Never ever be the smart one in class…

Reading through so many posts regarding yesterday’s Daily Prompt, reminded me of a less enjoyable experience with one of my teachers.

Mr. H. was my Dutch teacher. He was a giant, with white hair and a comb-over. My mother remembered him from her schooldays. He wasn’t a pleasant man. He had a very high-pitched voice. He had trouble keeping order in his classroom.
On many occasion he caught me reading a book in his class. He did not like that. He wanted us to read, he did, just not when he was teaching us. I didn’t like his lessons, they were too easy for me. So I never paid attention. He tried to let me fail, but I always managed to get good grades.

One time he told us to write a cover letter. Remember, this was in the days that computers weren’t in every household, yet we had a computer. And a printer! A novelty in the early 90s.
I told my dad about this assignment. He worked in a local employment center. He told me to type the letter and print it out. It would show the (fictional) boss that I was capable of using a computer. It made sense to me, so I did.
The next week I brought my letter, complete with typed envelope into class. the whole class left their letters on Mr. H.’s desk. He picked mine out without any problems.

“Ms. M” he said, after opening the letter. “What is this?”
“It’s my cover letter, sir.” I replied, fully knowing something was awfully wrong.
“And why is it typed? Didn’t you understand me when I said to write the letter?” He looked at me with his very blue eyes, making me wish the earth would tear open and swallow me.
“Well, my dad said companies nowadays want typed letters so they know future employees are able to use a computer.” I said, feeling my cheeks getting red.
“Who would know better? Your dad or I, the Dutch teacher?” Mr. H. was practically shouting.
“My dad, sir. He works for the employment center.” I replied, glad to have actually thought up a smart answer…

Boy oh boy… A second later I wished I would never have thought up that answer. Mr. H. practically kicked me out of his class. My classmates were cheering, I had no idea how quick I had to get out. Mr. H. was fuming, his comb-over hanging down on his shoulder.
“Get out! And stay out! You don’t have to come in the next week! And you know what that means! Get your ass to the principal! Right now!”

Oh dear… The principal was a lovely man, who knew me as a diligent student. One who never set a foot wrong. Now I had to tell him what happened.
I went to the principal’s office and knocked on the door.
“Come in.” Mr. J. called.
I stepped in, by now feeling awful.
“Frouk, what are you doing here?” Mr. J. was surprised to see me. “I thought you were in Dutch class.”
“I was. I got kicked out.”
The shock on Mr. J.’s face wasn’t to be missed.
“Sit down and tell me what happened.”
So I sat down and told him everything, including what my dad had said and the reply that got me kicked out of class. I knew it would mean I had to stay late after school, probably even cleaning the toilets.
“So.” Mr. J. paused for a moment. I thought I saw a smile lingering on his lips… That couldn’t be, right?! “That was an awfully smart comment you gave Mr. H.”
“I know.” I said.
“How many classes are you now going to miss?” Mr. J. asked.
“3 sir. The last class tomorrow and thursday and the first class on friday.”
“So I guess you’re having a great week then. getting home early and starting later.” Mr. J told me. “Go to your next class. And don’t tell anyone you don’t have to stay late. I know you’ll be fine even if you miss those classes. And I also know that you didn’t say it to annoy Mr. H.”

I was dumb founded. I got out of Mr. J.’s office as soon as I could, only to bump into Mrs. K. who looked very surprised to see me coming out of the principal’s office. She pulled me into another, empty, office and asked me what happened. I told her the whole story. She almost wet herself laughing.

I never talked about this again with Mr. H. But somehow I felt a spark of respect in his behaviour towards me after the incident. Years later I bumped into him in town and we talked for a bit. He asked me if I remembered the incident and I told him I did, vividly. He told me he had great respect for my answer but couldn’t say so in front of the class. He told me that, after the incident, he had seen me in a different light and that he talked to the principal after that. The principal told him that his reaction had been too harsh and that I had been right in my statement about typed letters.

I admire him for bringing it up years later and telling me he was wrong back then. He’s never been my favourite teacher, but I have always respected him since.

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