Chapter Seven: Exams
As Willow walked into the school building on Monday morning, she could feel the tension in the halls. It was the first day of exams and she could see students doing some last minute revision. It was unnervingly quiet in the halls as she walked to her classroom for her first lesson. The bell rang and students hurried into their respectful classrooms. Her class was on time, as always. They had learned, the hard way, that everyone who came late had to do a punishment. They would have to do a sum on the board and be marked for it. Willow usually chose the hardest ones she could think of for these punishments. So, they made sure to be on time for her classes.
As they all sat down, Willow counted them and wrote down on the paper of absences that all were present. She took the paper into the box in the hallway. Closing the door, she walked back inside and stood in front of the class.
"Alright. Your mathematical exam is next week on Wednesday, on your last hour. I've made plans to revise all of this week. I realize that I came at the beginning of October, so you studied things in September as well. But your last teacher left me some notes, so we can work on that. Today I decided to give you a pop quiz, to see how you're all doing. According to the marks that you get, you can know what you might expect on the exam. Of course, your exam mark may be better; it all depends on you and how hard you study. Ok, so papers and pens out, books away."
She walked to the board and wrote down ten sums, then sat down behind her desk and waited for the class to finish. As the first bell rang, the class scribbled some last minute answers and handed in their papers. Frowning a bit, discussing their respective answers, they filed out of the classroom. Willow had a free lesson now, so she went straight to marking the tests. Most of them had done well, half the class had gotten A's and B's, three people got a C and two got a D. Sighing, Willow put the papers in one of the shelves and cleaned off the board, writing down some more revision questions for the next class.
It went on like this all day. Class after class would come in, have a pop quiz and then leave. Most of them came up to her at lunch break, asking her if she'd marked the papers yet. Her answers would always be the same: "Yes I have marked your paper. No, you can't know what you got. I'll give them back to you tomorrow." They'd walk away glumly.
Over the two weeks she had been teaching at the school, Anya, Tara and her had become good friends, always sitting together at lunch and talking. Tara told them about her counselor work, the problems the students would come to talk to her about, Willow would talk about her classes and Anya would talk about money. Willow had come to learn that Anya was very fond of money and other people's private lives. She found it most humorous, until she started asking her about her private life, then she would have to change the subject abruptly.
PTA meetings were coming up next week. As the new math teacher, almost all of the parents had wanted an appointment with her. She still had to say this to William, because PTA meetings took place in the evening, which meant that she wouldn't be able to take care of the kids.
So, that day after school, when the children were in bed, she waited for him to arrive home and have a talk with him.
"Good evening Miss Rosenberg. How was your day?" he asked, after he sat down across from her in the kitchen.
"It was alright. And yours?"
"Tiring." He answered and took a bit from the pizza Willow had made tonight. "This is really good." He said.
"Thank you. Mr. Giles, I have to talk to you about something." She said, putting away her week planner.
"Please, I think we've known each other long enough for you to call me Spike."
"Spike?" she asked, raising one eyebrow.
"Yes, when I was in school, I was in a band and I had the nick name Spike. So, please, call me Spike."
"Ok, Spike. I need to talk to you about next week. As you may or may not know, it's PTA week and I have an appointment almost every night, for every half hour between five and eight." She informed him.
"Favorite among the parents, pet?" he asked.
"Not quite favorite, just new. I'm guessing that's why they want to meet me, other than talk to me about their kids' math grades. So, what I'm saying is, that I'm not going to be able to tutor the kids in the afternoons next week. I mean, I can walk them home and then go back to school, but they'll be alone for three hours. I'm pretty sure Faith can take care of them for one week; I just thought I'd inform you beforehand."
"Yes alright. It's fine. I guess I'll be seeing you there as well, seeing as I made an appointment for Wednesday evenin'." He said, clearing away his plate.
Willow looked at her watch. It was almost eleven. She bid her goodbye and left.
* * *
The next day, Tuesday, she had some lessons with the elementary classes. Her first lesson was with Wesley's class. During her time at the school, she had come to like his and Faith's class the most. Not only because they were in the class. Well, that was one of the reasons. But their classes were also the ones which tried their hardest in her lessons, didn't disturb nor talk unless asked a question. They all handed in their homework on time and they had respect for her. As a teacher, this was one of the most important and best things a class could do to make the teacher happy.
Since this was their first lesson that week, they also had to revise for their exam, so, like with the other classes, Willow gave them a pop quiz. The lesson went by fast and after it Willow decided to take a break. She had two free lessons right now and she could mark the papers that evening. The kids would be revising for their other tests, so she would have some more time to prepare her lessons and to mark papers. With that in her mind, she took her briefcase together with her things for the day and went outside, onto the football pitch. There was a gym-class taking place. Squinting in the sun, she saw that it was Faith's class together with a class of older students.
The classes were divided into two different groups, with two different teachers. The girls had a female trainer and the boys had a male trainer. The girls were running laps around the pitch, while the boys were playing a football match. She still hasn't met the sports teachers, so she decided to go and have a little chat with them, if of course they weren't too busy.
The girls' trainer looked up as she neared her. She was a tall woman, with long blonde hair that was now braided into two plaits. She had blue eyes and was smiling at her. Willow deduced she could be maybe around thirty years old.
"Hello. I'm Willow Rosenberg, the new math teacher. I have two free lessons and was wondering, if you don't mind of course, if I could stay and watch the class." She said, introducing herself.
The woman smiled at her and nodded.
"Sure. I'm Christina Wellington. I'm the girls' trainer, obviously. Have you been teaching here long, I don't believe I've seen you in the staff room."
"I've been here for two weeks now. Don't really hang out in the staff room, bad memories from school. I like to stay in my classroom or the cafeteria." Willow answered, looking at the girls that were running around the field. She caught Faith's eye and waved at her. She waved back.
"You know her?" Christina asked.
"Oh yes. She's in one of the classes I teach. She's an exceptional girl. Very dedicated to her work."
"I agree. Faith has always been very passionate about sports. I've been teaching her class for five years now, and she hasn't let me down once. She used to compete in different sports, but she stopped. It's a shame, she has talent." She giggled a little. "I remember, last year, the boys were doing martial arts and she came to complain to me. Demanded to know why the girls couldn't do that as well. She was mighty angry when the boys laughed at her and said because they were girls."
"Well that's pretty stupid. I personally think that girls need to know basic self defense more than the boys do. I mean, we live in a very dangerous world and the boys at this age can be very cruel. Girls have a right to know how to defend themselves. The boys could easily just use the martial arts lessons to have fights in the halls, to show off in front of their friends."
"I quite agree with that." Said a male voice behind them. Willow turned around and came face to face with one of the most handsome men she had ever seen. He had dark brown hair and brown eyes and was smiling at her. She smiled back.
"My name is Graham, I teach the boys." He said, extending his hand.
"Willow. I teach math." She greeted him, shaking his hand.
"Yes, I heard. The staff mentioned your booming entrance a few times. Mrs. Newton still doesn't want to believe you said those things to her."
"It was just a simple misunderstanding. I didn't know she would take it so personally." Willow answered.
"What exactly did you say to her?" Christina asked curiously.
"Well, I had a free lesson, so I was in the halls. She thought I was a student and demanded to know what I was doing out of class and if I had a hall pass. I told her I didn't and I told her I was new here. She wanted to know where I transferred from and I said NYU. She had never heard of such a High School, and I said that that would be because a High School like that doesn't exist. She thought I was lying to her and wanted to send me into detention. But I said that I was too old to get detentions. So then she wanted to know how old I was. I answered, saying that I'm 28 and asked her how old she was. She got really angry then and threatened to take me to the headmistress. I said sure, I've been meaning to have a talk with Anya anyway. And that's when I told her I was the new math teacher. She was pretty shocked to say the least." Willow finished, smiling. The two other teachers burst out laughing.
Some of the students stopped what they were doing to look at them. It must have been a strange sight, three adults laughing their heads off over something.
"Anyway, you were saying something about the girls learning self defense?" Graham asked, bringing them back to what Willow was saying before he interrupted them.
"Yes, I think it is unfair towards the girls that they aren't allowed to learn how to defend themselves. At this age, they are very vulnerable. And older boys could use their helplessness to their advantage."
The two trainers nodded.
"Yes, you're right. We tried to talk Miss Jenkins into letting me teach the girls, but she said that the school board didn't agree with young girls learning how to fight at "such a young age." Christina answered.
"I'm guessing the school board is made up out of men. But it's ridiculous. We no longer live in the age when women are supposed to be housewives and take care of children and the cooking. Women have their own rights now as well. And one of them is to know how to defend themselves if they are in danger. And I think that the sooner they learn that, the better. They shouldn't have to go through an attack and only afterwards learn how to fight back." Willow explained.
Most of the students had stopped playing or running and were trying to listen to what they were saying. Graham looked at the boys.
"What's wrong? You can't play without me supervising you? This isn't a free lesson people. Back to the game." He told them before turning back to the two women.
Willow turned to the girls who were resting.
"You heard the man! Run." She told them, smiling.
The three teachers talked for the rest of the two lessons. Willow found out that both of them had been teaching at the school ever since they graduated from college. When the bell rang for the end of the lesson, Willow followed the girls and fell into step with Faith.
"Hey Faith. I saw you running, you're really fast." She told her.
"Thanks. So, what were you three talking about?"
"Actually, I was trying to persuade them to teach you girls some basic self defense. And then we just talked about teaching and stuff like that. Well, I'll see you in the afternoon; I have to run now. Bye." She said, before sprinting off toward the school building.
* * *
It was Monday afternoon, four o'clock in the afternoon and Willow was sitting in her classroom, writing exam papers. The mathematical exams started the next day and she was running late with preparing them. She had another hour before the first parents were supposed to come, so she hoped she could write a test for at least one class.
By five o'clock, she had written two tests. She put her papers aside as the first parents knocked on the door. She looked up and beckoned for them to come in. A man in his late thirties walked in, followed by Amy. Willow smiled at them both. The man had dark brown hair, just like his daughter, but there was some gray in his hair as well. His brown eyes were covered with glasses. He was wearing a black suit and shook Willow's hand before he sat down.
"Mr. Madison, good evening. My name is Willow Rosenberg and I teach Amy’s math class.”
"Evening." He smiled. Amy was sitting in the chair next to his, fidgeting with her hands.
"Amy is a very bright girl, as I'm sure you know. She is a joy to teach, she hands in her homework on time, I can't say that she has any problems with math. I have faith in her and I think she will do very well on her exam this Wednesday."
Amy looked at her, smiling happily and blushing a little. Her father beamed at her.
"We had a pop quiz last week, Amy was one of the many that got an A. If you have any questions, please ask."
"Yes, um, I was wondering what you will be covering this year?" he asked.
"For this school year, I have prepared Pythagoras theorem, the area and circumference of a circle, the different averages, graphs, more work on fractions. All the things that are covered in math at the age of fourteen."
Amy's father nodded.
"I see. I don't mean to be rude or to question your abilities as a teacher, but how long have you been teaching?"
"It's not a problem. I have been teaching at this school for three weeks now and before that I tutored children of all ages for two years. I assure you I am an able teacher. I studied math at NYU for six years."
"Impressive. One last question, what methods of teaching do you use? I mean to say, do you just explain it on the board, or do you have visual aids?"
"At the start of my career at this school, that is to say, on my first lesson with all of the classes, I asked them about their interests. If possible, I try to explain it to them using their knowledge of the things that they like. If for example, a person likes to run and we are studying the area of a circle, I would ask them to imagine that they are running in a circle. How much would they run if the circle's radius is 20m? Things like that. I find that children learn easiest if they can imagine what they are learning about. And if they enjoy doing something and have been doing it for a long time, then explaining it to them in a manner that they would understand is the best way that they can remember it."
Mr. Madison nodded.
"Well thank you Miss Rosenberg for your time." He said standing up and shaking her hand.
"Not a problem. You should be very proud of Amy."
They both smiled.
"I assure you, I am." He said as they walked out of the door.
Willow smiled at a black couple as they walked into the classroom.
"Good evening. You must be Mr. and Mrs. Gunn. How do you do, I am Willow Rosenberg. I teach your son, Charles, math. Please, sit down. First off, I just have to say that it is a pleasure having your son in my class. He has very little problems when it comes to learning new things...."
* * *
"Well, what did she say about us?" Faith and Wesley demanded as soon as Spike walked through the front door on Wednesday evening.
"What are you two talking about?" he asked, smiling and walking to the kitchen.
"Your meeting with Willow. Duh, what else would we be talking about?" Faith said.
"Oh, the meeting with Miss Rosenberg." He said as if only just figuring out what they wanted to know. He frowned at them. "Well, I must say I was surprised. I thought I knew you two. I know that we haven't been spending so much time together lately, but really. This is no way to try and get my attention. The things she said." He broke off, shaking his head.
Faith and Wesley looked at each other, eyes wide and scared. What exactly had Willow said?
"I mean, I thought that you two were good in math. I know that in your age, tempers and moods change, but really. I never had any idea that you caused absolutely no trouble and that you were doing exceptionally well in her classes." He said, smiling at their relieved expressions.
"Miss Rosenberg said that you were both very bright, smart and dedicated to your work. She said that out of all the students she teaches, you Faith have shown the biggest improvement over the three weeks she has been teaching you. You didn't tell me you got an A- on your pop quiz last week."
"You didn't ask." She answered simply, shrugging.
"Well, I'm proud of both of you. Now up to bed, it's late. Do some last minute revision and then lights out. Ok?"
They both nodded and ran upstairs. Spike sat in the kitchen for a few more minutes, smiling to himself.
* * *
"Finally! I thought that old hag would never stop talking!" Faith exclaimed as soon as they were out of hearing distance from Mrs. Newton.
Gunn nodded, following Faith as they made their way to their lockers.
"Yeah and plus, we have holidays for a week, no more exams and Halloween is on Wednesday. Do you know what you're going to dress up as?" he asked, opening his locker, which was right next to hers.
"Yeah. And no, I am not telling you what it is." She added when he opened his mouth.
"Why not?" he asked, pouting.
"Because, it's a surprise. Besides you'll see it on Wednesday, I won't change my mind, don't worry. You are still coming trick or treating with us, aren't you?"
"Have I ever not come?" he asked as they made their way outside into the school grounds.
"No, you always come. I just thought that maybe this year you'd think it's getting childish or something." She said, sitting down on the stairs, waiting for Willow and Wesley to come. It was a bright, sunny Friday afternoon and Gunn sat down next to her as well.
"I don't think it's childish. You get free candy for dressing up and scaring kids. It's fun."
"Hi guys. Glad school is over?" Willow asked, sitting down next to them.
They both nodded.
"Me too. Oh don't look at me like that. Even us teachers need a break. So, are you both ready for Halloween?"
They nodded again.
"Great. Me too. Except for the part where I don't have a costume." She said, waving at Wesley as he walked to them. She stood up and Faith and Gunn followed suit.
"You don't have a costume?" Gunn asked, as they set off in the direction of Dawn's kindergarten.
Willow shook her head.
"Why don't you come over to our house early and I can lend you some stuff. I need help with my costume anyway, so we'll be killing two birds with one stone."
"Ok, sure." She said as they reached a crossroad.
"Well, this is where I get off. I'll see you guys on Wednesday. Bye!" Gunn said and took off in the other direction.
"See you." They called after him.
"So, what are you two dressing up as?"
"You'll see on Wednesday." They both answered as Dawn came running out of the building.
Willow just shrugged, thinking about what she should wear.