Make the 1st Day Count

A Short Story

By Gareth McLuckie


The first day of teaching is always the best. You don’t know them and they don’t know you. This is the moment to set up the character you are going play the rest of the year. There are three main characters to choose from – the hard taskmaster sending the fear of God into every pupil who steps foot in your door; the pastoral educator, who is understanding and nurturing; or the creative, different-from-other-teachers educator.

You’ve always prided yourself on not been like other teachers. Teachers are inherently social outcasts, loners and out of touch with what is happening in the world outside their classrooms. And you refuse to be like that. However, being different comes with its consequences. Pupils see this as a weakness and they will pounce and rip you apart. After 5 years of teaching, you have now learnt this lesson. You promise yourself that you will be sterner this year. You are not going to let these teenage brats walk over you this time. This will be tough as it requires discipline on your part. One slip up and you will be mauled.

The first lesson is always the same – the class lines up outside and enters in single file, each greeting you as they walk in. You react by slightly nodding your head. Your face is stern. They stand behind their desks waiting for your instruction.

“Good morning class.”

“Good morning sir.”

“Please be seated.”

The classes are streamed – A though to H. A being good and H being bad. This system being the subject of many a moral debate.

Classes are distributed to teachers as evenly as possible. You have been allocated B, D, E and H.

The H class walks in. The dregs. 20 of the worst kids the grade has to offer. It is this lot who sell drugs in the toilets at break or steal cellphones and tog bags and threaten you with a knife if you question them about it. Their influence spreads over the school like moss.

Every school has them. The only difference is that here you have them all at once.

Streaming is not an exact science so there are the unlucky ones who, because of subject choices or enrolling late, undeservedly end up in the G or H class. They are easily identifiable. Their shirts are tucked in, their hair neatly combed, they only sit after greeting you and most of the time they fill up the front row.

More often than not the parents of these unfortunates march straight up to the Headmaster’s office, demanding an explanation.

“Wouldn’t you guys like to be in A class?” you ask.

“Not really, sir,” one pipes up.

“Why not? Isn’t that where you want to be? Amongst the top achievers of the school?”

“It’s too much pressure, sir.”

“We like it here. No one expects much from you.”

The Headmaster was not too partial to this conversation. One of the parents had obviously complained about their child being labelled as “stupid.” The next morning’s staff meeting the Head stood up. His eyes barely moving in their sockets and his jaw clenched.

“I’m hearing reports that teachers are telling their kids to work harder so they can get themselves into a “cleverer” class! We need to get one thing straight – there is no difference between the classes. We do not show any discrimination between the learners! We pride ourselves on providing equal opportunity to every learner that enters our gates.”

So this is how it is. This is the 1st lesson learnt and you have the feeling there are to be much more to come.


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