Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Where Angels Fear to Tread (Life Changing Moments Series)

This week's post for the Life Changing Moments series was sent in by Joan L. Cannon. Something I enjoyed about this post is how Joan's actions brought out the best in another person, and hopefully, it was a life-changing moment for that student as well. Joan is a native of New York City.  She has been a teacher, an editor, but above all, a reader.  She is the author of two novels: Settling and Maiden Run, and Peripheral Vision, Stories. She has published a number of short stories and profiles, and poems in online journals. She currently writes reviews and essays for the online magazine Senior Women Web. She lives in a retirement community near the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Check out her blog, Hilltop Notes.

Joan L. Cannon.

Maybe I subconsciously remembered something an old hand at teaching told me years before I began myself. She said, "If you expect nothing, that's exactly what you'll get." Thank goodness I was a substitute those first months. Sometimes a little ignorance is a wonderful thing.

There was a girl in my sophomore English class whose behavior was carefully calculated to distract her peers and me almost equally. She was bright, and I suspected easily bored. I would ask her to pay attention when she insisted on whispering to her neighbors, but it didn't make a difference. After a couple of weeks, I got pretty shirty with her in front of everyone, and she changed her tactics. She took to passing notes.

Like most teachers in those days, I usually stood in front of the blackboard (remember blackboards?). In an effort to disrupt my unruly pupil's latest ploy, I began to stroll up and down the aisles formed by the neatly aligned seats. On one of these passes, I managed to arrive at the place where a note was changing hands across my path. I intercepted it.

My teeth were clenched; I'd made up my mind not to continue this performance. I had a textbook in my hand, and I slid the folded note into the palm of the hand holding the book and proceeded with whatever I was reading or discussing.

There was one of those silences that can fall on even a quiet group, as if everyone had stopped breathing. I looked up from the page in front of me when the note passer's voice rang out, "Aren't you going to read it?"

Something made me consider in an instant my husband's and my principles in dealing with our own teenage children. I looked her in the eye. "We're entitled to your courtesy; you're entitled to your privacy." I went to my desk and dropped the note in the wastebasket.

Within the next week or so, I was in the faculty room when there was a typical discussion of problem students under way. Someone mentioned the girl whose note I had appropriated (and with whom I had not one problem afterwards)."My God! Didn't Guidance tell you? She's dangerous, if she gets mad at you. We've all been cautioned about her since she went after Mr. W____ with a pair of scissors!"

Not only did she stop disrupting the class, she finished the year with excellent grades.


If you think you have a great life changing moment to share (and you probably have several), click here to learn how to get the conversation started. I'm sure if you think it's important, I may too.


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Felt Tip Fountain Pen said...

You go, gal! There should be a Nobel Prize for teaching moments {not on any curriculum}.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Thank you for participating, Joan!

Glenda said...

Having been an elementary school teacher, I admire what Joan did and said. She showed strength under fire.
Good moment.

Amy Morgan said...

"We're entitled to your courtesy; you're entitled to your privacy." ~ that's fabulous. I'll be sharing that one quite a bit. Thank you for sharing this and your moment.

Khaalidah said...

I like this story. I believe that expectations rule the day, most of the time, especially with children. When other parents ask me how I convince my kids to do the things they do (like their own laundry, the dishes, the lawn) I say that its because I told them to and there is this expectation that they will. No coercion, no disrespect.
I took a far greater lesson from this piece though. It's that very wise quote, "We're entitled to your courtesy; you're entitled to your privacy." I've recently done something that compromised my own privacy, and that also showed how discourteous I could be. Well, horse out of the barn, so done's done, but it has taught me the lesson, or rather reminded me, that even when others are not, I should always be courteous to others. It's just plain "good" practice. Some people all it karma, I simply call it God working his plan to humble me. The end result though is, or should be, the same.
Thanks for this terrific post!