Oriole – Chapter 1

Parent Teacher Review

Oriole put up her hand in class and the teacher pointed to her indicating she could speak. It had been a lesson on math and Oriole who was obviously the smartest in class was always quick to put up her hand and answer when a question was directed to class generally.  Even when teacher Tom Clooney directed a question specifically to one of the others in class Oriole shouted out the answer. Clooney was desperate to get participation from the rest of them as he’d noted there was latent irritation this brilliant young girl seemed to monopolize class interaction and the rest tuned out. Not that their grades were significantly lower than Oriole, but Tom felt class interaction would improve grades more as their interest was aroused. With Oriole monopolizing conversation all the time the rest of the class tended to get into mischief or look out the window.

Oriole stood to speak instead of sitting as the rest of them did when they did get a word in, and the class began to whisper. Tom put up his hand for silence and spoke.

“Let’s pay attention class!”

“Mr. Clooney Doug Cullinane has been pulling my hair and making bird noises behind me all morning and I can’t hear everything you say when he does that.”

“Well now we’ll settle that after class but in the meantime, we still have a half hour of classwork, so I want the full attention of the class and no more interruptions please. Oriole Geldard and Doug Cullinane, you will see me at the end of class as it will be recess and you won’t miss any further classes. Now back to work.”

There was a general murmuring and teacher Tom put up his hand again to indicate they should be silent. The rest of the lecture went by uneventful and two sheepish early teens presented themselves to the teacher’s desk while the rest of the class filed out for recess making jokes about the two as they went.

“OK Oriole what’s your complaint against Doug and how long has this been going on for?”

“Well, it’s only been going on since the beginning of class because he objected to me pushing his desk back so I could have more room. I need space so it’s easier for me to stand when you ask questions. He has been pulling my hair and making fun of my name Oriole by making bird noises and I don’t like it.”

“Stay here while I inspect that desk space!”

Tom got up from behind his teacher’s desk and strode to the back of the room where both sat. Doug had been wedged against the wall and had very little space to maneuver in and out of his seat. Tom pulled the desk forward lining it up with the rest of the rows across the aisle. He strode back to his desk and sat turning to Oriole.

“Oriole you are not permitted to make changes to suit yourself in any classroom. I don’t want you to stand when answering my questions as there’s not enough space to do that conveniently.”

He looked at Doug. “Doug you should have told me what Oriole had done to make your seating uncomfortable instead of pulling her hair and trying to humiliate her by making fun of her name. It’s a nice name. You’ll come to my office after school and write out five hundred times you won’t make fun of people before I’ll release you to go home. Now you go out and play with your classmates while I have further words with Oriole.”

Doug retreated quickly while Tom addressed Oriole again.

“Oriole, I want to congratulate you for your good academic record. You are probably the most gifted in my class at math so I’m looking to you to help me bring the rest of the class up to your standard. You can do that by letting others answer when I ask them questions. I understand you will know the answers so you don’t have to answer for them as that prevents them from thinking and learning and when I want to direct a question to you then you should answer. Your grades indicate how smart you are, so you don’t have to convince me or the rest of the class. Has Doug ever pulled your hair and made noises before today?”

Oriole shook her head to indicate no.

“Do you realize moving his desk back was very selfish of you?”

Oriole stood staring at the floor and didn’t answer.

“It was selfish, please don’t do that again. Now you can go join the others at recess.”

Tom watched as Oriole departed and he went to the veranda where he could watch all students playing or talking on school grounds. He searched to see what Doug was up to and noted him playing happily with kids from his and other classes. Then he turned to look for Oriole and saw her sitting by herself under one of the trees reading a textbook. She was an interesting personality study and others had remarked on this as they sat together in the teachers meeting room where they had lunch together or attended meetings during schooldays. Outside classes Oriole was introverted but in class she came across as little miss know it all and was quite vocal. The psychologists among them were having a field day analyzing her.

After that day’s confrontation with Doug and Oriole harmony returned to the class and it was soon approaching the end of school year and time for recurring interaction of teachers with the Parents and Citizens Committee. Teachers met individually with parents in their offices during this week to review progress of their children. Sometimes it was a reality check for parents as they learned how their children metamorphosized when leaving home to attend school and sometimes it was a learning experience for teachers. Tom remembered meeting with Doug’s parents on previous occasions as they were prominent members of town society. but he couldn’t recall meeting Oriole’s parents and as the incident was still in his mind, he decided to take more notice when it came time to interview them. Finally, the day came.

Annette Geldard entered the room and took a seat indicated by teacher Tom Clooney. She was dressed immaculately and exuded confidence, but Tom thought he detected and underlying sadness in that facade. Tom smiled and welcomed her.

“I’m happy you were able to make it today to review Oriole’s progress Mrs. Geldard. Usually, we like to have both parents visit but I suppose your husband couldn’t get away from work?” It was more an observation than request for information, but Annette thought otherwise.

“Oriole’s father has not been with us for some time now Mr. Clooney so I’m afraid you’ll have to be satisfied with me being here alone.”

Tom’s face turned red with embarrassment, and he apologized profusely for this unintended intrusion into her personal affairs. His reaction was out of character as he tried to find a way to return to the task at hand a review of Oriole’s progress at school and Annette sought to put him at ease.

“I know there was no hidden agenda behind your observation Mr. Clooney. The fact is my ex-husband who is a university teacher decided to take an appointment abroad and walked out on us and has since remarried and has no interest in either of us now. This has caused Oriole who idealized her father to become withdrawn. I gave up my college teaching career in psychology to teach music at home so I could spend all my time with Oriole who is obviously having a hard time without her father. Fortunately, I have high qualifications in music so it’s working out fine, but I miss being out there in front of a class.”

Tom relaxed; he was talking with one of his own teacher tribe so they had something in common. He consulted his notes.

“Oriole’s grades are exceptional so it’s obvious she has a good future ahead of her. You mentioned she seemed withdrawn, and I’ve noticed that too as she doesn’t mix easily with other children. However, in class she is outspoken and tends to dominate which poses a problem in her relationship with others, but I think I have it in hand now.”

Annette Geldard laughed, and Tom looked up from his notes in surprise. She noted his surprise and realized she needed to clarify why she’d laughed when this was a serious matter.

“Mr. Clooney my major was in psychology, and I taught it at college level. Oriole idealizes you. In her mind you are the father figure she no longer has access to, and she is trying to get your approval. I know in today’s world teachers are not permitted to get close to students of the opposite sex and that’s a good thing, but you need to try and walk the tightrope between her needs and the need to keep a distance. In any case she will be moving on to the next class level and taking other subjects commencing next semester, so you’ll not have to be troubled by her soon. I appreciate what you’ve done to develop her math talents. I presume you’ve seen this idol worship in your own children at times.”

Tom stared at Annette Geldard taking it all in as she spoke. It had not occurred to him what her behavior was all about until now and he wondered if he’d been too hard on her under the circumstances.

“I’m not married Mrs. Geldard so your comments have given me much to think about. In some ways I can sympathize with your daughter as I come across as confident and have no problem standing in front of a class delivering lectures. But I think I’m secretly an introvert in sheep’s clothing. Why not call me Tom instead of Mr. Clooney as we are members of the great teacher tribe.” He laughed nervously as soon as he said this as in retrospect it sounded silly.

“Then call me Annette Tom. I’d appreciate being kept up to date on Oriole’s behavior in class for the rest of this semester in case she needs a counsellor. I’ve thought about it a lot and would appreciate your thinking as you deal with her daily and from this conversation it seems she may need that intervention to help her with the loss of her father. I work from home and have a thriving profession teaching music so I can be available through this phone number if you notice any further difficulties with her in class.”

She quickly wrote her name and address with phone number on a small notepad then tore out the page and handed it to Tom getting up to leave.

“Thank you for your patience with my daughter, she has thrived under your teaching.”

Tom jumped up and raced to the door to open it for her as she exited. This was not his habit with others he interviewed but somehow, he’d been drawn to this woman, and it was a first experience for him. He’d always felt no one would be interested in him and because of that feeling had never asked a woman out but was envious of those who’d married and had children to grace their home. He loved his teaching interaction with teenagers and often imagined what it would be like to have children of his own. Strict rules kept him from getting close to any of the students he taught but it wouldn’t be like that in a home situation, and he envied those who had that happiness. At age thirty-five he’d given up on that possibility.

He was tidying his office after a day of interview with parents when the phone rang. He picked it up and recognized Sue from administration was on the line.

“Tom Annette Geldard is on the line, and she’s inquiring if someone has found her kindle as she seems to have mislaid it on one of her visits with Oriole’s teachers in their offices today. Could you check your office as I have her holding the line and have checked with the other teachers.”

“Hold on Sue and I’ll look; I know it’s not on my table but will check where she was sitting. Others have been in for an interview after Mrs. Geldard visited me today and surely, they’d have told me if it was on the floor there.”

He moved around the table and there was nothing visible then on impulse he bent down and looked under his desk. There it was. Must have slipped out of her purse when she removed the note pad to give him her address.

“I found it Sue. It was under my table. I have her address so will drop it in to her place on my way home.”

There was a delay as he heard Sue talking with Annette Geldard then she returned to his line. “She says if you leave it at the administrative office, she’ll pick it up in the morning Tom.”

 “Tell her it’s no trouble as I have to pass her home to reach my apartment, so I’ll drop her kindle in after 5pm.”

He replaced his phone on the cradle and returned to tidying up his desk and filing the result of the day’s interviews for later processing by administration then turned off lights and locked his office door heading for his car in the teachers parking lot.

He turned into the street where the Geldard residence was and strained to read house numbers to locate her home then parked on the street and retrieved the kindle from the seat beside him. Tom trudged down the driveway and entered the two steps leading up to a porch with comfortable cane chairs with his eyes focused on the front door. He turned in surprise as a young voice greeted him and saw Oriole sitting in a swing chair to his left reading a book. She got up quickly and ran to meet him. She was smiling.

To be continued

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© Copyright 2022 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved

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