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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