It was the first day of classes again. For a high school teacher that means meeting at least 150 new students. Establishing a set of expectations or classroom rules was always the first item on my agenda. After teaching at Mount Vernon High School for several years, I was confident that I had established myself as one of the best teachers, one who ran a lively but disciplined classroom. I was proud of that reputation and believed that most of my new students would arrive already knowing what to expect in the classes I taught. “Good morning,” I said to the 25 as yet nameless students sitting in the straight rows of desks before me. “I am Mrs. Rauzi. I imagine you have already heard about me from your friends or family members,” I continued with what I thought was a warm smile. Some of the students around the room were nodding. And then I added the crucial words that changed forever the impression I had of myself. “Whatever you’ve heard,” I said, “it’s all true.”
Fear invaded the classroom. Faces blanched. Even the senior football players slouching in the back row, squirmed and then sat up straight. Every set of eyes, blue, green, gray, brown, the sneaky ones, the smiling Irish ones, even the heavy-lidded-nearly-asleep ones reshaped themselves into wide orbs of terror.
Oh God, I thought I was joking, but clearly the teenagers were quite certain I meant every word and that did not bode well for them during the coming school year.
At that moment I met the Mrs. Rauzi I didn’t know much about. I decided I would have to spend the rest of the year living down my reputation instead of living up to it.