The unconventional teacher

Submitted into Contest #198 in response to: Write a story about an unconventional teacher.... view prompt

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Fiction Funny Inspirational

The unconventional teacher

I pushed myself through the door into the classroom. At this time of the morning there was always a scramble through the door as most of us students always timed our entrance at the last minute before being late….punishable. I immediately went to my designated desk at the rear of the class next to my best friend Daniel. He was there gazing out of the large windows that dominated one of the classroom walls. It was a large airy room with a distinctive feeling of allowing a teacher to express himself.

“Hi Daniel, what’s the first lesson”

“It’s geography with the new teacher. There is rumor going around that he is a bit odd”.

“That will make a change after old Mr. Potts, bless his soul”.

“Oh! He wasn't so bad. Just old and hard of hearing”.

At that moment the door opened and in walked the headmaster accompanied by the new teacher. The class rose to its feet as was the custom of the school on the first class of the day.

I could not believe my eyes. The headmaster, as always, dressed in a suit and tie, with well polished shoes, a picture of sartorial elegance. Next to him was an extraordinary looking man with a cloak slung over his shoulders that hid whatever he was wearing underneath. His profile was of a powerful and athletic man. But what captured every-bodies immediate attention was that he had on his left shoulder a brightly coloured handsome parrot. The man looked strange, his face was dominated by a large nose and bushy side whiskers. His long black hair was pulled back and tied in a horse tail. His eyes, a deep blue, were noticeable like those of a wild animal on a hunt for food. He had hairy eyebrows which he later told us came in handy in sand and snow storms. Even before the headmaster spoke he had, with a flourish, cast of his cloak showing he was dressed in a plain pink shirt covered by a patterned waistcoat. The whole little performance was astounding as when he removed his cloak the parrot hopped up allowing the garment to be removed. The parrot then flew up to a perch on the large bookcase that covered the wall opposite the windows. From this height the parrot dominated the whole classroom.

The headmaster spoke.

“Morning class I am here to introduce you to Mr. Prendergast and his parrot Mr. Finch. He will be taking geography and history classes. He has assured me that Mr. Finch will in no way interfere with his teaching. Therefore for the present I have permitted him to bring his bird into the classroom. Now I will leave you all to your studies”. With that he turned to the door and left.

Without any movement from the new teacher's mouth the class was told to sit down and be silent. The voice was peculiar making a scratchy sound, definitely not human, it must have come from the parrot.

For the first time Mr Prendergast spoke to the class. He had a deep authoritative voice.

“The young boy in the front to the left, what is your name?

“Thomas, sir. I noticed his voice had a slight tone of bewilderment.

“Please take this sheet and read the roll call. I need to put up a map”

I had not noticed but hidden in the cloak there was a long cylinder from which he extracted a map of the world. Once unrolled he attached it to the front chalkboard. In doing so I noticed his hands. They were quite large and obviously strong and powerful as I imagined one could find on a sailor.

Meanwhile, the roll call had terminated, with all present. But before Thomas handed back the roll call sheet a high pitched voice was heard. “You forgot Mr Finch, see that it does not happen again”.

The master turns to class. “Today I am going to introduce you to our world”. He started to point to various countries and asked the class to give him their names. Suddenly what was an innate object hanging in front of us became alive and interesting. Several student hands were raised by those who thought they knew the country's name. Each time a country's name was wrong Mr Finch raised his voice with the words... “ wrong, stupid”. Also what was totally surprising was that when the teacher pointed to the country he often spoke a few words of that country's language. It was not long before one of my colleagues put up his hand and asked if Mr Prendergast had traveled in many countries and spoke many languages. “Yes' , came the immediate reply. “Tomorrow I will show you some of the routes I traveled and a few languages I leant. For tonight’s homework I want you to imagine my last six month trip. The student that comes closest to the true wins a small prize.”

The geography class was becoming riveting and interesting. We left on the bell ringing, denoting the end of the lesson. The parrot was heard to chuckle. “Go to it my lads”.

Two days later in front of the history class Mr Prendergast turned up dressed as a gentleman who lived in the 19th century with Mr. Finch on his shoulder. The class was silenced by the spectacle. Did the rumor say he was odd?

He spoke. “I am going to teach you history through you all asking me questions of who I am, my parents, where I was born, my education, my career, how I lived, all the various worldly events that have happened in my lifetime. In other words when we are finished you will know something about living in the 19th century. For home work I will ask you to write an essay on the gentleman before you living in the 19th century. The essay will be a synopsis of his life and the world he lived in. Let’s start with the questions by following a clock face circulation around the class. Take your pencils and carefully note the questions and replies. The two way conversations began with Mr. Finch intervening occasionally with remarks like, that was a silly question, concentrate my lad on the subject, question out of order, perceptive question... my boy.

For the next two semesters we travel the world following the teacher’s routes learning about countries' cultures, how they live, their means of communication, their cities and many other aspects of each country. The teacher told us once that he flew a small plane to an oasis hidden deep in the Sahara desert. From this adventure we learnt about the earth’s crust, the relationship between the sun and the moon. The vision of desert nights bathed in starlight. We were introduced to the world’s weather patterns, the winds, the storms and man’s fragility when faced with these elements. Mr. Finch showed us the meaning of flight with a turn around the classroom. Never has geography been so engaging. Once out of the classroom all of us spent hours discussing various countries and the influence of weather on man’s behavior.

It was the same captivating lessons in history class. Once we had explored the 19th century we were impatient to know what character Mr.Prendergast was going to introduce us to for the other centuries.

We soon realized Mr. Finch, the parrot, was an essential part of his teaching method. To be scolded by the parrot’s distinctive voice was a wound to our pride, but at the same time we all were delighted by his presence. Sometimes the teacher would completely change the tone of his voice to suit the character he was exposing. This made the parrot, sitting calmly on his perch, hop from one foot to the other. This little dance always brought a merry laughter from the class. In the mornings it was not long before we all said good morning, Mr Finch, this seemed to please him as he put his head to one side. Occasionally he let us pet him.

I think it must have been in the history class. One day before the summer recess was programmed Mr.Finch started choking, letting out a frightening sound. He fell from his perch to the floor and died instantly. Mr Prendergast rushed to his body and picked him up. With tears in his eyes, he kissed the stiff body and left the classroom. We never saw him again.

Later that year at the midterm exams all members of our class were awarded A’s in geography and history. When these results were announced I turned to Daniel and said.” He was definitely odd but such a wonderful teacher”.

David Nutt Paris 14/05/2023

May 19, 2023 05:53

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2 comments

Brian Rohrig
12:14 May 27, 2023

Great visual imagery!

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Shahzad Ahmad
05:01 May 24, 2023

David, you have the making of a writer. Your descriptive language capture the emotion so well and the phrase 'sartorial elegance' I used once myself. Sometimes we don't know the implications of odd behaviour but they work wonders with our lives just like the presence of the parrot imperceptively changed the tone of the class. Great piece of writing.

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