We finally made it. Seven weeks without a break is long for everyone. This week the students of one of my classes made life very difficult for a substitute teacher. There was no one in the office to intervene, so I imagine she felt desperate by the end of the first class she had with them. Her term for the class was “ghastly.” The second period she began calling them all “peasants.” When I told them that a peasant was kind of like a serf, which they recently studied in History, they were so offended. “You mean she called us second-class citizens?!”
I pointed out in some detail how she must have felt. I said that I have felt that with them before when they just won’t listen, won’t give me a break, and I know them and like them. “Just imagine how she felt to be in front of twenty-six kids who won’t listen at all, who are just doing whatever they want to in really loud voices. She must have felt desperate.” They agreed, and readily admitted they had been awful. Their last day party to celebrate their recent achievement on the benchmark exams was cancelled. They instead wrote apology letters. And they took it in stride. At first a couple said, “But she called us peasants!!” I just looked at them. “You guys were the first offenders. She wouldn’t have called you that the first hour. You set up the environment.” They agreed and wrote the letters.
One boy, Ko Xue, who hadn’t misbehaved at all, wrote his in a poem:
“I am sorry my classmates did that.
I remember the last Tuesday,
I let go of the goodness.
I am like the lightness, but now like a darkness.
I remember the good word – you told us to be good
but I will never remember.
I let go of the helpless to help you.
I am sorry.
I remember how I should do to help
you next time.
I let go of the niceful, but I will
use that word to help you.”
It was heartening to read their words of apology. I wanted to give them a party. But I didn’t.