two days into the new school year when it happened.

After the first day, I thought it was time to show the kids ‘real life’.  If they wanted to succeed in life they would have to work hard and make the sacrifice.  Time for HOMEWORK!  I laid it on thick and handed out the first assignment.  There was Francine staring at all the work she had to do after school – laid out neatly on her desk.  “I can’t do all that after school.  I need to relax and have fun”, she wailed.

“No way, Francine, you have to work hard to get ahead in life! Do the work or I’ll keep you in at recess tomorrow!”; was my retort.

“We’re just kids, please don’t make us work all night”; Francine cried out speaking for the whole class.  I would not relent.  She looked up at me with sad eyes and promptly spewed out all over her assignment.

“You’ve done it now, teacher – you made her puke!”, cried a sympathetic voice from the corner.  “Oh gross! I’m not feeling so good – I’m gonna be sick too”, cried another!  The class was out of control, groaning and moaning.   I was about ready to loose my lunch as well,  There was no doubt that I had lost the battle!

“OK, no homework tonight”, I managed to gasp, “class dismissed.”  A well placed pile of puke always trumps overbearing and unrealistic demands.

After nearly forty years I can’t even remember what the homework assignment was about.  I doubt Francine remembers the incident either.   That day I learned a good lesson and I have a little kid to thank for it. True power (or the lack of it) has always been in who your really are.

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