Most of my life I got good grades, but when I was in my sophomore year in high school, my priorities changed dramatically and studying for a chemistry test wasn’t at the top of my list, to say the least.
So, our monthly test came and I didn’t study for it, not even a bit, and chemistry is one thing that –no matter how resourceful you are- you can’t make up, it’s either you know it or you don’t, and I didn’t, so I failed. I failed for the first time in my life and the thing is that I couldn’t fail chemistry or anything else because, being a good student, I had a scholarship that I couldn’t afford to lose. In order to keep my scholarship, I talked to my chemistry teacher, Manuel. I asked for his help and he helped me: he passed me.
I couldn’t thank him enough. However, the next chemistry examination came and I didn’t study for it either; rather, I did what most of my class was doing--I cheated. I was copying the answers from a boy seated next to me when Manuel caught me.
I will never forget the look he gave me, with eyes full of disappointment he shook his head. There are no words to express how miserable I felt; I felt like the lowest creature on Earth. But, wait, I wasn´t like that, really, I wasn’t self-centered, irresponsible, inconsiderate, nor ungrateful, though I made myself look like that. I wanted to disappear, but most of all, I wanted to redeem myself. I had to prove to Manuel -to prove to myself- that I wasn’t like that.
The truth is that Manuel could have done anything he wanted, he could have lectured me, punished me, screamed at me from the top of his lungs; I could have gotten detention, even been suspended. He could have done it all, but he didn’t do any of those. In that moment, Manuel had my future in the palm of his hand, but, instead of a punishment, Manuel gave me an opportunity. Yes, another opportunity.
From that day on, chemistry became my priority, even though I didn’t like it. The next exam, and all those which followed, I got an A+, Manuel smiled at me, I smiled back.
That was the end of my bad patch at school. I learned my lesson and I got back on track.
Two weeks ago I completed my Masters of Education with honors. That certainly wouldn’t have been possible without the opportunity that Manuel granted me when I needed it the most.
Teaching is about granting opportunities at the right moment, because even good students mess up at times, we all do, and instead of punishments, we need opportunities.