For cofax7, who wanted a story based on my "Daniel the demon of ungovernableness" icon.
Sandra mostly didn't go for all of that be-friends-with-your-students stuff. Maybe if she'd been a man, or out of her twenties, or if she taught English or some other foofy touchy-feely subject, she would've felt differently. As it was, though, she dressed conservatively and sensibly and insisted that her students call her Miss Hartwig—even if that did take a little bit longer to say when the Bunsen burner flared up.
Still, she wanted to have a little bit of a nurturing attitude in her classroom, to encourage rather than disparage, and she thought it helped to take an interest in her students as people with interests outside of titration. So on the first day of class every year she made her students pull their chairs into a circle, introduce themselves, and say something about them—their personality, their interests, their favorite food if they liked. The students invariably rolled their eyes and giggled about the whole thing, but Sandra didn't particularly care; she was setting the tone, and besides, it helped her remember names.
"Oh, uh, Daniel Jackson," Male Student With Glasses #2 said, glancing up briefly from what was presumably going to be a great work of inscribed armrest art. Daniel, she thought firmly, fixing the name in her mind.
She waited, but nothing further was forthcoming. "And something about yourself?"
He didn't look up. "I don't work up to my potential."
The class snickered, and glanced sideways at Sandra, obviously wondering how she'd react. She smiled brightly, said "Well, that's a shame. I hope we can change your mind," in her best cheery-encouraging-teacher voice, and moved along to the next student. At the end of the period, she put little "think harder about this one" stars next to five names; one of them was Daniel Jackson's.
Sandra was as susceptible as the next teacher to the great rescue fantasy. She would be the one to come up with the brilliant technique that made this student or that one blossom, because after all, she was just that good. She'd never actually pulled it off in spectacular fashion—though she was getting better with the two or three girls in every class who seemed to think that a little showy helplessness with a test tube was a wonderful way to pick up boys—but she was positive that someday it had to happen. Or anyway, she kept telling herself so, because she had always found cynicism unattractive.
Daniel was the perfect subject for a rescue fantasy. "You know that he taught himself Ancient Greek for fun, don't you?" said his Latin teacher, eyes lighting up. She obviously adored him; Sandra didn't think she'd ever seen the woman so excited. "He's just so far ahead of the other students, you know, it's no surprise he's so reserved, but he's so motivated, such a thinker," she gushed.
Sandra thought that was encouraging. The feeling lasted until she corralled Daniel's old algebra teacher, who said "You know everything you say is going to go in one ear and out the other, right?" with a sour twist of the mouth.
"He's obviously bright," Sandra protested.
"Sure, and that and a buck will get you a loaf of bread. Believe me, I tried. Yeah, he can do the work—I swear to God he used to do it sometimes just to make it that little bit more obvious that he was blowing it off the rest of the time."
This, Sandra discovered, turned out to be a disturbingly accurate description. Daniel's homework was done or not done seemingly at random and without shame. He perked up when they discussed the scientific method, but did the standard labs only under duress. Sandra knew she was getting rather more involved than usual when she finally tried an end run—maybe Daniel would respond to a self-initiated project?—and was met with blank incomprehension of the idea that he might want to spend brain cells on chemistry of all things.
"But I'm glad you're interested," he said earnestly, looking up at her through much too much hair—really, she'd thought the long hair years were finally coming to a close. "I think that's great. You ought to love what you teach."
Well, thank you very much for your approval, Sandra thought, annoyed. "I hate to see you close yourself off to a whole set of opportunities. Your potential—"
"Well, exactly," he said, and he was enthusiastic for once, hands moving, leaning forward in his chair. "My potential. Not yours, or my foster parents', or, or, or Mr. Eisenbarth's, and by the way, he thinks I could be great at tennis if I'd just put a little effort in." Daniel slumped back in his chair, animation fading from his features. "It doesn't have anything to do with any of you. It's none of your business."
The muted roar of students moving through the halls was fading; almost time for the next class. Sandra sighed. "I expect you to do the work, Daniel. There are thousands of students all across this city who somehow manage to fulfill the requirements of classes that they don't enjoy, and I expect you to be one of them." She waited. No reply. "Daniel? Did you hear me?"
"Of course," he said, and she would've called it snotty except that his tone was nothing but helpful. "I'm not going to flunk the class, Miss Hartwig. That would be stupid."
"Yes, it would," she said. "And you aren't stupid, are you, Daniel?" Sandra waved one hand toward the door. "You'd better hurry. The bell's about to ring."
Really, she thought afterwards, he'd be much less frustrating if he were stupid. She never did win him over; he did enough of the homework to ensure a C average, passed all the tests that he needed to pass, and walked out of her classroom just as self-contained as he'd been when he walked in. It just about drove her crazy, but the next year she had Shelly and Mike (who liked to light things on fire together) and Lashonda (who spent a lot of time saying Girls Can't Do This Stuff But Oh That's Really Cool) and so she let it go.
Nearly thirty years later, the principal managed to get through the many, many layers of bureaucracy surrounding the Stargate Program in order to invite their newly-prominent alumnus to come and speak to the school. Everyone was a little surprised when he agreed to come, actually; a frantic search through yearbooks past turned up exactly one person who'd known him when he was a student, and that was how Sandra ended up having dinner at a very nice French restaurant with a slightly balding man in his mid-forties who she did not recognize at all.
She'd brought along her own copy of the yearbook from Daniel's junior year, just so she could show him the note she'd written by his picture: Did not work up to his potential. "That's how you introduced yourself to me, you know," she said.
"Well, as getting off on the wrong foot goes, that's actually not my worst moment." Daniel smiled briefly, a twitch of the lips, and looked closer. "Wow. Bad hair."
"I've seen worse," Sandra said. "You know you drove me crazy, right? I remembered as soon as I saw the picture."
"Yes, well, I really wasn't interested in chemistry. Though I do appreciate its applications more now, for instance you can do really interesting work tracing trading routes by determining the origin of various minerals…" He leaned forward a little, and talked almost too quickly for Sandra to follow, and she was pretty sure his excitement didn't have a darn thing to do with anything she'd ever done, but it was nice to see all the same.
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