This is a story from high school. This is a story I tell a lot. I’m not sure anymore if all of it is true or exact. It’s possible that every time I tell it, it changes a little. So now it’s morphed into what is presented below.

A story from high school – my last year of high school – about 7 years ago. The names have been changed or shortened not to protect anyone, but because it is easier to type this way. The head of our computer science department had left the year before and a new department head was hired. Mr. O never went to teacher’s college. He was hired during the time when it was okay to hire teachers without teaching degrees; I’m not sure if it is still this way.

The students were able to quickly determine that Mr. O was not only a poor teacher, but also fairly incompetent in matters of computer science. I was part of the computer council at school that year and we decided we ought to bring this matter up to the principal, Mr. S.

We all sat in his office, we raised our concerns, and he seemed forthcoming. I wasn’t expecting any drastic change, but hoped for at least something to happen. A few weeks passed by and I believe we raised our concerns to the principal again but Mr. O remained a clueless teacher. Then a few weeks after that, Mr. O was late coming to class. I was frustrated with the lack of change and started to speak to my classmates about what possible actions we could take. One idea that cropped up was to talk to the guidance councillors. I thought, why not all go together, book appointments one after another and all talk about the same issue. We had to make a point somehow.

We were able to collect about 10 students, we crowded the guidance councillors’ office and started to sign up for appointments one after another. The head guidance councillor noticed us and invited us into the meeting room so we could discuss the issue together. She lead us to the room and said she’d be back with some paper. By the time she returned, 10 more students had joined us.

In the while she was gone, the students had decided that I speak for them. So when the guidance councillor returned, I listed off the points we had collected. She took note, saying that we were making good points. She then decided to bring the principal into the meeting.

Maybe he was already having a bad day. He came in with a stern, authoritative tone and said something that amounted to, “This is the person we hired for this role, and you guys will have to learn how to deal with him. I know some of you are really smart, but you can’t expect all your teachers to be smarter than you.”

I responded to this with, “I’m not sure how you expect us to deal with the situation. How are we supposed to tell someone who controls our marks that they’re not doing their job properly? I want to know who hired this man.”

I want to know who hired this man. I think that was the straw that broke Mr. S’s back. His face turned red, and he started to speak directly to me, fingers pointing and all. He said many things. I don’t remember all of them. I remember him telling us that he placed ads in reputable newspapers like The Globe and Mail, indicating perhaps that smarter people would respond to them. I recall rolling my eyes a little to that point.

He really must have taken great exception to me demanding to know who hired Mr. O. I remember Mr. S saying, “If you’re going to take this down that route, you might as well just leave.” He pointed to the doors to the meeting room as he said that.

I really don’t remember all the other points he made. He was mad and angry. I remember the last thing he said. I remember it clearly. “You are a student in this building, you do not call the shots.” He was pointing at me and staring me right in the eyes.

Clearly, Mr. S had interviewed and hired Mr. O.

When we left the room all the students were giving me high fives and fist pumps. I, of course, was more than slightly terrified. It’s one of those moments where you’re terrified because of the moment itself, not because of consequences or anything else. I didn’t even know what to think next, or if this would result in anything at all.

To his credit, Mr. S audited the class about a month later. He surveyed the students. At the end of the year Mr. O was either let go, or his contract wasn’t renewed. I’m not sure which.

I had another run-in with Mr. S that year that ran in parallel to this story. But that’s another story for another time.

Regardless of what really happened, I’d like to think that we were able to get a teacher fired on the basis of incompetence. That’s something that is nearly impossible.