Every teacher I know has experienced tough classes, those groups that were a little more difficult than others. One particular year I had a really troublesome group, and to make matters worse I had them the last period of the day. Any teacher will tell you that having a demanding group of kids at the end of the day is never a good combination.

Anyway, one year I had one such group, and when I say they were bad I mean bad. I had to constantly stay on top of them or the class would spiral into total chaos. There were one or two boys in particular that the rest of the class sort of fed off of, and it was just a difficult group to deal with all-around.

The year I had this particular class I was teaching Social Studies, and for the few years prior I’d been a part of our local Junior Achievement program, where local business men or women would come in and teach a class once a week for 8-weeks. They’d be given a lesson plan from the Junior Achievement folks and apply their knowledge and experience in teaching the class. As luck would have it, the Junior Achievement class was assigned to my last period.

Uh-oh.

Whatever poor schmuck was assigned to my class was in for a terrifyingly enlightening experience. Hell, I had some problems with this group and I rarely had problems with any class. There was simply no way this could end well.

Could the situation get any worse? Turns out it could. The businessman assigned to my class turned out to be . . . wait for it . . . my 75-year old retired father.

Dad had been the Purchasing Manager at the Mead Corporation for many years, he’d been asked to take part, and the woman running the program thought it would be nice to assign him to my class.

Oh boy. All I could envision was a bunch of 8th grade heathens running roughshod over my poor father. He’d never taught a day in his life and he’d just been handed the worst group of kids I’d ever had as an educator. I mean, I knew my Mom was a badass teacher, but Dad? I was worried.

As for Dad, I tried to warn him but he just sort of chuckled and shrugged it off. I also mentioned to my class that my father would be their Junior Achievement teacher, and they too sort of chuckled and shrugged it off. Man, did I dread seeing Dad walk through my classroom door on that first day. Poor guy was being fed to the lions and he had no idea.

Well, the day finally arrived and as I let Dad into my classroom the kids were, unsurprisingly, laughing and joking as I introduced him. I raised my voice at them and implored them to settle down. And then, my father began to speak . . .

He spoke quietly as he addressed the class. He never implored them to quiet down, never asked them to please pay attention. Incredibly, one by one the kids stopped talking, and one by one they slowly turned around, watched, and listened. There was something about his bearing, his attitude, that had the class in rapt attention.

And I swear to God he never raised his voice once.

Incredibly, this continued for 8-straight classes. Dad had them in the palm of his hand, man. They respected him simply because of the way he carried himself and the way he treated them. And boy, did I learn a lot from watching him.

Sure, teachers can learn a lot from in-services, education classes, and other resources. But I also think a lot of good teachers are simply born with that ability to relate, and to connect, with students. That first day I learned that my father was one of those people.

And I also learned to never, ever underestimate my Dad.

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