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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Teacher (10/26/06)

TITLE: No Apples Here
By Val Clark


How could I have made such a terrible mistake?

Alicia sat on the doorstep of the old farmhouse, finally letting the tears of frustration, suppressed for two weeks, fall.

I thought this opportunity to go back to work, to teach in a truly Christian school, was a wonderful gift from you, Lord. But those Grade Tens….’


She sniffed and wiped her cheeks dry with the heel of her hand.

Sam had gone to a lot of trouble with the meal; a delicious spicy concoction of meat and vegetables.

Going back to work has uncovered this gift in him and revealed my deficiencies.

The kids left the table and Sam collected the dishes. ‘I don’t believe for one minute that you made a mistake. Promise me you’ll talk to Brian tomorrow.’

She promised.

Brian’s door was open, declaring his availability. Alicia knocked and entered with two mugs of coffee. She sipped slowly; trying to get the words passed the lump that had formed in her throat.

I don’t want to leave, Lord, but what a fraud I’d be to stay.

The principal smiled. His boyish grin and lock of hair that persisted in falling over his right eye hid a razor sharp mind. He didn’t look at his watch or at the pile of work spilling over the edges of his IN tray. He just waited patiently for Alicia to unburden.

She didn’t think she’d ever be ready but eventually she blurted, ‘I’m sorry. I made a big mistake. I shouldn’t be here. I’m a hopeless teacher. Those Grade Tens, they’re walking all over me. I feel so impotent.’

Alicia’s mug, clasped between white knuckled hands, shook as she tried to hold in the emotions that battered to be loosed.

Brian leaned forward in his chair, smiling broadly. ‘They are not mean kids; some of them have tough issues to work thorough. Some are neglected and, frankly, some of those boys are just boys struggling with growing into men. Testosterone. Unfortunately for you, as a woman, you have to earn their respect.’

‘How? How do I do that?’

‘You have to love them, pray for them and confront their unruly behavior - make them accountable for it. You have to ensure your yes is yes and your no means no.’ He set his mug down. ‘Here are a few things that you should know about some of those kids.’

The bell rang for change of lesson. I needed to get to class. ‘Why didn’t you put me straight earlier?’

‘What would you have done last week if I’d called you in and told you how to do your job?’

I bowed my head, hiding a small smile.

‘You needed to make the first move. Don’t worry, though, if it had gotten too bad I would have intervened. Then you wouldn’t have bitten my head off, would you?’

We smiled at each other.

Shane always sat in front of the teacher’s desk. The tallest, bulkiest kid in the class and until five minutes ago, Alicia would have said the laziest. He never, ever, got his book out. In the whole year she taught him English – or rather tried to teach him English – his desk stayed clear. What use had he for irregular verbs and literary fiction when his father had recently died after a long struggle with cancer? But, because he did work for Alicia in Art, producing gruesome pictures that enabled some of the anger to leak out of his spirit, she didn’t press him to work in English.

Andrew’s situation was different. His parents pastored a church and were rarely home. He was just a wild kid who needed to learn some self discipline. Consequently, under Alicia’s supervision, he and his hormonal class mates and a few talkative girls, spent a lot of time catching up with work they failed to complete in class.

That was Alicia’s sacrifice; fewer lunchtimes in the staff room with her pears, fortifying herself with coffee and empty carbohydrates. Her reward: a growing love for the troubled and troublesome kids and a marked reduction in tension migraines.

She was twelve years in that school. Enough to see many of her students married and enrolling their own children. At one wedding Shane approached her, smiling broadly, hugged her and introduced his pretty fiancé. Eventually Alicia asked about Andrew.

‘He works with the Mission, homeless kids.’

Thank you, Lord, for Shane’s hug. I’m in the place you want me to be. Thank you.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Suzanne R11/02/06
Having worked for a few years in high schools (secular and Christian), I can TOTALLY identify with this piece. The 'Alicia' teachers stand out so much - the kids and other staff recognize their value. This is a beautiful tribute to the truly committed teachers in our schools. Thank you. (He he he ... I say 'thank you' like I'm one of the committed ones - but I left the system for adult education - so much easier - and yet so less effective character formation - it has its own areas of contribution though.)
Valora Otis11/03/06
Having raised four sons and half a dozen of their friends:-) I appreciate this story immensely. Boys need strong mentors to make it in the world. This teacher was a guiding light. I felt her emotions of both vexation and joy. This story is too real not to be true. Bless you dear teacher!
Joanne Sher 11/06/06
Great story - super job with the dialogue and description, especially in the last couple paragraphs.
Jan Ackerson 11/06/06
I teach high school, and you really nailed this...

Is it just me, or did you switch from 3rd to 1st person in the middle?

I really like the two main characters you created here, and their tender spirits.
Allison Egley 11/06/06
Great story. I especially liked the dialogue between Alice and the principal. It was obvious they understood each other.
Sara Harricharan 11/06/06
Cute title, and a great story. I wish there could have been a little more at the end to show what else happened after she learned why some of the students were acting up, but otherwise, great job!
Pat Guy 11/06/06
Yes - you nailed the essence of a teacher. (missionaries in my eyes)

Such a variety of complexities to deal with everyday, they are the true champions.

You conveyed the struggle of our incertainties at times about where we are supposed to be, and how God works it out. Good flow and good work.
Jen Davis11/06/06
I enjoyed seeing the change that occurred in Alicia’s heart: “Her reward: a growing love for the troubled and troublesome kids…” The story has a good message and is an encouragement for other teachers who continue to deal with many of the same challenges.
Betty Castleberry11/07/06
Never give up. You told this in a unique way, and let us get a glimpse into this teacher's emotions. Well done.
Helen Paynter11/07/06
An inspiring story about a true teacher. I'm sure you've already spotted the couple of typos in it. I liked the title too.
Beth Muehlhausen11/08/06
This line hit me:

"...you have to earn their respect."

I have a teacher-friend who contends that you can teach a child anything if he/she knows you care about him/her as an individual FIRST - before presenting the academic material. No small goal!

I liked her example of "sacrifice" which meant spending time w/ the kids and "fewer lunchtimes in the staff room with her pears, fortifying herself with coffee and empty carbohydrates."

Catrina Bradley 11/08/06
You really brought Alicia to life for me, I could feel her frustration, and then her satisfaction. I enjoyed this story. Thank you for writing it.
william price11/09/06
Excellent job of introducing me to this teacher and getting me to care about her in such a short amount of time. Very good. God bless.
Edy T Johnson 11/16/06
Coming from a family of teachers, I know how true-to-life this teacher's frustration can be. You did a great job putting us in her shoes with this story.