Classroom Stories: What Makes It All Worthwhile

How NOT To Make A Good Impression First Day Of Teaching By Robert Bacal

Teaching at any level, particularly if you have limited experience can be daunting and anxiety provoking, particularly on your very first day. Here's a story of of my first day teaching a month long summer course for college instructors.


I remember being excited when I got the phone call that I was being hired to teach a group of college instructors on instructional methods. As a graduate student I need the money, but it was my first "longer term" teaching gig -- a chance to show off how so very smart I was to the world.

Scary, too. The assignment was located a good thousand or so miles away from my home in Toronto, and I was hired based on some phone conversations and on the basis of my paper qualifications. No face to face meetings at all, so there was a lot of pressure not to let down the college, the hiring manager, and of course the adult students.

So, I get it all sorted out, the curriculum, the equipment for videotaping lessons in class, and so on, and even figure out how to get my precious bicycle shipped out. At that time I was an avid cyclist, and used it to get around the city. And off I went.

Readying For The Trip In To The College

I had never been to Winnipeg before and had no idea of where anything was. I'd managed to get a map and plan out a route, but as I'd flown in the day before class was to start, I'd had no chance to meet or talk to anyone at the college.

So, first thing in the morning, I look outside where I'm staying, and it's pouring down rain. I mean pouring. Undaunted, I tell myself that I've often ridden in the rain. Not a problem.

So, I gather up my nice beige linen trousers, and my working jacket (think a bit of Don Johnson in Miami Vice), put them in a plastic garbage bag, and load everything into my backpack.

Off I go.

I Ride

I ride and I ride. I think I've gone too far, thinking I've gone past the college. I ride back the way I'd come. Finally, I look at my watch and realize I have only a few minutes to get to the college.

I do what no man has ever done before. I ask a bystander for directions. He says, "Oh, you were almost there. It's just about a block past where you stopped".


When I finally arrive at the college, I lock up my bike, and try to find the office where my new boss is anticipating my arrival. I now have about two minutes to find the office, change clothes, and get to the classroom (I have no idea where that is).

I manage to get to the office. I walk in. I stand dripping water onto the carpet in front of a rather stern looking dowager of a receptionist who looks me up and down, and says: "Yes?"

I think she thought I was a courier.

I explain. I ask where I can change and she leads me to a shared office towards the back, and says she'll notify the director that I have arrived so he can rush me to the classroom where my students are waiting.

I quickly take off my sodden clothes, and strip down to my underwear, which, as you will see, is thankfully NOT a thong or something exotic. I'm standing in a puddle of water and clothes when the office door opens and in walks a fellow. Nonplussed he extends his hand and says: "Hi, I'm John. I think we're going to be sharing an office".

"Um. I'm Robert. I'm teaching general instructional methods."

"Good, he replies. I see you are getting ready so maybe I'll just toddle off. Good luck. I'm thinking you might need it."

He goes out. I'm thinking, that went well all things considered.

Then, someone else comes in - well dressed middle aged man. The boss. The director. I'm in the middle of pulling up my pants.

"Hi, you must be Robert. I'm George. It's great to meet you finally...uh...but you'd better hustle because you are already late to class."

I do up my trousers, get my sports jacket on, and George brings me to the classroom.

The Grand Entrance

The door is shut. That's not good. I'm ten minutes late. George pats me on the shoulder, tells me he's sure I'll do a good job, and walks off. Me, I take a few deep breaths and just before I open the door to enter, I do what many male teachers or trainers do just before beginning.

I check myself over. Yup, fly is done up. Jacket buttoned.

Wait. What's that? It's a wet spot. Wait, it's in the crotch area. Oh my goodness, I can't get the jacket to cover this up. It seems to grow in front of my eyes. It's the size of my fist now.

Run. I need to run. No, not that. I HAVE to go into the classroom, and I have to do it now. Nothing for it.

I open the door. I walk in. Fifteen adults are staring at me. The greet me by looking at my face (I think that's good). But...wait, their eyes seem to be moving downwards. I could be imagining it. No.

Seeing I couldn't think of anything else to say, I figure to do what my mentors told me. Just keep going. never stop.

"Hi, I'm Robert Bacal, and I'll be teaching the class for this month. And THAT (I point down) is NOT what it looks like".

There's a pause. Everyone looks. I'm not used to being crotch watched. And then the entire class breaks into very loud laughter.

I start laughing. I still have a wet spot that looks like I messed myself, but now we are all on the same side, having a good laugh.

How does this story turn out? What did I learn? What made it "all worth while? Click here to read the second part of the story.

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