The Fixer?

During a discussion on the woes of Tiger, John Edwards, A-Rod, and Eliot Spitzer, a friend pointed out that, “One of the reasons these guys hit the wall as adults is that they’ve been surrounded by ‘fixers’ their entire lives. A high profile athlete or a well-connected student, he’s always got someone there, someone to fix things when there are problems.”

His comment reminded me of a scene from my checkered past, one I’m not terribly proud of. I was a young teacher, new to a school, and the week before the first marking period grades were due, the Dean of Students stopped by to see me to check in on the progress of a particularly gifted athlete. (The Dean also happened to be the coach of this boy’s team.) The boy was doing poorly in my English class, so poorly in fact, that he was in danger of being removed from the team because of his academic status.

It’s been over two decades since that conversation, and while I can’t recall the details, I do remember the dean/coach asking me for “understanding” and “compassion.” I also remember that, when grades were posted a week later, my student/his player was still on the team.

Twenty years after the deed was done, I wonder if it was compassion or cowardice at work in my grade book. And I wonder, too, if I was just another “fixer.”

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One Response to “The Fixer?”

  1. David Hutchison Says:

    Thank you for being to honest and sharing this story. It would be very, very hard for a young teacher to be strong and stand up to the Dean of Students in a case like this.

    One of the best coaches I ever met (a Ridley grad!) had a student in a similar situation. The coach removed him from the team. The school had the student in mandatory study sessions while the team was training. The players rallied around to try and support the student (academically), and the coach himself supervised study sessions so the student could sort his courses out.

    In the end he earned his way back on to the team. The team, perhaps stronger as a unit thanks to this shared experience won a national championship and the student in question ultimately competed for Canada internationally.

    So being strong does not mean simply letting a student go and certainly doesn’t mean a negative outcome. Courage can lead to a much better outcome for all involved.

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