Those were the first words she said to me, Mrs. Gailboard.
Her class was the class everyone pitied, which I learned on the first day at my new school while fumbling to change into my runners so that she could deposit me at the gym with the rest of her class. I moved in the middle of the school year in grade four and was an unexpected addition to her class, walking timidly into her classroom during her spare period. She was not known for her kindness; in fact, she was probably the most undesired teacher in the whole school.
I made friends quickly, though, and things weren’t too bad. I even landed the lead part of our classroom musical.
Then I got sick—really sick—and ended up having to stay home from school for a couple of weeks. I spent countless hours rehearsing lines and music for the play and thought I would be well prepared for my part when I returned back to school.
As it turns out I was far too prepared. In my absence my part had been given away. I was distraught. Tears started welling up in my eyes before I could help it.
Annoyed, Mrs. Gailboard instructed me to follow her into the hallway where she told me that it wasn’t her fault I had been so undependable. She had had no choice but to take my part away.
I looked up to her and squared my nine-year-old shoulders.
“You’re mean!” I shouted, though not very loudly.
And that was the end of our conversation. I walked back into the classroom and so did she. I did not get my part back. But Mrs. Gailboard treated me differently for the rest of the year.
I remember rushing home to tell my mom what I had done, worrying that I was going to be in for it for the rest of the school year. Much to my surprise the change wrought in our relationship was a positive one—one of mutual respect.