THE TEACHER’S DESK: Apple in my coffee | Columns

The other day, as class began, I walked casually into my room and smiled at my students, who were sitting angelically behind their desks. I passed my podium and said, “Good Morning,” and then proceeded to take a drink of my coffee, which was resting on my filing cabinet. As I tilted the cup toward my mouth, an apple rolled out, wet with my coffee, and hit me on the lip. Lukewarm coffee splashed against my face as I quickly tilted the cup down in an attempt to keep my white shirt clean.

Apparently, someone put an apple in my coffee, and I don’t think it was Mr. Goodin.

Although I appreciate the state pushing for healthier school meals, I held my cup up in mock-rage and said, “Who did this?” If you are wondering if I expected an answer, I did not, but I wanted them to know I knew. I took the apple out, dried it off, and took a big bite, then went about business as usual, eating the apple as I talked.

Moments like these are rare, but always memorable. And while these moments are often problematic, there are others that are more suitably stirring, and make the troublesome instances bearable. For example, just recently, I subjected my English classes to a prompt that I feared they might not readily answer. However, I was surprised and delighted at the valiant responses I received.

The prompt asked students if COVID and the events of the last two years have affected their dreams and aspirations for the future. I actually feared what some might say. I was afraid they might state the pandemic caused them to give up or not try. However, my fear was quickly turned into admiration.

One young lady explained that before COVID, she wanted to go into the field of neurosurgery. However, after observing the psychological effects of the pandemic on people, she decided she wanted to go into psychology. Can you imagine your desire to help being so strong that you want to go where you are most needed?

In another class, I have a young man who just finished his football season. As I walked over and read his answer to the prompt, I found that he had decided that he did not want to play college football, rather decided to focus more on the medical field, physical therapy in particular. He felt as if COVID messed up the recruiting process.

Another student, whose aspirations were of a military sort, simply stated that COVID did not affect his plans at all. He stated, “There is still a need for an army,” and that COVID has not affected him or his friend’s dreams to be a soldier. In fact, he states, “If your dream of serving your country is changed by the idea of wearing a mask, then maybe it’s not your dream after all.”

While I have never wanted to go into the field of psychology and am too old to join the Army, I appreciate the tenacity of these students. I think their resolve is something just as important as their dreams -that desire to succeed and to fulfill a purpose despite (and sometimes because of) a detrimental problem.

It’s nice to hear these kids not using COVID as an excuse, unlike the customer service industry, and instead, barreling forward with their future. After reading their words, I realize that maybe sometimes the answer is not about attempting to fix a problem, rather fixing how we think about a problem.

For example, that wasn’t an apple in my coffee, that was a healthy breakfast.

Brian Theodore is a language arts teacher at Corbin High School and lives in Corbin with his wife, who is also a teacher at CHS. He can be contacted at

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