Teacher scolds child for being late; the next day, an elderly woman comes to school and asks to meet him

It was Mr. Morgan’s first day as a teacher at this school. He arrived early, went over the lesson he was going to teach his students and everything seemed perfect, just as he had planned that morning.

As a young beginning teacher, Mr. Morgan was determined to be strict but fair. He wanted his students to know that he was a good mentor, but he was not about to tolerate nonsense.

The chatter in seventh grade ceased as soon as Mr. Morgan entered and left his register on the table. The children milled around in their seats and there was stony silence as he introduced himself as their new history teacher.

And as Mr. Morgan began the lesson on the Great Depression and World War II, the classroom door suddenly opened.

The class fell silent and everyone turned to see who was interrupting the class. A boy walked in with his eyes fixed on the floor and took a seat without saying a word or looking at the teacher.

«Good morning, young man!» said Mr Morgan in a stern voice. «It’s 9.15, you’re 20 minutes late for class, do you have a good reason?»

But the boy just sat there without answering Mr Morgan.

«Would you please stand up and introduce yourself?» added Mr Morgan.

«I’m Archie,» the boy replied as he stood and looked up, rubbing his tired eyes.

Archie looked very dishevelled and groggy, as if he hadn’t slept a wink the night before.

«Nice to meet you, Archie. I’m your new history teacher. You’re late for class, would you mind telling me why? You just walked in without an excuse, and I’m not going to tolerate that behaviour in my class.»

Archie hesitated a moment.

«I’m sorry, sir. I overslept. I didn’t mean to be late. I was just tired and… it won’t happen again, sir,» Archie finished, unable to control his yawn. The whole class let out a chuckle.

«Silence!» Mr Morgan declared. «Archie, you can’t be late for class, can I see your homework? I heard that your former history teacher gave you homework every weekend. Show it to me, will you?»

As Mr Morgan leafed through Archie’s notebook, his expression became puzzled.

«Looks like you didn’t do your homework, Archie.»

«I didn’t do it, sir,» Archie said sheepishly, refusing to say why.

It was then that Mr Morgan’s patience began to wear thin. He turned on the boy.

«Archie, what’s this? What’s this? You haven’t done any of your homework all term,» he scolded the student in front of the whole class. «I wonder how you got away with this. This is unacceptable and I cannot tolerate such behavior in my class. I want to meet your parents tomorrow…first thing in the morning, okay? Or I’ll take you straight to the Headmaster’s office, and he’ll deal with you, is that clear?»

Archie felt embarrassed. He could hear his classmates whispering things about him and laughing.

«Do you hear me?» Mr. Morgan’s voice shook him.

«Yes, sir,» he mumbled and slumped back in his seat.

But Archie didn’t show up for class the next day, and Mr. Morgan began to worry.

«How strange! I told Archie to bring his parents today, and he’s absent? I hope I didn’t scare him off or anything. I just wanted to help him,» Mr. Morgan wondered.

«All right, class! See you tomorrow… And don’t forget your homework. It’s due in two days,» Mr. Morgan said as he gathered his things and prepared to leave.

Just then, he noticed an older woman, who looked to be in her 80’s, waiting outside the classroom.

«Excuse me, are you looking for someone?» Mr. Morgan asked her.

«I’m Willow, Archie’s grandmother,» the woman replied as she entered.

«Nice to meet you, ma’am. Archie didn’t come to school today, is everything all right with him?».

The grandmother shook her head.

«No, my grandson was a little sick this morning, so I told him not to come to school….. Archie told me you wanted to meet his parents. So what do you want to talk about? My daughter couldn’t come. You can talk to me and I’ll relay the message.»

Mr. Morgan sensed the tension in the woman’s words.

«I hope Archie feels better soon. I wanted to meet with his parents to discuss something about him. Ma’am, I’m concerned about his recent behavior in class. I wanted to make sure Archie gets the help he needs to bring his grades up. He hasn’t done his homework all term, and I’ve heard he’s always late for class. Midterms are coming up and Archie needs to study harder.»

Archie’s grandmother looked unconvinced and excused her grandson to Mr. Morgan.

«Archie is a good boy. I’m sure he’s not the only student who hasn’t done his homework or is late for class. Have you checked everyone else’s homework and met with all their parents? Archie’s mother has been in poor health for a while, but I’ll have her visit you shortly if you think it’s necessary. And I thank you for taking such good care of my grandson. But don’t worry, Mr. Morgan…we’re there to help him.»

Mr. Morgan couldn’t help but feel frustrated.

«I understand, ma’am. But I’m his teacher…and it’s my job to make sure Archie gets the help he needs to keep his grades up. I even reviewed his last few exams. He’s flunked most of his subjects, and at this rate, I don’t think letting him keep it up will help him in the long run. And yes, I would want to meet his mother.»

Mr Morgan nodded as he followed the headmaster into his office. He was partly relieved that he could finally get some answers that would help the boy.

«Mr Morgan, Archie is a wonderful boy… and I’m sorry for what he’s been through,» Mr Smith began.

«His father died a few years ago in a motorcycle accident. His mother has been dealing with some complicated issues ever since. She got into a lot of trouble. Let’s not get into that… …. Mr Morgan, let me get straight to the point. The school has decided to expel Archie next month.

Mr Morgan couldn’t believe his ears.

«What, they’re going to expel the boy? But why? Mr Smith, I understand that Archie has had a very difficult life. Perhaps he’s struggling with something. We still don’t know why his grades have gone down. But we can’t just dismiss it. We have to help him».

«I understand your point, Mr. Morgan. We all regret Archie’s difficult past and whatever he is going through now. But we also have a responsibility to our other students. We are a prestigious institution, and we are obligated to uphold our academic standards,» the principal explained in a firm tone.

«But Mr. Smith, where will he go if we expel him? This school is Archie’s only chance for a better future. He needs our support, also at such a difficult time. We can’t let him go. What if he’s sent to some school for troubled kids? He could end up on the wrong path… get into drugs and crime….. That’s even more cruel, Mr. Smith. Archie needs our help, and I’m sure he can do much better with the right guidance,» Mr. Morgan argued.

«Mr. Morgan, we can’t put the interests of one student before the interests of others. We have given Archie enough opportunities, but that boy has shown no improvement. He is setting a bad example for all of our students and is tarnishing our academic performance statistics,» replied Mr. Smith.

Mr. Morgan felt defeated and sorry for Archie. He pleaded with the principal to reconsider his decision, but to no avail.

«I know your concern, Mr. Morgan. But this is how our school works and you have to get used to our system. Lazy students like Archie may do better at another school, but not here. We can no longer tolerate his behavior and underachievement. Mr. Morgan, you have one month to submit your evaluation of Archie so we can legally expel him with evidence,» explained Mr. Smith.

«And I don’t think you will be forced to make up a lie! Archie will make your job a lot easier with his lower grades this term!». Mr. Smith chuckled.

Mr. Morgan left the office feeling defeated. Archie’s entire future was about to be destroyed, and he didn’t know what to do to help him.

«I have to do something…I have to help him,» thought Mr. Morgan.

Later that afternoon, he went to Archie’s home to meet his mother and warn her of the boy’s impending expulsion.

He knocked at the door for a long time, and when no one answered, he pushed it open. When Mr. Morgan entered, he was flooded with a pungent aroma of stale alcohol.

«Mrs. Willow? Archie?» he called out, and what he found next made him stop in his tracks.

There were empty whiskey bottles strewn across the floor. The sheer number of bottles stunned Mr. Morgan. Before he could comprehend what was happening, a voice startled him from behind.

«Mr. Morgan, what are you doing here?». Archie’s grandmother was surprised to see the professor in the room.

«Uh, ma’am, hi, nice to see you again…I wanted to meet Archie’s mother and…» Mr. Morgan paused as two small children, presumably four and six years old, came running up behind the woman.

«Are they your grandchildren, too?»

«Yes! But what do you want? I told you my daughter will join you soon, when she has time. She is not at home now.»

«Ma’am, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to invade your privacy!». Mr. Morgan forced a smile. «I was just passing by and thought I’d check on Archie and see how he’s doing, where is he, can I see him?».

The woman stammered.

«He’s not at home. He’s gone out…for medicine.»

«Your grandson is sick and you sent him out alone for medicine?».

«Mr. Morgan, Archie is a big boy and can take care of himself. Besides, I have a lot of work to do. I have to start cleaning up, so if you don’t mind…».

«Thank you, ma’am. I’m running late… I’m meeting Archie later. Good bye, and sorry to bother you.» Mr. Morgan realized that talking to Grandma about Archie’s expulsion would be useless, so he left the house immediately.

As he made his way to the door, he ran into Archie. The boy was dirty and exhausted. He was wearing dirty attire that looked like work clothes and smelled of tobacco.

«Archie…hey, don’t go…. stop! Stop right there!» Mr. Morgan chased after the boy and stopped him in his tracks when he tried to run away after seeing his teacher.

«Hey, you don’t have to run, okay? I came to see you. Where have you been and what’s all this? What’s that strange smell? Have you been smoking?».

«Morgan, I’m fine…please go away and don’t come back this way. I’m tired and I have to wash up.»

«You’re tired? Archie, where have you been? You didn’t come to school today and your grandmother told me you were sick. I know you’re hiding something from me, Archie. Come on, tell me… what is it? Look, I can help you, okay? Trust me.»

Archie refused to speak and insisted that Mr. Morgan leave immediately. But the professor was bent on deciphering the riddle and urged the boy to tell him the truth.

«Look here, Archie…the headmaster has decided to expel you from school. I’ll do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen, okay? But I can only help you if you tell me what’s going on. Why didn’t you come to school today? I talked to your classmates… They told me you always come to school tired and sleep in class. What’s going on, Archie? Look, I’m not going to scold you or take you to the principal. I want to help you, but you have to tell me what’s wrong».

«Mr. Morgan, thank you for your efforts, but I don’t think you can help me…. I have my own problems to deal with,» Archie began.

«My mother borrowed money from some bad guys after my father’s death. She started coming home late and was getting sick very often due to overwork at the illegal cigarette factory. She started drinking and once I saw her pricking herself with a needle. She told me that it was her only relief…. Now I’m all grown up and I can’t see some random man coming into my house and yelling at my mother for not paying back the money. I started working part-time at the cigarette factory every day after school, so pretty soon we’ll have enough money to pay off the debts.»

A pang of pity gripped Mr. Morgan’s heart.

«I understand, Archie…. But you’re too young for that job, it’s illegal. It could harm your health. Don’t you think it’s a bad decision?»

«Wouldn’t you do the same for your mother?» retorted Archie.

«But Archie…you can’t mess up your future like this. You’re made for something better and more promising,» Mr. Morgan argued.

«Look at your hands…look how dirty and rough they are. You were supposed to be holding books and stationery…not tobacco.»

«Listen to me, champ. You go back to school tomorrow, and we’ll figure out how to help your mother, okay?»

«What difference is it going to make, Mr. Morgan? We may be having a hard time now, but I’m sure we’ll get through this bad time someday.And you know what? You can file a bad evaluation of me and get me expelled from school. That’s fine with me. To be honest, I suck at my studies. I’m the weakest student in the class… Nothing will change if I go to school every day!»

«But Archie, this is not the solution to your problems. You have to try to find a way out. Education is necessary for all children, and you can’t just…». But the boy raised his hands before Mr. Morgan could finish and started to walk away.

«It’s all right, Mr. Morgan…. I can take care of myself. And I’m glad I have someone who really cares about my family and me. Now I have to go…I have to make dinner for my brothers. Grandma makes disgusting broth every day, and we hate it!».

Mr. Morgan immediately blocked Archie’s path, telling him he had an idea, and begged the boy to give him just one chance to try.

«Look, Archie… I’ve got a proposition! How about we switch places every day?»

«Switch places? I don’t get it.»

«Yes, champ! How about if I cook dinner for you and you do your homework every day at this time? All you have to do is go back to school. You can still go to work at that factory after school, since it’s only a part-time job. And when you come home, you do your homework and prepare for your exams while I make dinner for your family.»

«Mr. Morgan, are you kidding me? You don’t have to do this… And why do you want to do it… Now come on, go home. I’m running late.»

«Archie, wait! I’m being serious! Look, I’ll come here at the same time every day, and we’ll switch places. I know it sounds crazy, but there’s no harm in trying? Deal?»

Archie pondered for a while and eventually agreed.

«Sounds like a great idea to me, Mr. Morgan. Besides, I hate cooking! Deal. If you want to burn your fingers in my kitchen, who am I to stop you!!!!».

As the days went by, Mr. Morgan began to visit Archie more often. He would cook dinner for the whole family while the boy did his homework and prepared for exams after returning home from his part-time job at the factory.

Mr. Morgan and Archie became close friends, and the boy loved having his teacher around. At times, Mr. Morgan even substituted for the boy at work at the factory, doing all he could to improve Archie’s academic performance and keep him from being expelled.

Mr. Morgan’s prayers were answered a month later, when the exam results came in. Archie’s grades had improved considerably, and the headmaster had no choice but to change his mind about expelling the boy.

«Thank you, Mr. Morgan. I wouldn’t have done this if you hadn’t supported me and believed in me,» the boy hugged his teacher.

«No, Archie! You’ve done it. It’s all thanks to your effort.»

Mr. Morgan was delighted, and as they sat down to a hot meal, someone knocked at the door. Archie’s joy was short-lived.

«Hi, we’re from Child Protective Services,» said a social worker. «Can we come in to meet your guardian?».

Archie’s mind began to race.

«Child protective services?»

But before he could process anything, social workers burst into his home to check on the children’s living conditions. Convinced they were less than ideal, the workers approached the children to take them away.

«I’m sorry, but based on what we’ve seen here today and the information we’ve received, we’re going to place you and your siblings in our custody until we find a better foster home for you,» the social worker said.

«What, no!» shouted Archie. «You can’t do this. This is our home. We’re not going anywhere leaving our home.»

But the social workers were unfazed as they led Archie and his siblings out the door. The boy struggled against them and even tried to break free and run back to his room.

«Let me go… Please don’t take us away,» Archie pleaded as he clung desperately to the social worker’s leg. «Please don’t take us away from our home…. Grandma… stop them. Mr. Morgan, please do something…please stop them.»

But Archie’s pleas fell on deaf ears as the social workers loaded him and his little brothers into the back of the patrol car.

«Why are they doing this?» he cried. «What have we done to deserve this?».

Archie refused to get out of the car when they reached the shelter.

«I’m not going anywhere,» he shouted. «I want to go back home to my mother and grandmother…this is not my home.»

But social workers managed to coax Archie and his siblings out of the vehicle and into unfamiliar surroundings. Archie felt helpless and disappointed. He tried calling his mother, but she never answered. He would have liked to call Mr. Morgan, but the number he had didn’t work.

Archie felt he had lost everything in the blink of an eye and blamed the principal for all of this.

«I know Mr. Smith did this to me,» Archie cursed his principal under his breath. «That bald guy had me by the short and curlies. He wanted to get me out of school, and when he couldn’t, he found a way to make my life miserable. I hate you, Mr. Smith. I hate you for doing this to my siblings and me.»

Fifteen years had passed since that day Archie had walked through the doors of his old school, and memories flooded his mind. He had spent some of the happiest and most difficult times of his life in this place.

Archie couldn’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia and excitement as he walked through the familiar hallways. Everything seemed to be in place except for a few changes.

Suddenly, he heard a familiar voice on the microphone and headed for the principal’s office. He was pleased to see that the principal was none other than his former history teacher, Mr. Morgan.

«Excuse me, sir…I’m…,» Archie said, but Mr. Morgan interrupted him with a broad smile before he could finish the sentence.

«Are you the new English teacher?» greeted Mr. Morgan to Archie. «Come in, please. I’ve just returned from a field trip and I’ve been told that we have a new high school English teacher with us today. I am Luis Morgan. Pleased to meet you, sir…».

Archie gaped, flashing his best smile. Looking into his former teacher’s eyes, he felt the same warmth and kindness that had been there all those years ago. It was as if nothing had changed. Yet everything had changed!

«Mr. Morgan! It’s me… Archie. Remember me? The boy who reeked of tobacco?! Wore dirty pants to school… and never did his homework?», Archie perked up.

«ARCHIE?!» Mr. Morgan was taken aback. «Oh my God… Jesus… Archie, is that really you?».

«It’s so good to see you, Archie, my boy! You’ve grown up so much. It’s been fifteen years…. God! I’m so glad you still remember me.» Mr. Morgan hugged Archie, a strange sorrow welling up in his eyes.

«It was me, Archie!» revealed Mr. Morgan in the middle of their conversation. «That day I called Child Protective Services. I just wanted you to have a better life. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you…I hope someday you’ll forgive me.»

«I knew something smelled bad, Mr. Morgan! At first, I thought Mr. Smith did it, but then I figured it couldn’t be him. He was just upset about my academic performance? And he was happy when my grades improved!» laughed Archie.

«The life I live now… my success… my happiness I owe to you, Mr. Morgan. You taught me what I am really capable of….. You made me believe in myself when no one else did. You took me by the hand when everyone was trying to push me away. Thank you, Mr. Morgan».

Archie paused and added:

«Sometimes, the best decision is the most painful.»

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