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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Teacher (10/26/06)

TITLE: Prize Pupil
By Donna Powers


Casualties stretched from one end of the gym to the other. Each stretcher held someone with a serious injury. Blood and broken bones were everywhere. The rescuers would have their work cut out for them.

I waited as patiently as I could on the hard, narrow stretcher. I searched the field anxiously for a glimpse of the rescuers. I hoped they’d be coming for me soon. I listened eagerly for the words I’d been waiting for. Soon, I heard them: “Ready...set...go!”

The Health Occupations Students’ Regional Competition had begun.

As part of our Health Occupations class, my students participate in these yearly contests. Every year I look forward to seeing my students’ performance. All the Health Occupations teachers serve as judges or “victims” in the various events. All of us hope we prepare our students well. The events include skill drills, speaking contests and knowledge tests. Someday our students hope to work in the health care field. Today they were vying for medals and ribbons with other high school students.

I knew I had a chance for at least one big winner this year. Rosario was a student that any teacher would be proud of. He knew his emergency drills backwards and forwards, and his confidence and personality were sure to impress the judges. I’d hoped for many years for a student like Rosario. Most of my students were happy to give an average effort and get C’s. Rosario always took pride in what he did and had the grades to show for it.

I lay on my stretcher and waited for the rescuers. I was supposed to have a broken arm, an open wound on the back of my leg, and a bloody nose. I had fake blood on my face, a fake plastic wound on my leg, and a red armband to signal my “fracture”.

The students were well-prepared and some even found my leg wound. I had to admit that the other teachers had prepared their students well. It would be hard for the judges to declare a winner.

But when Rosario came up to my stretcher, I couldn’t help but be sure that he’d be the best.. He did everything by the book. I smiled when he turned me over to find the hidden leg wound. This young man justified all the years of mediocre students. He was proof that I’m a good teacher. I was sure that his name would be announced as the grand prize winner.

But my positive mood turned to frustration when I saw my other student step up to my stretcher. Joe was a nice boy, but he had many academic problems. He needed endless repetitions and even then he didn’t always catch on to the skills. I’d had many students like Joe over the years. Sometimes I wondered if it was worth all the time and trouble. Joe really wanted to succeed, but didn’t have the capability – or personality – of Rosario. If Rosario was a teacher’s dream, Joe was the teacher’s nightmare.

Joe smiled when he saw me. “Hi, Mrs. E!” he shouted. I frowned in frustration. Joe knew better than to talk to me during competition. He stood for a moment, seemingly confused by the sight of me on the stretcher. He placed a tissue on my bloody nose, but didn’t do anything with it. He ignored the red armband and didn’t look for any wounds on my leg. But just before time ran out, Joe touched his fingers to my wrist. “Radial...wrist,” he whispered – and counted my pulse for a full minute.

At first, I was frustrated. But then I remembered that the pulse was what Joe and I had been working on for the past few weeks. He hadn’t been able to remember the name for the wrist pulse. Last week, in frustration, I’d suggested that he remember: “radial...like tires” and his eyes had lit up with recognition. I couldn’t talk during the competition, but I squeezed his hand and smiled. Joe had remembered!

After the competition, I went to the computer lab and quickly printed out a certificate that named Joe as the “Regional Pulsefinder”. It was a completely fake award, but he wouldn’t know that. When I walked out to the gym carrying Joe’s “award”, I heard them call Rosario’s name as the grand prize winner. Of course I was proud. When another teacher congratulated me for having a winning student, I knew, in my heart, that I had two.

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Member Comments
Member Date
julie wood11/02/06
I enjoyed this story--especially its message.

It began to draw me in when Joe was introduced, the clumsy but endearing student in contrast to the more conventionally brilliant Rosario. Would have liked the story to have begun with Joe and Rosario and their contrasting natures aleady present.

I loved reading about both Joe's character and the sensitive way his teacher handled the situation!
L.M. Lee11/04/06
good view of seeing all the angles
Jan Ackerson 11/06/06
Most of my students are "Joes", so I loved this.
Trina Courtenay11/07/06
I fell for Joe - any teacher that can teach a Joe and have them learn is a teacher I want my children to learn from. Thanks for sharing this story. It's one of my fav's this week.
Joanne Sher 11/07/06
Definitely a wonderful job with your characterization - I really enjoyed this! Perfect name for Joe - and I love this story!
Val Clark11/08/06
Bravo for a beginning that really sucked me in and then a story that kept me engaged to the end. Yeggy