You were carrying a bulldog puppy as we walked past you. Memories of my own ill-fated bulldog relationship flooded my soul as I blurted out: “Aw, a bulldog! Can I see?”
You brought me abruptly to earth with a stinging retort. “You got eyes, don’tcha?”
“Excuse me?” My teacher self came out. I turned to one of the ladies with him, possibly his mother. The other one may have been his grandmother.
“What did he say?” she asked.
To you I responded, “I am a high school teacher, and I DON’T PUT UP WITH THAT.”
“Ha ha, she told you!” the lady laughed. Wonder where you learned to be so rude?
“I didn’t like any of my high school teachers,” you replied. But my husband and I were already petting the darling puppy that you had lowered from your shoulder in spite of yourself.
“Oh well, you would have liked me,” I said with a smile. “Have you named him yet?”
I don’t recall what you said, but your demeanor had immediately softened. I had won yet another teenager over with a smile, a common interest, and a refusal to be treated with disrespect.
That’s the key, you see. Teenagers are begging for an adult who will listen to them, not just to their words but also to their needs. Apparently this boy had a history of unpleasant encounters with his teachers, and probably his administrators. I countered his rudeness with a lighthearted remark and a smile, and showed an interest in his new puppy. It wasn’t even my goal to win him over. I just wanted to pet the puppy. I wonder how they are doing now.
The boy and his puppy.
Never underestimate your power as a teacher.