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The time it snowed inside our classroom – and the windows were closed

January 22, 2018

7“A heavier snowfall is expected tonight.  The temperature outside our studio window is 19 degrees…” I turned off the radio and pulled the key out of the ignition.  The wind was howling across the fields and whipping around the parking lot.  I reached across for my briefcase and glanced up to see snow pelting the windshield at such a rapid pace that the glass was almost covered.  I weaved my way through the full parking lot, walking among cars so covered with snow that it looked like I was trekking the Frozen North between sleeping polar bears.  I was due to teach a second period class.


I was a substitute on this day, heading in to fill in for a History teacher who had been brought down with the flu.  I had not yet gone full-time into teaching, but was filling my days with subbing for anyone in the school community for whatever class they needed, and I can still remember the day-to-day surprises I encountered.  Covering all grades from elementary to high school seniors, I tackled math, history, Bible, Spanish, and even a gym class or two. Subbing is rather fun; it’s like a kid getting a free pass to go to Disney World for the very first time – you’re not really sure what you’re going to ride, but you can be sure it will never be boring.

I gathered my briefcase and overcoat and stepped inside the classroom.  The students were all seated and each one was wearing their thickest coat.   Yes, it did seem cold in here…  

They all seemed overly obedient, especially to a substitute teacher.  As one, they turned to me and nodded.  I had taught this group before and I recognized most of the faces.  The room reminded me of my childhood – not that it was a nostalgic warm memory, but because although the year was 1989, the room looked like it had not changed since the late 1950’s.  Wooden floors, high windows, insufficient lighting, dusty blackboards … you know what I mean.

“Hello, once again,” I said as cheerily as possible, throwing my briefcase on top of the front desk and turning to hang up my overcoat.  I glanced at the group, and then did a double take.  The girl in the front row… I can see her breath. 

“Please, sir,” said one of the small boys who was wearing an oversized scarf and sounding like a foil from a Charles Dickens novel,  “Can’t you see if they can do something about the heat?”  He nodded over at the radiator, which seemed as dead and silent as a Gettysburg graveyard.   I looked past the radiator and blinked.  The decrepit windows were, although as shut as they could be, sifting enough snow into the classroom that it was piled in little drifts along the wall.

I know my fellow teachers have numerous stories about odd events in their teaching careers, as I do.  Over the course of the years I have taught in schools that were among the largest Christians schools in the region.  Others were so small I believe their budget was less than the change I had in my pocket.

We may shake our head at some of the odd situations we’ve encountered – doesn’t every career teacher have a litany of great “you’re not gonna believe this, but…” stories? – but if you’re a lifelong Christian school teacher you must admit that it really is great fun.

I have about fifteen minutes to tell you a quick story before I must get back to class prep before the school day starts.  I want to share one of the small joys in my teaching career…

Back when I taught out West, I handled Bible, Greek, Current Events, and Speech. The students loved the first three subjects and hated the last one, but it was indeed a required course in this particular school district.

Most of the students winced.  Warren panicked.  I mean panicked.  He was a senior but he shook like a kindergartner whenever he stepped to the front of the class.  His first effort was an unmitigated disaster.  His second speech fared little better. I met him in private after class.

“I can’t do it, Doc,” he moaned.  “I just cannot remember what to say.  I go blank.”

“You’re willing to try, though, if I help you?” I asked.  “I won’t fail you if you try.”

He shook his head.

I paused.  “Well, the next speech is on any subject you like.  I understand you work for your dad’s appliance store, don’t you?”

He looked up and smiled.  “Oh, yeah,” he said.  “I’m a salesman.”  He smiled even bigger.  “I like it.”

I held up my hands. “Well, why don’t you take the next speech and give us your sales pitch?”

He stood up, his eyes bright.  “I’ll do it.”

And he did.

And in the three minute speech he gave the next week, everybody won.  Warren got an “A” ad we all got the virtues of Whirlpool and Maytag washing machines, especially the features of the power of a spin cycle.

But the story’s not over.  Warren was on a roll.

“The next speech is a demonstration speech, isn’t it?” He asked me, his eyes bright again.  “Can I go first tomorrow?”

I nodded. “First in line, my man.”  Although I kept a stoic demeanor, I secretly could hardly wait to see what he was going to deliver.  Warren was up to something.

The Speech Class assembled and Warren brought a box up to the front.   He cleared his throat.

“Many of you may not know that I am somewhat of a cook.”  A few eyebrows raised.

“Well, my demonstration speech is about making a salad – a simple, nice green salad with some vegetables rounding it out.”  He pulled out a head of lettuce.  “But I am going to show you the proper way for a guy to make a salad.  Girls make it one way, but guys need to make it like only a guy can.”  He lay the head of lettuce on the table,  “You don’t want kitchen utensils,”  he said.  “You need tools.”

Warren pulled out a full-size saw, and to the delight of the class, started sawing into the head of lettuce.  Shreds dropped everywhere.  He scooped up as much as possible and dumped it into a bowl.

“For a nice topping, I recommend crushed tomatoes,” Warren announced.   He plopped a beautiful Grainger tomato on the table, pulled out a hammer and  so help me, he smashed the tomato with a WHOMPH, splattering the front row.  Screams of delight filled the room.

He was in his element.  “There are arguments over which type of salad oil to use,” he grinned, reaching into the box.  “I prefer Pennzoil.”  He popped the top of a 10-40 grade bottle and let the black fluid pour over the greens.  The place went wild.

Warren became a speaker that day.

It’s a grand memory.  A grand, grand memory.

Lord God above, thank you for letting me become a teacher.




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