“Ron,” Mr. Foster, the math teacher, nodded as they passed in the hall right after third period.
“Chris,” Mr. Gordon replied. He didn’t notice at first that Mr. Foster had something more to say to him.
“A word, if I may.” Mr. Foster held a hand up, stopping him without actually touching. “It’s about Tracy Martin. I believe you have her in second period?”
“Yes?” Mr. Gordon could well imagine what this would be about. No doubt Tracy was bringing her Social Studies homework into other classes. Considering the motivation, it was only to be expected.
“This might not be the best location.” Mr. Foster made a short, tight hand gesture toward the passing students. He was a shorter man, slightly bulkier, with dark hair he kept close to the scalp, probably to help hide the prematurely receding hairline.
Mr. Gordon nodded. Not that it really mattered if the students overheard, certainly no more than if the faculty overheard. Nevertheless, he followed Mr. Foster to the relative serenity of the teacher’s lounge.
Mr. Foster helped himself to a cup of coffee before speaking. “Tracy tells me you have an agreement with her. So long as she maintains her grades, you allow her to do what she wishes in your class.”
“Yes.” Mr. Gordon smiled. “And as a result she works harder in class than she would otherwise.”
“Isn’t this favoritism?”
“No. Well, actually, maybe.” Mr. Gordon thought about it. “If by that you mean I favor the A students. Tracy is not the only one in my class, though she is perhaps the only one with whom I have spelled out my policy. I allow all the A students to do as they please so long as their scores stay high and they don’t disrupt class.”
“Doesn’t that cause problems in the classroom?”
“If a student questions it, I can always suggest they improve their grades. None of my students ever argue with that.”
“Hmmm.” Mr. Foster swished his coffee around a few times.
“I should think it would work even better in your classes than mine. Draft an agreement with her. After all, there isn’t much room to argue with Math. Either the solutions are right or wrong.”
“Heh, heh. Actually, I was thinking I’d give something like this a try. Tracy is one of the hardest students to handle, and when she gets out of hand, she takes the whole class with her. I’ve lost a lot of time to her.”
”Yep. Just as I’d expect.” Mr. Gordon nodded. “For someone like Tracy, freedom is a prize to value above all else. She craves every second of freedom available to her. Simply the appearance of freedom is enough. If she thinks behaving for a few minutes will give her the right to call the shots, she’ll work hard.”
“Yes, I can see that.” Mr. Foster nodded. “I don’t know why I didn’t pick up on it sooner.”
“Probably because you were not like her at that age. I was, and it nearly resulted in my never graduating high school, let along going on to college. So I watch for the kids who are likely to break, and adjust for them as well as I can. I recognized Tracy the minute she walked through the door on the first day of class.”
“Huh.” Mr. Foster continued nodding. “Think it might work on Gene, too?”
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