THE FIRST DAY OF CLASS • by Martin Chandler

Garry waited patiently at the door as the bell rang. He was tall, taller than most of the adolescents he taught, and had a youthful face. Students were wandering out of their previous classes and through the halls, trying to figure out where their next class was. The first day of school was always like this; teachers and students uncertain, on edge, excited, hoping to fit in just so. By chance Garry’s first period had been a prep, so he spent most of the time shifting chairs around, deciding on the exact layout. He had settled on a circle.

Finally his class arrived, led by a small boy with glasses who would, in other circumstances, appear somewhat nerdy. Somehow, though, he seemed standoffish. Maybe it was the way he walked, or how he held his books; Garry couldn’t place it, but still, as this seventh grader led his classmates, Garry sensed trouble. He put on a big smile and held out his hand.

“Good morning, I’m Mr. Mayhew,” Garry said.

The boy looked at him, sizing him up better than the principal had at his interview. With a slight nod of acceptance, the boy took his hand and shook. “Good morning, Mr. Mayhew, I’m Mr. Yi.”

Caught slightly off guard, but making sure to play along, Garry replied, “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Yi. Welcome to history class. Come in to the classroom and find the seat with your name on it.”

“Thank you,” Yi said, heading inside. Garry continued to introduce himself to each student, giving them the same instructions, though they all replied with first names as such adolescents normally would. Yi stuck in his mind though, unshakeable. After the last student entered, he walked in, closing the door behind him.

Taking his own seat in the circle of chairs directly in front of the board, Garry lifted his attendance sheet and scanned through it, glancing around the room to check on empty chairs; when he caught Yi’s eyes staring, he glanced down at the sheet again: Dale. Dale Yi. Good to know, he thought. He completed his check, and with every student present, sitting quietly or whispering to their neighbor, he began.

“Well, good morning, class. As you now all know, I’m Mr. Mayhew, and I’ll be your history teacher this year. My goal is to teach you about ancient history, from the Egyptians to the Romans. You all found a document on your chair. Please look at that. I’d like to go through it with you, as it outlines the plan for the year, my expectations of you, and the plan for how you’ll be graded.”

As he went through the sheet, answering a few questions here and there, he looked over to see Dale quietly watching him. This was his fourth year teaching, but his first in a full time position, and he had never felt so scrutinized. After getting through the class business, he had time to lead a couple of get-to-know-you games before the bell rang for recess. As the rest of the class filed out, Dale hung back.

“Mr. Mayhew,” Dale said when the other students had left.

“Yes, Dale?” Garry replied.

Dale frowned, looking up at Garry. “First of all, I believe I introduced myself as Mr. Yi.”

Garry looked down at his young charge and blushed. “You’re right, Mr. Yi, my apologies. I shouldn’t have been so forward in addressing you by your first name without your permission.”

“Correct, Mr. Mayhew. I’ll accept your apology this time. Now, as to your class,” he pulled a document from his folder, stapled in the top left-hand corner. “Here is an outline of my expectations for you and your class. Please make sure you study it carefully. At the end of each term, you’ll be given an evaluation of your work as teacher.”

Garry looked down, dumbstruck at the professionally worded document now in his hands. In his quick scan, he found requirements of interest and factual accuracy mentioned, as well as overall requirements of reasonable teaching. “I’ll need to read this more closely, Mr. Yi, before I can respond, of course. However, you seem to be assuming a lot.”

“Indeed. I think you’ll find the requirements quite reasonable. If you have questions, you may ask me at any time. We have high expectations for you, Mr. Mayhew, as you seem young and, as yet, unjaded by the system. I look forward to working with you.” Yi held out a hand, which Garry took. “Enjoy the rest of your day.”

Garry watched as the young man left his room, closing the door behind him. He looked at the paper, then back to the door. It’s going to be an interesting year, he thought, walking over to his desk to sit and read more thoroughly.


Martin Chandler is a writer and composer from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is currently dodging cars in Monterey, California.


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Every Day Fiction

  • Tibor Simic

    Noooo! An attention-grabbing premise, lively narration and dialogue… And yet the story left me unsatisfied. The most interesting thing is left unexplored: how Mr. Yi will fare.

    It’s a credit to the story that I really, genuinely, want to know what happens next. So much it’s driving me nuts. Does Yi conceal insecurity, overdemanding parents, will Gary find a way to his heart, will the two learn one from another?

    If this were an opening chapter of a novel, it would be brilliant.

    As a piece of flash fiction, it’s a promise of something wonderful that was never delivered.

    Three stars.

  • Tibor Simic

    Noooo! An attention-grabbing premise, lively narration and dialogue… And yet the story left me unsatisfied. The most interesting thing is left unexplored: how Mr. Yi will fare.

    It’s a credit to the story that I really, genuinely, want to know what happens next. So much it’s driving me nuts. Does Yi conceal insecurity, overdemanding parents, will Gary find a way to his heart, will the two learn one from another?

    If this were an opening chapter of a novel, it would be brilliant.

    As a piece of flash fiction, it’s a promise of something wonderful that was never delivered.

    Three stars.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I must agree with Mr. Simic. I was expecting something dark, something unexpected, but the story just sort of petered out after beginning with so much promise.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I must agree with Mr. Simic. I was expecting something dark, something unexpected, but the story just sort of petered out after beginning with so much promise.

  • Interesting concept. There was conflict without resolution. Dialogue was stilted, not natural. Would like to know which grade. I could see the kid speaking in Rainman lingo, but not both. 🙁

    • I think children are highly individual. It is often a mistake to generalise.

  • Interesting concept. There was conflict but without resolution. Dialogue was stilted, not natural. Would like to know which grade. I could see the kid speaking in Rainman lingo, but not both. 🙁

    • I think children are highly individual. It is often a mistake to generalise.

  • LightBright

    I agree with the others. The story has drive and kept me reading.I think it’d make a great start to a novel since I wanted to know more. Otherwise it feels more like a comment on education – the kind of thing a principal might open her year up with when giving her teachers a pep talk!

  • LightBright

    I agree with the others. The story has drive and kept me reading.I think it’d make a great start to a novel since I wanted to know more. Otherwise it feels more like a comment on education – the kind of thing a principal might open her year up with when giving her teachers a pep talk!

  • Tina Wayland

    I liked this–I think it works as a twist on traditional education and a way to see it through a student’s eyes. I would have liked a bit of a surprise at the end, but I think it presents a full story and puts the point across.

  • Tina Wayland

    I liked this–I think it works as a twist on traditional education and a way to see it through a student’s eyes. I would have liked a bit of a surprise at the end, but I think it presents a full story and puts the point across.

  • Lisa Walpole Finch

    Just a little more, even a hint at Mr. Yi’s motivation, or how the teacher meets his expectations (or doesn’t), would have helped this story along. Still, as some have already said, the fact that it kept me until the end says something.

  • Lisa Walpole Finch

    Just a little more, even a hint at Mr. Yi’s motivation, or how the teacher meets his expectations (or doesn’t), would have helped this story along. Still, as some have already said, the fact that it kept me until the end says something.

  • This is an excellent piece of work; take it from an ex-teacher. No matter how long you have been teaching, there is always something to surprise you around the corner.

  • This is an excellent piece of work; take it from an ex-teacher. No matter how long you have been teaching, there is always something to surprise you around the corner.

  • S Conroy

    I liked it a lot. Nicely skewed angle. I think it could nearly be seen as a satire on the way pupil-teacher dynamics have changed so much over the last 25 years or so.

  • S Conroy

    I liked it a lot. Nicely skewed angle. I think it could nearly be seen as a satire on the way pupil-teacher dynamics have changed so much over the last 25 years or so.

  • MPmcgurty

    I was hoping and expecting something dark and disturbing to happen, and disappointed that it ended in such an inoffensive manner. Garry
    “sensed trouble”, but it turns out the kid is just weird and it’s going to be an interesting year! Well-written and a promising start but I feel like like the author ran out of time to finish it. 🙁

  • MPmcgurty

    I was hoping and expecting something dark and disturbing to happen, and disappointed that it ended in such an inoffensive manner. Garry
    “sensed trouble”, but it turns out the kid is just weird and it’s going to be an interesting year! Well-written and a promising start but I feel like like the author ran out of time to finish it. 🙁

  • joanna b.

    Excellent writing.

    I was fascinated by Mr. Yi, loved his comment, “We have high expectations … as you seem young and, as yet, unjaded by the system.” His speaking in the first person plural wowed me.

    Mr. Mayhew handles himself admirably too. His arranging the chairs in a circle endeared him to me instantly.

    Somehow students forget about their own high expectations of teachers because they are immediately thrown into meeting the teacher’s expectations of them OR ELSE. You brought this phenomenon to the fore by creating an unusual student who is the exception to it.

    And then, for me too, as with several other commenters, the ending let me down.

    My own strong hope, Mr. Chandler, and you can even call it an expectation, is that you will continue on with Mr. Yi and Mr. Mayhew. Develop each of them further as individuals, e.g. back story, relationships outside of school, etc. And also, go on to show their relationship changing, e.g. reaching snags and conflicts, perhaps collaborating in a school emergency, discovering each other’s “clay feet, saving each other’s lives,” etc. you know the drill.

    they both have such potential to expand past the 1000 word limit.

  • joanna b.

    Excellent writing.

    I was fascinated by Mr. Yi, loved his comment, “We have high expectations … as you seem young and, as yet, unjaded by the system.” His speaking in the first person plural wowed me.

    Mr. Mayhew handles himself admirably too. His arranging the chairs in a circle endeared him to me instantly.

    Somehow students forget about their own high expectations of teachers because they are immediately thrown into meeting the teacher’s expectations of them OR ELSE. You brought this phenomenon to the fore by creating an unusual student who is the exception to it.

    And then, for me too, as with several other commenters, the ending let me down.

    My own strong hope, Mr. Chandler, and you can even call it an expectation, is that you will continue on with Mr. Yi and Mr. Mayhew. Develop each of them further as individuals, e.g. back story, relationships outside of school, etc. And also, go on to show their relationship changing, e.g. reaching snags and conflicts, perhaps collaborating in a school emergency, discovering each other’s “clay feet, saving each other’s lives,” etc. you know the drill.

    they both have such potential to expand past the 1000 word limit.

  • terrytvgal

    Likeable and fun.

  • terrytvgal

    Likeable and fun.

    Now I’ve read the remarks of the other posters I’m quite surprised to see the reaction to this story. It didn’t seem unfinished to me; it began with Mr. Mayhew at the class door and ended when Mr. Yi left, closing the door. I rather thought that was fine symmetry. The title told me it was the 1st day and so I had no need to see what happened beyond that.

    I do however identify with those of you who were pulled in and hoped for more to the story. That happens to me often and it is annoying to be sure. Perhaps martin can give us ‘updates’ as the school year progresses? Thanks for the story, Martin!

  • So here’s the thing. Should the teacher accept the role of the student, or should he take the little nerd over his knee.
    Of course not! We all scream. Nobody touches the nerd!
    Okay, well then. What would you do if you were a teacher, young and ahead of the bell.
    Lovely work. Does Larry the lobster boil, or do he live for another day. And what about those school taxes we (we?) all pay?

  • So here’s the thing. Should the teacher accept the role of the student, or should he take the little nerd over his knee.
    Of course not! We all scream. Nobody touches the nerd!
    Okay, well then. What would you do if you were a teacher, young and ahead of the bell.
    Lovely work. Does Larry the lobster boil, or do he live for another day. And what about those school taxes we (we?) all pay?

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