Teen finds out mom passed away from cancer when teacher plays message on speakerphone in classroom

Mary Duncan

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.*

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Unlike most people I’ve talked to, I loved high school. High school was one of the most fun, enjoyable times of my life and if I had the chance to go back in time and do anything over again, I would start on my first day of my freshman year and just study more.

I loved school, but I wasn’t a good student. I only excelled in things I was passionate about, so basically just English, History, and music, and was mediocre at most other things and terrible at math.

Looking back though, I think that one of the things that made it easy for me to enjoy high school is that I just enjoyed life in general. I had a great family that loved me, good friends that I spent a lot of quality time with, and even a boyfriend or two from time to time.

There were other kids in my school who didn’t have things so lucky. Kids who came from broken homes, kids who were different and therefore isolated and mostly friendless. Kids who just had a lot going on, too much going on for such a young age.

One of those kids I went to school with was a girl Corinne.


Corinne and I were in a remedial Algebra class together, and we sat next to each other and tried joking our way through the year. It was hard though, because outside of that one class I didn’t know Corinne, I wasn’t really friends with her per se. That’s why it surprised me when she started divulging information to me about her life.

Apparently, Corinne’s mom had terminal breast cancer. Corinne calmly explained to me one day that her mom only had a few months left to live and was at home on hospice. Instead of taking care of Corinne, Corinne took care of her sick mother in her living room hospital bed as she slowly withered away.

I felt so sad for Corinne, who obviously loved her mother and was struggling through the days at school.

Then, the absolutely unthinkable happened.

One afternoon we were in class and the teacher’s phone started ringing, but she didn’t answer it because she was in the middle of a lesson. When she was done lecturing and we were supposed to be doing busywork, she sat down at her desk and punched a few buttons to listen to her messages.

Well, whether she did it purposely or not, she played the message on speakerphone, loud enough for the whole class to hear. The message went something like this:

“Can you please have Corinne come down to the office as soon as possible please? Her mother passed away and her father is here to pick her up.”

The whole class went silent and everyone stared at Corinne.

I looked at the teacher, who put the phone receiver back in the cradle and opened and closed her mouth, not knowing what to say.

Corinne started silently packing up her things and getting ready to leave, and I saw a tear about to fall from her eye.

“Corinne,” I said, “Do you want me to come?”

“No,” she practically snapped at me. “It’s fine, I knew this was coming.”

That was all she said before she got up and stormed out of the classroom, glaring at the silent teacher as she walked by.

Apparently Corinne’s mother was buried the following weekend in a beautiful cemetery in town, and she came back to school the next week. When we sat down together in Algebra, we were both shocked when our teacher came up to our table.

“Corinne, I just wanted to sincerely apologize -“

But Corinne cut her off.

“It wasn’t your fault. She never should have said anything like that on the message.”

In the end, I’m not sure if either teacher or school secretary got in trouble for their unfortunate faux pas, but I feel like they should have.

What do you think?

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I write about relationships and parenting, life, society, people, and sometimes also beer.

Connecticut State
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