A Day in the Life: A Memory

One day in high school, my teacher chose me to go to another teacher's classroom for an errand. It was an honor, and I was glad to go.

I must have been a freshman, so I had never had this particular teacher myself. I didn't know him. I was probably a little nervous when I left my won classroom and started down the hall. I remember standing at the door of Mr. Biel's class. There were two doors into every classroom, one at the head and one at the rear. That day, the door at the head of the class, through which I could see a little bit of the room, was closed. I stood there for a moment wondering what I was supposed to do next. I became more and more anxious because I didn't have a definite answer.

I could hear the lesson from outside the door. A knock would have interrupted the class. I thought I had seen people knock on classroom doors when they were running an errand, but I wasn't sure. I couldn't think of what the rule was. I thought about going back to my own class to ask my teacher, but I decided that would be silly.

Then, I noticed the other door was open, and I decided walking quietly into the rear of the room through the open door would be the best way to get the teacher's attention without disrupting the whole class. Apparently, I was wrong about that. I walked into the the classroom as quietly as possible. When I tried to stand at the back and wait to be noticed, the other students starting shifting in their seats, turning their heads to look at me. I couldn't figure out why they were doing that or even how they noticed me at all. The teacher went on talking for a minute but then stopped and called me to the front.

He asked me what I was doing there and I said with a smile that I was sent to get some manipulatives (or to return them, I don't recall exactly which). He, then, had me to wait outside the door, the one that had been closed. When he came out his face was showing anger, but I might not have noticed it at the time. I think I still smiled and didn't realize anything was wrong.

In actuality, he was furious with me. He was shaking with anger and went at me with how I'd disrespected him and his class and various other things because I didn't knock on the door. I remember this barrage because I was pretty sensitive as a child and getting in trouble was always really hard for me. And I rarely ever got in trouble. I felt so bad. I can almost feel the pressure on my chest now as I recount this story. Tears, that I tried to hold back, welled up to the surface, and as soon as I was alone again, they would not stop flowing down my face.

Getting yelled at -- me facing that kind of intense anger so randomly -- cut deeply. As I walked back to my own classroom, I tried to calm myself down. The last thing I wanted was to be seen crying by anybody, but I had already been gone longer than I should have been. My teacher gave me a caring look as I had to look at her face briefly when I came back, and she asked if I was alright. I said "yeah" quietly and made sure I never encountered that other teacher again.

I happened to change schools the next year. When I did see Mr. Biel again, it was neither as his student nor as a student in his school. I didn't feel like I was under his awful authority at all, and that felt good.

He didn't remember me though barely a year had passed since that day in the hall. I remembered him. I still do.

I try to remind myself that he didn't know that I didn't know the rule about knocking on the door, and he didn't know that I wasn't trying to disrupt his class, and that he didn't know that I had already been obsessing over how to properly enter a room, and that he didn't know how happy I was that I'd found a good solution. The only thing that ever helps is when I remember my own unwarranted outbursts over the years against those in my charge. Those things, those words and actions, matter. Careful.