In one of my classrooms, I share it with two other teachers, one of which teaches immediately after me. He was recently assigned a student teacher, one that is in graduate school at Queens College and has been teaching most of his classes for the past two weeks. Earlier last week the student teacher had to get evaluated by one of her professors, so after I was finished and the bell rang, she enters and begins setting up for the period, but in a more frantic and stricter manner. Within a minute, in walks an old gentleman, her evaluator. I immediately recognized him as Mr. Marcus, my high school AP statistics teacher and Math Assistant Principal. I was experiencing one of those moments in which I was seeing someone that I had believed that I would never see again for the rest of my life. I hadn’t seen him, or any of my public school teachers in over a decade, so this was quite shocking and divinely coincidental.
He passed by me and I said, “Mr. Marcus!” He turned around smiling realizing that one of his former students had spotted him, definitely not the first nor the last. I shook his hand and introduced myself as a senior that was in his AP stats class. Of course he didn’t remember me, but he was still delighted to meet me and informed me that he retired in 2002 and was still working at Queensboro. Our conversation was brief as he had to begin evaluating the student teacher, so I made my way out, but I quickly took the photo above, albeit a bit blurry because I was nervous and didn’t want to get caught like a student using their cell phone.
Knowing that there wasn’t another class after the period, I returned after the end of class for a chance to talk a bit more with him, and I suppose he wanted to do the same as he approached me from afar. He asked me how long I’ve been teaching and if I enjoy it. I was hoping he wouldn’t ask, but he inquired what I received on the statistics AP exam and I embarrassingly said that I scored a 2 out of 5. He laughed and said that that course, although very valuable in real life, was harder than calculus and was difficult to teach with all of the endless application problems. I was shocked to hear him admit that because after pre-calculus I purposely chose AP statistics to avoid me failing AP calculus. WOW! I struggled immensely and didn’t do well in his class as I recall stressing out and doing poorly on most of his exams. However, I remember that I received a very gracious 85 for my final grade, far above than what I deserved, because I think he realized that I was a senior and I didn’t cut at all. So for him to admit that the course was harder than calculus and difficult for him to teach was frustratingly relieving I suppose.
However, the most important lesson that I took away from his class was that being a teacher empowers one to not only administer fairness and justice, but also grace. I have much to say about this, but then I’d risk losing my job in such a public venue.