2008-04-27: Superpowers Aren't Cool, Stay In School


Lee_icon.gif Niki_icon.gif

Summary: A parent-teacher conference that … goes well?

Date It Happened: April 27th, 2008

Superpowers Aren't Cool, Stay In School

Brubaker Secondary School

New York City

Lee dresses up for parent-teacher conferences just like he dresses up for class these days. A vest, a dress shirt, a tie, antique and hip-ly eccentric. He comes into the hallway with a clipboard and says, "Ms. Sanders?" when it's time. His classroom is even more elaborate than the last time she was here, and the walls are better organized. A timeline of events from 1784 to 1860. A color-coded chart of legislative, judicial and executive branches of the federal, state, and city governments. A list of principles: Equality, Autonomy, Community, and questions: Who Benefits? Who Pays For It? Who Is Affected? Clearly Lee's room is, well, evolving. "Have a seat." No 'glad to see you again' or anything like that.

Niki is nothing if not determined to go through a normal day — a normal morning, if anything — to make sure everything is okay for Cam at school. The sometimes single mom, standing near the classroom door, has made an effort to look nice and presentable also, though not quite so sharp as Lee: a grey pair of dress pants and a wine-coloured peasant peasant shirt, blonde hair pulled back and swung over the front of one shoulder. She's in the process of giving the Brubaker corridor a somewhat scowling glance this way and that when Lee emerges, but for the teacher she has a much warmer countenance. "Mr. Jones. Hi." Following, she slips into the seat. "Thanks."

Lee says, "So. Cam's doing well. I suppose you saw the results of the state achievement test. He passed. His score could have been higher if he hadn't fallen behind a few grades ago, but he's caught up completely. How are things at home?" he asks calmly, leaning back in his creaky wooden teacher's chair that many generations of teachers have leaned back in at times just like this.

Niki looks around at the various items on the walls as they settle in, although her glances about are only have casual; there's an underlying tension about the woman, a certain stiffness to her posture. She nods at Lee, smiling, but it falters — just ever-so-slightly — on the question he poses. It's such a simple question, but… "Um…" Niki smiles more, overcompensating just a little in her reassurances. "They're fine. Cam's… good. He's good at— adapting."

Lee replies frankly: "That's not a good thing. It means that if things start going wrong, you probably won't know from his behavior. And he certainly won't tell anyone outside the home about it. Have there been any big changes since he moved back that you've seen?"

How many times has Niki been in parent-teacher meetings just like this? She hasn't been counting, but it's been a lot. Ever since Micah started school. Some eight years ago? Now, as she thinks of the boy of the same age that shares their house and family in light of Lee's insight, she opens her mouth further to reply; stops, pauses, shifts in her seat. "Changes. In Cam? Well— no…"

Lee gives her the teacher-knows-you're-lying look but doesn't call her on it, or at least he doesn't think he is. He changes the subject: "I found out about the ice thing." he says, and shakes his head slightly. "As if he didn't have enough to worry about. We've worked out a plan where if it's making him uncomfortable or getting out of control here, he can be excused and go unleash it somewhere safe. He told me he told you about it?"

Okay, so … Maybe this isn't like every other parent-teacher meeting Niki has been to. She looks decidedly uncomfortable when the subject is changed, surprised even though her next words are, "Yeah, he mentioned it." She regards Lee carefully for a moment, brows lifting with wary inquiry. "It— it hasn't happened again. Right?"

Lee says, calm and casual, "Not in front of the other kids or anything, but they'll figure it out soon enough. Kids are very perceptive that way. I really do feel bad for him, Cam has the deck stacked against him already without this ridiculous twist in his DNA causing him problems, and he really is remarkably smart and talented. I'd like to see him get into the Literature class next year instead of just English, but it would be a lot of reading, it's a very intense program, and he'd need someone at home who could discuss what he was reading almost every night. Is that realistic?" Lee's already dismissed the ability to shoot ice as virtually of no importance whatsoever to Cam, and is right on to 'can you commit your summer nights to him'. Clearly shooting ice is not of any interest to Lee.

Niki starts to frown, a tight pull at her lips. Worry lines galore. It should be obvious that she's sympathetic to the plight of a child whose differences could cause them problems at school — and that she cares about Cam. "Yeah, of course," she says with a smile twisting her near frown upside-down. "That won't be a problem at all. And— you probably know, Cam's always eager to learn."

Lee nods. "He is. And he should be encouraged to go as far as possible as he can with it. He'll be in the full high school class before you know it." he says. "Is there anything else I should know about?" Lee asks, leaning back foward, lacing his long fingers together.

"Look, Mr. Jones…" Niki smiles sincerely and gives her head a shake. "Things might not be perfect at home, but you should know that Cam's doing really well. Not— just going with the flow… if anything, he's doing better. He's more … confident than he used to be," she tells the teacher.

Lee looks at Niki for a long moment, then finally says: "No more murders in your front room, then." in his calmest, coolest voice.

The woman's face goes from earnest and kind to dark and cool in one second, flat. Given her expression, it's by some miracle that Niki doesn't launch across and grab Lee by his hipster vest. A miracle called "logic and willpower". Losing her temper would just make the opposite point she wants to make, and so she just bristles, mouth clamped shut unnaturally tight. "No," she says in a low, forced voice. "You don't have to worry about that happening again."

Lee says, "Thanks for coming in. I'll send you the literature reading list. You'll probably have to request him getting into it specifically so they don't just dump him in the low-end English class with the rest of the kids from his track."

"…Sure," Niki answers stiffly. Pushing down her somewhat hostile expression takes a few moments, but Lee's done nothing wrong save for being blunt. She moves as if to stand, since the meeting seems to be coming to a close — in sitting up straighter, she moves her left arm back, eliciting a wince that she tries to cover up with a smile. "I've been thinking about moving Micah to Brubaker," she says in a more casual tone, "Next year. The school he's at now only has so many grades."

Lee says, "Cam mentioned him. Honestly, you probably have a clearer picture from Cam what happens here than most Brubaker parents. If you think it's worthwhile, after all he's been through here, I'd consider it an honor and a vote of confidence." He clearly doesn't fault Niki's intentions.

"Every school has it's problems." Niki glances down briefly. "Some more than others. .. I don't know, honestly," she admits. "The program here is… okay…" Granted, by the sound of it, 'okay' might not be enough. "But you obviously go the extra mile to make sure a kid gets special attention."

Lee says, "I try to. I'd hate to see a kid dragged down by just random genetic circumstance." Superpowers aren't cool, stay in school! This has been a message from the National Literacy Council. He gets to his feet. "Good luck, Ms. Sanders. As always, if there's anything I can do to help Cam out, please call me any time."

"…Thank you," Niki replies with polite sentiment, getting to her feet in earnest this time a few second after Lee. She smiles as she turns to leave the classroom, hesitates as if she's about to speak again, but must decide not to, seeing as she starts to stroll away from the desk to the door.

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