I'm a fiction writer; I write fantasy. If you happen to read my stories, you know that I'm attracted mostly to tweens. Since I don't make any money off my stories, I have to work for a living, and I happen to be a teacher – I teach English as a Foreign Language in Mexico. For a number of years I taught elementary school, but working so closely with so many sexy little girls eventually became untenable. I don't like to brag, but I've been told more than once that I'm an excellent teacher, so after being dismissed from my last job (due to unproven but basically true allegations involving "inappropriate touching"), this year I've begun working in a high school. I figured that with girls who are a tad more mature and a bit less sexy than the ones I like best, it would be easier to keep my hands to myself. Alas, things did not pan out exactly as planned.
The school where I work is non-traditional in many ways. I have only two classes, one that meets on Monday and Wednesday mornings, and the other that meets on Tuesday and Thursday mornings; both last from 7:00 to 8:30 a.m., and then students have a thirty-minute break before their next class. There is an open campus, so students can come and go as they please.
Although each teacher is responsible for his or her own classes, the school has several campuses across the country, and a lot of what we do is dictated by norms from the central office, and lesson plans, grades, and attendance are all monitored via the Internet. Attendance at class is mandatory, and there is no tolerance for being late.
I'm expected to arrive at 6:55 for class, when I turn on my computer and check in. No time cards or sign-in-sheets for us – I mark my attendance or I don't get paid. Then I have a five-minute window to mark the students' absences. Once an absence is noted, it cannot be erased, and if he has five absences during the semester he automatically fails. The computer is merciless – even if a student misses a class due to illness or the death of a parent, it cannot be excused.
There is one way out, however, and that is we humans are more flexible and don't mark student absences for a few days. Rarely is there a valid excuse for missing (or even arriving late for) class, but it does happen from time to time.
Yesterday, my supervisor stopped by just after seven to remind my class of a poetry contest. Just then, Anahi, a well-built, very attractive girl of 17, came by – and my supervisor said, "Don't let her in." Sorry kid – you miss class and fail the weekly quiz.
Anahi is a very sweet girl, but she has missed several classes already this semester due to tardiness. Her parents did not have money to purchase the mandatory textbook during the first week of class, and she has ordered a copy at a local bookstore, but they're still waiting for the shipment to arrive from England where the books are printed. So she's far from the perfect student.
I gave my class as usual, and I gathered up my things (including the students' quizzes) and planned to leave the school to go to another, where I had class at 11:00. (The second school happens to teach computer skills and languages, so I like to arrive early to surf the Internet and catch up on my e-mail a bit before beginning class. That's hardly relevant here, so I'll say no more.) As I left class, I chatted a bit with a colleague named Nancy, and Anahi came over. "Hi, Teacher," she said. "What do you think of my shoes?" She had a brown boot on her right foot and a blue sneaker on the left. "That's cool," I said. "Do you have another pair at home that's the same?" "No, but my friend Karen has a pair that's the same," she replied.
Nancy went on her way, and Anahi commented, "I'm sorry I came late today; my mother drives very slow. I was only two minutes late, but Ms. Martha (the English coordinator) hates me. I spoke to Ms. Margarita (the principal of our campus), and she said I should ask if I can do all the homework to make up for the classes I've missed." "Well, yes, Anahi, but that doesn't make up for today's quiz." "I know, but one quiz won't make much of a difference in my final grade," she commented.
"Well, you still have the problem with your absences," I pointed out. "You've already had four absences before today, and with today's absence you'll have to repeat the course." "Isn't there something I can do?" she asked. "I'll do all the homework, I promise." "I'd like to help you out," I replied sincerely, "but these rules come from the central offices in Puebla." "Please ... you know I'll work hard," she begged. "There has to be something you can do." "At this point, Anahi, I can think of only one way you can pass this course," I said.
"Anything ... what do I have to do?" "As I said, I'll do all my homework, and ... I don't know..." "Giving you a special break means I can get into big trouble," I pointed out.
"I can do a special investigation, or..." "What good will research about English help you?" I asked. "You have to learn how to use the language correctly. I'd really be sticking my neck out." "You mean ... oh, Teacher, I've never done anything like that," she said, catching my drift. "I don't think I can." "I'm leaving now," I said. "My car's out in the parking lot that's to the right of the main entrance. It's a gray Tsuru. I'll wait for you if you want to talk about this some more. But give me a good five minutes. I don't want to be caught leaving together by the surveillance camera." I sat in the car for several minutes, nervously wondering if Anahi would rat me out. I had not actually propositioned her, and she had in fact turned down my suggestion, yet something in me told me to wait.
I was not disappointed; I did not even notice that Anahi was there until she opened the passenger's side door and got into the car. "Hi," she said shyly.