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I had always been good at English. Before… Before our teacher changed. Nobody knew why but the rumour was that our previous teacher had been offered some very good job so she simply left. We were not really shocked – we all thought our previous teacher was brilliant. She deserved something better… She was young, pretty and she wore nice clothes: combat trousers and T‑shirts. She spoke only English with us. There were lots of interesting activities during lessons. The new teacher was completely different…

She was an obese woman in her fifties probably (kind of wit-out-age category). She had an old checqued skirt, white blouse and big ‘Relax’ boots. My friend whispered: ‘It’s impossible! Look at her boots! They haven’t been producing them for ten years!’ The teacher sat down and checked the list. Of course she mispronounced my name. ‘Golas’ – she said. ‘My name is Gołas’ – I corrected her in very cold tone. In fact I was rude. ‘I’m sorry’ – she said, and continued checking.

The lesson rolled slowly and I was bored to death. Finally there was some writing task. We were to write about the holidays. I had a great idea: I would ask the teacher about some words that I needed for the task. I would ask her about some complicated vocabulary and she will not know for sure! I told her I was on an ornithology camp and started to ask her about different kinds of birds, and she knew all of them, and I couldn’t even think about more. All the class were looking at me in a strange way. And then I had it! ‘Gżegżółka’ – I asked. – How is this in English? She flushed. ‘Erm… I don’t know’ – she said. ‘I’ll look it up for you in a dictionary’. I giggled maliciously and then there was the bell.

On the next lesson she gave me a three for the essay. She said she had expected something better taking into consideration the number of questions I had asked her.
The day before the exam an awful thing happened. She found me during the pause and told me to follow her. She said she needed my help. In Teachers’ Room, in a small cage, there was a bird. ‘I found it today under a tree and I brought it here because I know you know a lot about birds. What kind of bird is this? Is it going to be alive?’– she asked. I thought she was kidding, but she wasn’t. She really thought I had something to do with ornithology. She was looking at me with her bright, intelligent eyes, waiting for the verdict. Now she even didn’t seem so ugly. ‘I — don’t — know.’ – I stuttered. ‘I — don’t — know — anything — about ornithology.’ I felt I was so red on my face that it was going to burn in a second. She looked at me and seemed smashed. She told me to leave and I left. Next day I was to write the test and I was in despair. ‘I will fail’ – I thought. But I deci­ded to come. I couldn’t be dishonest any more. I took the exam and then she told me I had a four. I couldn’t believe! Well, I bought some flowers and next day I wanted to thank her. But she wasn’t at school. We were told she was ill in hospital. I decided to visit her. ‘I’m sorry’ – I told her. ‘I didn’t want…’ Now she giggled and said: ‘OK. If you really want to make up for what you did, take care of the bird. It’s still at school, and I don’t think he’s got enough food.’ ‘But I don’t know anything about birds’ – I said. ‘So you will have to learn’ – she giggled.

Improve your vocabulary!

rumour, rumor – plotka, pogłoska
previous – poprzedni
brilliant – genialny, błyskotliwy
monster – potwór, monstrum
obese – otyły
checkqued – w kratkę
mispronounce – źle wymawiać
be bored to death – umierać z nudów
task – zadanie
ornithology – ornitologia
giggle – chichot; chichotać
maliciously – złośliwie
take into consideration – brać pod uwagę
grade – stopień
exaggerate – przesadzać
verdict – werdykt, zdanie
stutter – jąkać się
smash – zgnieść
despair – rozpaczać; ­rozpacz