A bell clattered loudly.
George hummed to himself as he headed down the corridor, amidst a throng of noisy teenagers moving in seemingly every direction at once. The teens were all in uniform, yet somehow each managed to wear that uniform in a manner unique to each, creating a general air of unkempt and scruffy. George prided himself on his appearance, so this general unruliness ate at him, each and every time he saw it. Scowling, he stuck his arm out in front of one particular horror, pressing up against the wall in front of the young man, halting his progress and separating him from the rest of the youthful mob. He loomed in front of the teenager, and uttered a single line of command.
"Tuck that shirt in right now."
The boy he had stopped muttered something under his breath but obediently did as he was told. So did those behind the boy, perhaps fearful that George's ire would fall upon them as well. George levelled his eyes at all of them, then allowed them to rejoin the thong, just starting to thin out, and continue on their way.
It was lunch break, so George was headed to the staff room. A chance to get away from kids after a long and hectic morning. The crowd rushing to the dining hall finally petered out, and as all but the last few of the youths disappeared from sight, he allowed himself an audible sigh of happiness.
Even as the sound of footfalls on ancient wood died away, George was not alone in the corridor. A single young lady remained, in no hurry to get anywhere. She sat, hunched over a small desk placed outside a classroom door. He wandered over.
"So, what did you do this time, Sam?" He asked of the year 15-year-old florescent orange hair, boredly playing with her pencil, and a sheet of paper that bore no actual markings that could be considered language, yet was smeared with graphite all the same.
She looked up, either at the sound of George's voice, or possibly the sudden shadow his bulky form cast as he stood between her and one of the few windows in the long hallway. After meeting his gaze for a moment, she looked down, and sighed. The back end of her pencil flicked in her fingers, tapping against the paper repeatedly, almost as a nervous tic.
"I was throwing paper balls in class sir," she stated almost flatly, her voice only slightly tinged with regret.
George sighed. He had a fondness for this one. She was bright and able, but, like many intellectually gifted kids, she was just too bright for the school system to handle. She tended to work through whatever task was set, swifter than anyone else in her class could manage. Often, if the teacher was careful in guidance, Sam would complete at the same speed, but to a much higher standard than her classmates.
The problem came when the teacher was unprepared for the extra workload students like this demanded, and simply gave textbook reading, or some other minimal work for them form of study once the task was completed. Bright kids became bored, and bored kids got into trouble.
"In other words, you became bored again," George said, his voice laced with intertwined sympathy and melancholy. "What are we going to do with you? You are a bright kid, Sam. You could do so much with your life, but you need a good education to get anywhere. How are you going to get that, if you keep misbehaving like that? I know its frustrating, but if you let it get to you, well "
Sam looked up at him, worriedly as he trailed off. "Sir, I'm top set, and the work is challenging, but there's not enough of it. I blow through it in half the lesson. I tried those exercises you taught me, to keep my mind active. Mrs Smithers thought I was daydreaming, and gave me detention."
George scowled. "I thought you got detention for throwing paper."
"Its not daydreaming, and if that's what you were doing, I'll have a word with your teacher, see if I can't persuade her to let you 'daydream' a bit more, if not, perhaps I can provide some work for you to do if you've finished hers."
"I'd like to go back to your class sir, if that would be possible. I know Mrs Smithers was talking about dropping me a class, I'd learn much more in your class, sir."
"I tend to agree Sam, but I don't teach your year. Mr Marshall would be your likely new teacher, and well, I don't feel you would do well with his teaching methods." What George really meant, but would not say, was he believed David Marshall was a waste of space as a teacher - a lazy, unimaginative textbook and droner, who stifled his students rather than stimulated them. But, of course, it was not his place to say that out loud, especially to a student. "If you did not do well with him, well, you'd likely be dropped down to bottom set as a special behavioural needs case, regardless of your actual academic ability, I'm afraid."
"WHAT? No sir, please sir, not that. If I got dropped to bottom set, I'd have no chance at getting into any decent college. They don't even enter the lower classes for the higher grade papers!"
"I'll have a chat with Mrs Smithers, Sam. See if I can persuade her to keep you in top set. If that does not work, perhaps its time we had a chat with your mum. See if we can arrange some extra tuition, so you don't drop grades if you are moved down."
Sam brightened immediately, knowing he was a taskmaster who pushed his students hard. "That would be great sir. I learnt far more in your class last year than I do now."
George smiled, and made a mental note to ring Sam's mother that evening. "In the mean time, best not annoy her further, Sam. Get to the task she's set you for this detention." He turned away from the girl, as she slowly set to her work, and he headed down to the staff room, which not coincidentally was placed quite some distance from the main hall.
Slipping inside the door, he glanced at his pigeonhole, the large number of notes, memos, and several letters which were waiting for him inside. A quick flick through them relegated all but a few items to their new home in the recycling bin. He quickly scanned the remaining items, memorising them, and turned to look out over the room itself. His expression remained neutral, but inside, his mood darkened immediately. The staff room was relatively sparsely populated, it was still early into lunch hour, and most of the faculty would be down in the dining hall scrum, trying to maintain order and secure their own lunches.
Of the faculty present in the staff room, Caroline Smithers was one. She was at one of the worktables along the far wall, with a heap of paperwork, working swiftly and purposefully.
Passing Mark, a colleague who taught religious education, and presently hunched scowling over a newspaper puzzle page, George called out cheerfully "Afternoon Mark"
"Afternoon George, you're cheery today. Someone give you a pay raise?"
George gave a half a chuckle at that. "Not likely, in this economy." He peered closer at Mark's paper. "13 down is 'pomegranate', not 'ratatouille', That's why you're having trouble with 11 across."
Mark blinked, and looked at the crossword, waved his stylus over it a few times not doing anything, as he worked out the new lettering. "Yes, that would fit better wouldn't it. Thanks!" He immediately amended his earlier answer.
George crossed between the worn reclining chairs and approached the tables. "Have you got a moment, Carol?"
Caroline Smithers raised her head. She was a thin woman, almost gaunt. Deep worry lines made her wrinkled face somewhat worse than it should have been, and regretfully gave her something of a weasely appearance. She wore a set of spectacles, attached to her ears via rubber bands, and continually maintained a level of formal dress that went beyond anyone else in the department. She peered up at George over the top of her glasses; slightly bloodshot hazel eyes carrying thinly disguised disgust. "Yes?"
George started off on a neutral tact, knowing this conversation was not going to go well. Conversations with Carol never did. "I see Samantha Smith is in detention again, I was thinking "
She cut him off savagely. "I don't have time to listen to what a tin can thinks. The school board was out of its collective mind when it appointed such as you to this school. I don't care what they say about your abilities, if you are not human, you have no place teaching children. Samantha is a menace, obnoxious, rude, and disruptive. She disrupts learning for the entire classroom, and rushes through her assignments, finishing them way too quickly for my liking. I'm moving her down to be with the other no-hopers in bottom set as of next term."
"She wasn't disruptive when I taught her" George remarked. "Maybe it's a clash of personalit "
"How DARE you suggest it's somehow MY fault. I'm not going to be insulted like this. Especially by you, you thing! I've had enough of your egotistical beliefs that you somehow know what's best for the kids, better than I do." Carol gathered up her paperwork, her ire rising. "In fact, I'm going to go speak to the head teacher right now, and push to have you removed from this school, you should be sold for scrap, daring to give opinions like that. When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you. I'll take an unqualified human teacher over a speak and spell any day." She put her pen down, rose, gathering her bags and stormed off, slamming the staff room door behind her.
"She can't do anything you know." Mark piped up from the paper he'd almost buried himself in, as Carol's voice had grown more vehement. "Your rapport with the kids is excellent, and the grades your students get speaks for itself."
"I know, she won't get anywhere with this, but, I just wish she'd listen, all this arguing, its pointless, and it harms the children, that's the sad thing." George sighed, his three telescopic legs carrying his oversized body over to Mark, where his synthetic face gazed down, its features moulding themselves by tiny servo motors into the expression of the emotion his mind was currently processing. "It's not the kids' fault if they don't get on with her, and they should not be punished unfairly, for that."
"Preaching to the choir, my friend, preaching to the choir."
George nodded, and headed for the telephone. Reaching out to interface with
the unit, he decided he would not wait till this evening. Time to phone a student's
mother, see about some extra tuition for her.