This is from the book Teacher Man and is about high school English teaching, but it offers an interesting perspective and reminds us to take advantage of those teachable moments.
I was in my third year of teaching creative writing at Ralph McKee Vocational School in Staten Island, New York, when one of my students, 16-year-old Mikey, gave me a note from his mother. It explained his absence from class the day before:
â€œDear Mr. McCort, Mikeyâ€™s grandmother who is eighty years of age fell down the stairs from too much coffee and I kept Mikey at home to take care of her and his baby sister so I could go to my job at the ferry terminal. Please excuse Mikey and heâ€™ll do his best in the future. P.S. His grandmother is ok.â€
I had seen Mikey writing the note at his desk, using his left hand to disguise his handwriting. I said nothing. Most parental-excuse notes I received back in those days were penned by my students. Theyâ€™d been forging excuse notes since they learned to write, and if I were to confront each forger Iâ€™d be busy 24 hours a day.
I threw Mikeyâ€™s note into a desk drawer along with dozens of other notes. While my classes took a test, I decided to read all the notes Iâ€™d only glanced at before. I made two piles, one for the genuine ones written by mothers, the other for forgeries. The second was the larger pile, with writing that ranged from imaginative to lunatic.
I was having an epiphany.
Isnâ€™t it remarkable, I thought, how the students whined and said it was hard putting 200 words together on any subject? But when they forged excuse notes, they were brilliant. The notes I had could be turned into an anthology of Great American Excuses. They were samples of talent never mentioned in song, story or study.
Read more at Reader’s Digest.