The Student Teacher Blues
Chapters : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6-14 Available On
PLEASE NOTE: This is a preview of this novella. It is available for purchase in its entirety via
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
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
"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
"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
"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,
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.
"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
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
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
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."
Next Chapter >>