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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Miss Johnson's Lessons In Responsibility

As I explained a few days ago, I have been suffering from an extreme case of stress-related writer's block.  I've been so exhausted to even think of things to write about and I am coming to the conclusion that I may need to shake things up a bit in both my personal and my professional life to get out of it.

How I plan on doing this...I have no idea how.  But at least trying to come up with ways to get the stress out has inspired me to write a blog entry for today.  At the very least, I'll feel a little better anyway.

This is a tale that took place almost...gulp...thirty years ago.  The fact that I can even remember things from thirty years ago makes me realize just how old I am getting.  But it is an important lesson that I needed to learn.

After the proverbial hell that I experienced in first grade, I was more than relieved to have a decent teacher for Grade 2.  Her name was Miss Johnson, and she really was one of my favourite teachers.  Oh, I'm fairly sure I tested her patience on more than one occasion.  I mean, keep in mind that this was the year after my first grade teacher destroyed my faith in authority figures.  Whoever the Grade 2 teacher was that had me - let's say they needed a LOT of patience.  Luckily, she had exactly that.

And, I think what was unique about Grade 2 was the way that she had the classroom set up.  She had given everyone in the class a "bathroom key" and whenever we had to use the bathroom, we'd hang the key up so that the teacher would know where we were.  She assigned chores every week by drawing nine names at random, teaching all of us responsibility.  (My personal preferences were "Classroom Messenger" and "Blackboard Eraser").

And every week, the teacher would choose one student to be the "Student of the Week".  And let me tell you, this was one duty that EVERYONE wanted.  You got to have so many perks associated with being Student of the Week.  We could stand at the front of the line whenever we had school assemblies or just walked from class to class.  We could get extra time on the computer in class (and yes, as dated as they were, computers did exist in the 1988/89 school year).  We could even have one of our classmates pick up our chairs and put them on the desks each day instead of having to do it ourselves.

I'm sure there were more perks that made it worth getting - perhaps it was something as simple as getting some attention in a class of 27 pupils.  My mind is a little fuzzy, but I knew I wanted that honour.

Problem is...I had to wait FOREVER.

I mean, the school year in Ontario typically lasts from September to June.  By the last week of April, I STILL didn't get the honour.  There were six Matthews in my class, and the other five had gotten to be Student of the Week.  But not me.  Not Matthew #5.  Some students were actually picked twice to be Student of the Week, and I'm like thinking...okay, when's my turn coming up?

Finally, as April ended and May began, I was finally "Student of the Week".  And, let me tell you, it was about time.  I was really looking forward to being the best Student of the Week ever, and I was already planning the whole week.  I knew exactly what people I wanted to put my chair up on the desk, I knew exactly what games I wanted to play on the was going to be the best week ever.

Unfortunately, that's when things started to go pear-shaped.  You see, when I was Student of the Week, I started to slack off a bit in my behaviour.  When I was starting Grade 2, I was a bit of a bad kid in the sense that I was always testing the rules and boundaries to see what I could get away with.  Again, it has to do with my lack of trust in teachers following Grade 1.  I was always getting in trouble talking in class, or I came in from recess too late, or I didn't do my homework.  Things like that.  Sometimes I'd get into trouble on purpose just because I was sort of bored in school.

If we did break any of the classroom rules, our teacher would add our names on the "Broken Rules" list.  Sometimes, we could get our names removed from the list if we were good the rest of the week, or if we went out of our way to help out.  But generally speaking, if our name was still on the Broken Rules list by Friday afternoon, we knew that we would not be picked as Student of the Week.

(Hence the reason why I had to wait eight months into the school year before I was finally chosen.)

Anyway, back to the story.  I admit that I was still trying to push the limits, and despite the fact that I was still talking in class and still not doing my homework, I wouldn't get in trouble for it.  I was Student of the Week!  I was untouchable!  I could get away with bloody murder and nothing would ever happen to me!

At least that is until I must have poked the bear a little too vigorously and Miss Johnson was not impressed at my failure to keep on the straight and narrow.  She yelled at me to put my name on the broken rules list for talking in class for the umpteenth time.  The class was shocked, as was I.  I was Student of the Week, the nearly eight-year-old me thought.  Any student of the week never got punished!

Well, I was wrong.  And because my name ended up on the broken rules list, that negated the Student of the Week duties, and therefore my "title" was revoked and my throne was overthrown.

On a Wednesday morning.

Yep.  To this day, I think I remained the only student in Miss Johnson's Grade 2 classroom whose reign as Student of the Week only lasted two and a half days.  And I was sad and angry.  What Miss Johnson did to me was the worst thing ever.  She purposely made me wait until the end of the year to become Student of the Week and then she takes it away from me before the week ended.  I essentially went from Student of the Week to Student of the WEAK!  I was absolutely upset at her and I didn't want anything to do with her again.

It wasn't until the bell rang for recess that she held me back and explained why she did what she did.  Well, okay, what really happened was that I stayed behind and asked her why she did such a lousy thing.  And I'll never forget what she said.

She told me that she hated to take away my Student of the Week privileges and that she wished there was another way.  But she couldn't very well give me a free pass because then she'd have to give everyone in the class one too - which would make the Student of the Week award less special.  She also told me that just because I was picked for the honour didn't mean that I could get away with doing what I wanted.  She was disappointed that I didn't take it seriously and she wanted me to understand that privileges needed to be earned by being responsible. 

Well, my mind was blown.  And then I felt bad.  Then I apologized for being so upset which I think she accepted.  Then I asked if I could be Student of the Week next week and she threw me out of the classroom for recess.  Hey, I had to try, right?

So, with that, I learned a very valuable lesson.  One that I hold true today.  It's great to work hard and get rewarded, but you also have to remember that getting special privileges doesn't mean that you suddenly believe you are above the rules.  If anything, you have to use the opportunity to prove that you earned it in the first place.  Back then, it was the Student of the Week award.  In the future, it was pay raises, special projects, and being recognized as Employee of the Month (which thankfully lasted the WHOLE month), etc.

I'm really glad I got to learn that lesson at such a young age.  Some people have to wait until they are older before they get it.  And sadly I know a few people who are older than I am and they STILL don't get it.

I guess I can consider myself fortunate that I had a teacher who cared enough to teach me how to be responsible.  And thank you, Miss Johnson for that very valuable lesson.

1 comment:

  1. Peoples do need to consider the fact that they are not bound to follow man made rules for their life but they do need to consider and follow what they find is necessary to do in their more