The Student Teacher Blues

by Lubrican

Chapters : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6-14 Available On

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Chapter One

Bob Hawkins sat at his desk, staring at the list of students for his history summer school class. He sighed. As usual, he had all the "losers" to deal with for two months when most of the other teachers were going to Mexico, or on extended camping treks in Yellowstone or whatever. He sighed again. It had to be done. The mortgage on his house strained his resources, but he wasn't about to get rid of the relatively opulent place. It sat on one point eight acres, which provided him with all the room he needed for his gardening obsession.

His eyes ran down the list again. It would be all right. These would no doubt be like the last bunch, and the bunch before that. He knew how to deal with them. It was a lot of work and called for a lot of patience, but experience had taught him what worked with kids like these, and while fashion and the language of teenagers always changed, what motivated them didn't.

He frowned again, but it had nothing to do with the list of students who had to pass his class to graduate. They were the ones under the real stress. He was known not to cut anybody any slack in his class. You learned the material and passed the tests...or you didn't.

His frown had to do with the fact that this year he was also being saddled with a student teacher during summer school. He'd skated on that little duty in the past, but it was his turn and complaining wouldn't cut any mustard with Horace Grimes, the principal. Horace usually left him alone, for the most part, and Bob wanted it to stay that way. It was going to be a pain in the ass, but it was only for two months. It was actually seventy days, but it was easier to think of it as just two months, during which he'd have some gung-ho, recently indoctrinated, by-the-book, starry-eyed kid under his feet while he used relatively unorthodox techniques to get kids to learn.

At least it was only during summer school. During the fall semester he'd be back to what he loved most-inspiring young minds to remember facts, figures and the true import of history that would repeat itself unless they stopped it from doing so.

But first there was summer school to get through. He reached for the pile of lesson plans he'd be using with the kids who, for this or that reason, resisted learning.

As she opened one of the big double doors, Cecelia Carter realized she was nervous. That irritated her, because it seemed silly to be nervous.

While she hadn't exactly been filled with trepidation at being assigned to Harper High for her student teaching, she had to admit it was a bit unsettling. She was the first student teacher in a pilot program that took place during summer school. It hadn't been done before, and she felt like the success of the program rested entirely on her shoulders. But worst of all was the instant she walked through the front doors, she felt seventeen again. Everything was exactly the same as it had been when she'd walked out those doors for the last time after graduation.

On her way to the office, she stopped at the trophy case in the main hall. There was the trophy from when the Harper Penguins took state in her senior year. It had seemed excruciatingly important, back then. The trophy looked a little tarnished now and smaller somehow, than she remembered it . Her eyes fell to the photograph of the team, with the cheerleaders lined up on their knees in the front. There she was, in the middle with Mandy McKinley. She recognized all the smiling faces, though they had faded in her memory like the image had faded a bit on the paper. As she saw the various faces again she wondered what had happened in their lives since high school.

She knew about only a few of them. She had stopped by Mandy's trailer each of the few times she'd come home from college to see her parents. Mandy now sported the last name of Dunham, had three kids and smoked like a chimney. She'd gained at least fifty pounds and cursed like a sailor. She claimed to be happy. Jeff Dunham, whose smiling face was right above Mandy's in the photograph, was a salesman for a water softening company and was gone a lot, but Mandy said they were getting along OK. There had been no talk about how their plans to go off to college together had been derailed when Mandy came up pregnant just before graduation. At least Jeff stood by her, forgoing his football scholarship to marry her and be there when she needed him.

As she looked at the trim, fit, non-smoker kneeling next to her own young image in the photograph, Cecelia couldn't get Mandy's overweight, smoking, harassed present day appearance out of her mind. "There, but for the grace of God and a firm resolve to keep my legs closed, go I," said Cecelia under her breath.

She shivered and then went on to the office. She pushed open the same door that led to the same office she had been in dozens of times in what seemed both like the distant past ... and just yesterday. There, behind the counter was the same Mrs. Miller, who looked up and smiled the same smile. Cecelia knew exactly what she'd say. Mrs. Miller didn't disappoint.

"Good morning. How may I help you?"

It was probably the umpteenth time Mrs. Miller had said that to Cecelia. Mrs. Miller treated every visitor to the office the same way, whether student, parent, teacher or whatever.

"I've been assigned here for student teaching," said Cecelia.

"Welcome back," said Mrs. Miller with a bright smile. "It's so nice to see you again."

Cecelia was surprised that the woman remembered her, but it made her feel good, too.

"Thanks. It's good to be back. Cecelia looked around. "I think," she added. "I'm a little nervous, to be honest."

"You'll do fine," said the woman. "Let's get you in to see Mr. Grimes so you can get started."

Cecelia also remembered Mr. Grimes well. It occurred to her that she had no idea what either Mrs. Miller's or Mr. Grimes' first names were. That was something students had no need to know. He looked the same too, with thin black hair combed over his bald pate and owlish eyes behind thick spectacle lenses. He looked up and actually smiled!

"Cee Cee!" he said happily. "I was so glad to hear you'd been assigned to Harper High."

She kept her face straight. Cee Cee had been the nickname her girlfriends had given her in the eighth grade, based on the first letters of her first and last name. She'd been quite happy with it initially. It sounded hip and bouncy, at first. But then her body blossomed and she became a cheerleader. For the boys, her nickname had taken on an unwelcome new meaning as they joyously greeted her in the halls or wherever. The vast majority of them looked first at one of her breasts, and then at the other, during those greetings. It had been a ritual, and they always laughed after performing it. Why they thought addressing each breast by part of her nickname was funny or cute, she didn't know, but they all did.

She flushed slightly, hoping Mr. Grimes was unaware that the nickname had been adopted by teenage boys to refer to her cup size. She'd been stuck with it, and almost everybody, including teachers and staff, had used it. At least Mr. Grimes hadn't looked at her chest as he greeted her.

"I go by Cecelia now," she blurted.

"Of course," said the principal, his face resuming its slightly pinched look. "In public, however, we'll refer to you as Miss Carter, or Ms., if you prefer."

"Either is fine," said Cecelia, feeling foolish. He'd given her a friendly greeting and she'd thrown it back in his face. She tried to soften that rejection. "I'm just trying to act a bit more grown up than when I left."

She was rewarded with a slight smile. "As it should be! And you HAVE grown up. That is certain. And I really am sorry. It was just habit. I should have known better. I expect that nickname caused you some discomfort, back then."

Cecelia felt her cheeks get warm. He DID know!

"Kids," she said hastily. "They can be the cruelest members of the human race."

"You've got that right," said Grimes firmly. "Please, sit down. I'm sure you're chomping at the bit to get to some real teaching. We really are delighted to have you back. You were an outstanding student, and I'm sure you'll be an outstanding teacher as well."

"Student teacher," Cecelia corrected, and then felt foolish again.

"Humility can be a valuable asset," said the man, his face stern. "But from our perspective," he said, opening a file, "and from the reports on how you've done in school, we're going to treat you just like any of the other teachers. He closed the file. "Student teaching is a formality, really. It does help some folks weed themselves out of the teaching profession. They find out it isn't what they expected it to be, or that they're not well suited to perform that very important task. But we don't expect that to happen to you. We have a great deal of faith in you and high hopes for your success. As you said, you're all grown up now, so let's have no more talk about you being ‘just' a student teacher."

"Thank you," said Cecelia, a little dazed by both the length of his speech and the warmth with which it was delivered. She was pretty sure that, other than at an assembly, she'd never heard Mr. Grimes say more than ten words in a row.

She sat in one of the hard-backed wooden chairs across the desk from the principal. Her buttocks seemed to want to slide forward and she had to use her abdominal muscles to stay upright.

"Not that one," said Grimes, waving her to another chair off to the side of his desk. "That one is for parents or students I have to come down on. Makes them uncomfortable and off kilter. He grinned. "It has an inch sawed off both front legs. One of the tricks of the trade I learned from an acquaintance of mine in law enforcement. There are a number of tricks of the trade you'll become familiar with, Ms. Carter."

She stood and couldn't help looking at the legs of the chair. Sure enough the front legs were squared off where they touched the floor. The ends of the back legs were more rounded. She could see what he was talking about, now that she knew what to look for. She sat in the other chair which was, in fact, much more comfortable.

"All right," said Grimes. "I'm supposed to give you a speech about all this, but I know you, so I'm just going to say that this is your opportunity to identify those areas that will need a little fine tuning before you take on a classroom all by yourself. He sat back in his chair. It took several seconds before Cecelia realized he wasn't going to say anything else.

"That's it?"

"In a nutshell," he said calmly. "You wouldn't be here if your advisors didn't think you were ready. As I said, I know you. You were a serious student. Hopefully you sowed all your wild oats in college. In any case, I'm quite confident you'll be a fine teacher. Additionally we've paired you with one of our best staff members, who will teach you the kinds of things they don't teach at institutions of higher learning ... some of those tricks of the trade I was mentioning. Good luck. It's great seeing you again. Rah, rah, sis boom bah! Gooooo Penguins!

He stood up, grinning again, no doubt in reference to his cheer. He stuck his hand out to be shaken. On auto pilot, she gripped his hand and immediately wished she hadn't. Not only was it distinctly odd to shake Mr. Grimes' hand in the first place, but his hand had a cool, limp feel that sent a shiver down her spine. She smiled weakly at him, said "Go team," less than whole heartedly, and took her hand back as he said, "Anything you need...anything at all...just ask."

Back out in the main office she realized he hadn't told her who her supervising teacher was. She was so unsettled that she didn't want to go back in there to find out. Mrs. Miller looked over at her and waved a piece of paper.

"We need to get your forms filled out next," she said.

Cecelia penned things neatly on the lines provided: address; medical insurance; license number and type of car that would be parked in the teachers' parking lot; next of kin, and so on. She handed it back.

"I think you're all ready to go," said the woman.

"I'm not sure where exactly that is," said Cecelia.

"I'll take you there," said Mrs. Miller.

As Cecelia followed Mrs. Miller down familiar hallways, things from her "interview with Grimes bounced around in her mind. One of those things was his reference to her "sowing her wild oats" in college.

Men at college had been a big disappointment to Cecelia. In high school, the girls had had a code name with reference to a boy who was ... exuberant ... in his attention to his date. She remembered one of those in particular. Kathy Wilson had showed up at her locker one day only minutes after Cecelia had agreed to go to the movies with Jeff Dunham. That was before Jeff and Mandy had started going together.

"Be ready to be Captain Nemo when you go out with Jeff," Kathy had said in a matter of fact voice.

She'd been right too. Jeff seemed to have more arms than an octopus, and having to fight him off had ruined the movie for her. She'd ended the date before Jeff could get her somewhere alone.

She'd expected college men to be more mature, but they weren't. They all seemed to be interested only in what boys had interpreted "Cee Cee" to mean in high school. When her first few college dates all turned into attempts to get her drunk, naked or both, she began "washing her hair" most nights. As a result, she hadn't sowed any wild oats at all during her college years. Instead she'd stopped wearing makeup and adopted loose jeans and sweatshirts as her primary wardrobe. She'd even gotten horn rimmed glasses, abandoning her contacts in favor of a look that, along with only rare smiles, was crafted to suggest she was unapproachable and uninterested in the males of the species. To her abject horror, it had gotten her a little attention from other young women instead. Then again, they were much easier to discourage, and a heck of a lot more polite about it.

Her previous drab attire had served its purpose. When she brushed off the occasional invitation, it usually stayed brushed off. She got a work study job, too, which made it easy to turn down dates, because she could claim she had to work on any given night. At work, where she digitized written records on exhibits in the university museum, she interacted with few people. The men she met there were more serious than the average college guy, but also weren't all that interesting, for the most part.

For a while she felt a little lonely on Friday and Saturday nights, in her room, while her roommates were out sowing THEIR wild oats. Her studies, a long list of good books, and some truly awful television had gotten her through it, though. She was perfectly aware that her biological clock was ticking away, but she was also convinced that she had plenty of time left before any alarms might go off or that clock might need servicing.

Of course now that she was going to be a student teacher, things had changed. For one thing she was wearing a light summer blouse, with an appropriately modest, but stylish skirt. It had felt strange to put on such feminine clothing after years of suppressing her femininity. And, perhaps, she might start meeting men who were mature enough to respect a woman for her abilities, instead of just the fact that she had a willowy figure with full thrusting breasts and waves of shiny auburn hair cascading down her back. Perhaps they might not center on the touch of lipstick on her lush lips, or the fact that it was impossible to keep one's buttocks from rising and falling as one walked.

As Mrs. Miller turned to a familiar looking door and gripped the knob, Cecelia reflected that for the foreseeable future, she needed to pay attention to student teaching, rather than think about men and the role they weren't playing in her life.

Which was why, when she saw the man sitting at the desk and realized just who her supervising teacher was, she was completely unprepared for the weakness that suddenly assaulted her knees. She had to stop and concentrate on standing up, so that she didn't sink to the floor.

"I've brought you your student teacher, Mr. Hawkins," said Mrs. Miller. "And I need to remind you that I'm still missing the eighteen-oh-three reports on your sixth hour class for last year."

Cecelia saw him turn his head and look at her. His eyebrows were raised, almost in a frown, until it was obvious he recognized her. They dropped and the corners of the mouth above that devastating cleft chin she'd forgotten all about went upwards, revealing white teeth that took her back as if high school had been yesterday.

"Cee Cee," said Bob. "You have no idea how glad I am to see you again."

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