Don’t judge a book by it’s cover …

This short piece is partially based on an experience I had … but only a few minor aspects of it. Most of it is made up… 

A loud knock did nothing to disturb Martin Anderson who shuffled through his papers without looking up. He had recently began working on the school improvement plan, along with the next academic years mission and vision, which he needed to report back to the school board within the week.

He cared little about their opinions; and frankly, felt they were a bunch of uneducated misers, but Martin had contributed years of his life and hours of discretionary work effort to secure the position of Headmaster of the auspicious ‘Braeburn Academy’. His accomplishments had cost him his marriage, family and in many cases his self respect, he was not about to throw it all away.

“This years high turnover of staff demonstrates employee dissatisfaction within Braeburn Academy. From the recent inspection we have come to the conclusion this is in large part due to the recent changes in management.” Martin’s eyes scanned briefly across his computer screen as he read the recent OFSTED report. Since its publication a few days prior, the chairmen of the board had been screaming for his head on a platter. The appraisal had shed a rather negative light on his management of the Academy and had put him in a very disadvantageous position.

There was once again a sound at the door, this time a little more forcefully. “Mr. Andeson?” he heard a quiet muffled voice from the corridor. His eyes caught a glimpse of shuffling feet through the crack at the bottom, while a shadow of a person moved this way and that in an agitated urgency. “Mr…” The voice began again, but stopped abruptly when Martin cut them off with a curt; “Come in!”

The door swung timidly open, and in walked a large, rather plump woman with glasses and a suit that was too large for her figure. “I am sorry to disturb you when you are on your break…” The girl began, nervously avoiding eye contact. She didn’t continue when she saw a sullen look cross his face. “How can I help you, Myra?” Martin asked acidly. He watched the young girl wince and cower from his tone. His hazel eyes, which had a hint of yellow in them gazed bored at the pathetic girl before him. He observed the frays of baby hair that curled wildly at her forehead, the messy black pony-tail, and the half eaten finger nails, which constantly came up to scratch patches of acne on her cheeks. “So in tomorrows lesson the hot water and the laptops will be very close to each other, but, it will be the only way that the children can record the most accurate data.” She looked at him puzzled as Martin nether regarded or disregarded her words. He was so fixated by her cracked lips that he didn’t make a sign. She hesitated before continuing, looking down at her folder of lesson plans.

Martin rarely harbored such rage induced feelings but her found his chats with Myra increasingly tiresome. She was unlike any trainee teacher he had ever come across, often arriving to school with a disheveled look and with little care for her outer appearance. As the Headmaster of a highly rated private Academy he had very high standards that Myra did not meet. As he had made a specific contract with her University he could not terminate her teacher training, only fail her if necessary.

“So…erm” He heard her voice falter.
“Yes, fine fine” he snapped without looking up.
“Thank you for your time.” While Martin could hear the genuine sincerity in her voice he remained unperturbed by it. He sighed deeply as she fumbled with her things at her desk, the leer of a silver sheen, gleaming in his gaze. Looking more intently, Martin was under no doubt that it was a medical bracelet. As he looked again he noticed the characteristic ‘Rod of Aesculapius’ embossed on the silver. He was surprised he hadn’t noticed it before now; after all it was garishly large and looked tight against her chubby arms.

“You have a medical condition?” He asked casually as she made her way towards the door. “Addison’s Disease.” She replied, turning to face him, looking a little taken back. Martin did not know much about the condition except one thing. He recognized its main symptom as: sudden, excruciating and penetrating pains in all muscular areas. “How long have you had it?” He asked in a low voice. “Since birth,” Myra replied, slowly. A small puzzled frown came between her brows, as though she tried to figure him out. Little did she know, he was also trying to figure her out too.

Martin thought back to her last lesson observation. Myra had executed a fine lesson but at the very end sat down on her chair and asked questions while seated. That day he had noticed she had been wincing in pain, but contributed it to the fact that he considered her obese; he had not considered a medical condition.

He thought of the University report which lay in his top drawer. The first question read: “From your observation how would you rate the student on their teaching performance:

Unacceptable [] Acceptable [] Good [] Outstanding []

Please give a detailed explanation as to why.”

Her methods of teaching and lesson ideas had not let him see past the fact that she had sat down at the very end. He had penciled her in as ‘unacceptable’ and ranted in the report about her laziness and unprofessional dress. Immediately, a warmth of guilt spread through him. A shame that he had not felt for anyone in a long long while.

“Thank you, Myra.” He said curtly, and watched her leave the room. He slowly pulled open the top drawer and reached in for the University report which lay in a brown envelope. His eyes traced over the words ‘lazy’ and ‘incompetent’ and yet, thinking back he could not recall a time since she had began that she had not offered to help a student, or to stay behind late to attend meetings.

Taking a pen from the pot in front of him; he put a cross next to the box labelled ‘outstanding’; sucking on the tip of his pen before he began to write.

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