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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Shrewdness (03/07/05)

By Mary Alice Bowles


AT the age of 58, I became a substitute school teacher. One of my very first jobs was at one of our local High schools.

A member of the office gave me my name badge and a smile crept around the corners of her lips and her eyes twinkled with mischievous dances as she wished me good luck. She said, “Down the hall to the left is room 201”. I followed her directions and came to the door, it read, “Study Hall", room 201.

AS I was taking the roll, four of the boys ran in and headed directly to the back of the room. They drag their desk together making a table in the middle and pulled out a deck of cards. I got up and walked to the back of the room. I said, "This is study hall, not a recreation area". They said, "We do this every day".

I tried hard to take roll, I really did, but it was no use, every time I spoke they just got louder and louder. Then one of the young men walked over and said,”let me see the paper I will tell you who is here and who isn't”.

One of the girls looked at me and said, “You’re new aren’t you”? I can’t believe you haven’t heard about us. Our real study hall teacher quit and we haven’t been able to keep any one since he left in the beginning of the school year”.

A member of the faculty came in at the moment to give me some direction on how the day should run and I looked up at her and said, “Are these boys allowed to play cards”?
She said, “They are not allowed to gamble for money. I know my mouth was drop dead open, and I probably could have swallowed a herd of elephants. I said, “I don’t believe that, that is not even right”. She looked at the boys and told them, “just for today don’t play cards".
Then I thought, “Surely not”! Do they really play cards all first period? Poker at that!

She left, the door closed and they just kind of laughed, to them it was just funny. Then they pulled their bill folds out of their pockets and quarters, nickels, and dimes began to hit the table.

I heard noises coming form the other side of the room and I walked over there and four girls had left their seat and sat Indian style in the floor, there was a deck of cards in the middle of the floor being shuffled.

Little did they know I had a couple pairs of aces up my sleeve! Being state champion poker player in Lexington, Kentucky for four years in a row gave me a little lead way.
Gambling is gambling isn’t it? Should I or shouldn’t I? I pulled me up a chair, or I should say desk. I said, “oh well deal me in”! I called to the girls on the other side of the room, “come on over and join us”! The room got really quiet, all the other students just stood and watched as I took every dime they had, even their lunch money. It only took me 35 minutes.
Then I explained to them, “this is what happens when you gamble, you sooner or later lose everything you own, and even the shirt on your back and then it turns into sin. Gambling is a sin in the eyes of God". Five minutes later, the bell rang, a very sad bunch of young adults left that room. They ask me if I would be able to be there the next day, I said, “don’t know we will have to see”

With each class throughout the day it was a new kind of challenge, but I found strength in wonderful ways with each new challenge.

At the end of sixth period, I turned the lights off and left room 201. I had a brown paper sack full of nickels, dimes and quarters. I stopped and talked to the lady with the early morning dancing eyes, I reached her the sack and said,” This belongs to the first period class of room 201 and Oh “by the way, if you need a study hall teacher tomorrow morning, you have my number, have a nice evening”. Her face turned cheery red and she said, “Thank you” and her gaze followed me all the way out the revolving doors.


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Member Comments
Member Date
Lynne Cox03/14/05
Having been a substitute teacher myself for a number of years, this piece sure tickled my funny bone! A high-five to you!
Melanie Kerr 03/14/05
I was horrified by the other teacher that walked in! I have not met a class like this one and I hope I never do!
Joanne Malley03/14/05
Very entertaining! :)
Zillah Williams03/15/05
I just love stories like this where the tables are turned by someone least likely to have that 'ace up their sleeve'. Very interesting. I wonder if that class gave up the early morning card games after that? I hope so :-) Well written. Held my interest.
donna robinson03/20/05
I loved this character! So often adults are afraid to get down to the level kids can learn a lesson. We worry so much but there are times you have to go with your gut like this teacher did. A great story as it left me with those unanswered questions and my own stories doing the fill in there in my head!