I was watching my daughter’s volleyball game this afternoon when I was joined by her good friend’s Dad. Frank is one of my favourites. He’s a high school teacher with a terrific sense of humour; one of those even-keeled types that make you just want to lay your head on their shoulder in that socially frowned upon Cinderella kind of way.
So anyway, we’re watching the game and he lets out this huge sigh and I say to him “that was a pretty heavy sigh, man… what’s up?”
And he starts telling me that the other day, he let fly on a student.
Now this is totally out of character for my friend, Frank.
He looked me in the eye and he said “I was trying to get through my lecture, and this kid begins mouthing off, so I tell him to pipe down and also, that I’ll be speaking to him after class. So he and I sit down together after the class and then – and I don’t even know how this happened – and then I just lost it, and I got so mad at this guy…I just… And I feel terrible. I feel so badly. I’m not like that, that’s not how I am but I’m so stressed out right now what with Christmas and all kinds of demands on my time and my wallet. On the one hand I keep telling myself that I’m only human and I can only be pushed so far. But then, on the other hand I’m a teacher too, and I should remember that the kids that push my buttons are usually the ones dealing with difficult circumstances at home, and stuff, which turned out to be the case with this kid and now… oh… I don’t know….”
“Frank” I said, “your reputation speaks for itself. You’re an excellent teacher, and a measured, well-respected guy. And you’re awesome, for that matter. It’s ok, things like this happen to everyone. You are only human you’re right. So now you’ve established your position with this kid…. spare the rod and all, right?”
“Fortunately” Frank replied “Jameson has turned out to be a very good friend.”
“Well that’s good” I said, patting his shoulder. “Is he a fellow teacher?” I asked.
“Also” Frank continued “Macallan has been very helpful too.”
“Ok, see? That’s really great! There you go!!… Are these guys friends of yours? Do I know them?”
“They’re Scottish” Frank said, with a twinkle in his eye and an encouraging nod.
And then the penny dropped.
“Oh jeesh!!” I said to him, feeling a little embarrassed.”I’m not really all that familiar with those guys. For me, when I’m stressed, I turn to Pinot.”
“AhHaaaaa!” says Frank, “you like the Italians then, do you?”
“I do like the Italians” I tell him. And we share a laugh. And then Frank looks off toward a corner of the gym, still not having fully reconciled a totally human reaction with his decidedly super-human role. I can feel the weight of the world descending upon him once again.
And I look into the distance too, feeling overwhelmed with my own tasks and challenges, realizing I don’t even know what I’m going to make for dinner but more than that, I don’t have my Christmas list prepared for tomorrow’s shopping day with my excessively organized Mother.
“Frank”, I say to him after an extended period of silence. ” You know what this school needs? What this school needs a Parents’ Lounge. Nothing fancy, just something small and Pub-like.”