Copper Cove High School was in mayhem. Nobody knew what to do, or how to do it. The staff had no idea how things had gone that wrong. All the teachers’ timetables were mixed, as it was the beginning of the school term, and the wrong teacher ended up in the wrong classroom at the wrong time. It usually took some time to get out of confusion, and the class to start with the appropriate teacher. The attendance register of students was also misplaced, with the tenth grade getting the register for first grade, decorated neatly with stickers and smileys, while theirs was ever so formal. But this wasn’t the least of the school’s trouble.
The school staff had started to be more irresponsible than usual, and the classrooms had not been cleaned for two days. The school canteen guy was absent more than present. When the school coordinator was asked to do something, she politely refused, saying the cleaning company should be contacted. Furthermore, stray cats and dogs had started to cross-school borders and disturb the students, scaring them. The demands of many teachers were not being met, so few of them had resigned. And the task to find their replacements proved way more difficult than it should be.
Children were out of control too, roaming out during class times, sneaking in school corridors. A few of them had started bringing electronic appliances to school, which was strictly forbidden.
The brighter students, who were not involved in creating trouble, were facing them. Between the lack of old, experienced teachers, the not-so-settled new ones, and the school management in the mayhem, they had started having academic problems.
They thought of complaining, but knew that it would be in vain, for who’d listen to them in the first place?
Especially when Mrs. Catherine Connolly was sick.
Trouble at Copper Cove had started brewing since the first day of her leave. She was submitted to bed rest after contracting a bad case of pneumonia. She was growing old, and every winter was harsher than the other, leaving its side effects in the summer.
It’s not if she was the most important member of the school committee. Nobody knew exactly what position she held. She was the deputy vice-principal, as the school registries suggested. But she had way more influence than Mrs. McCarthy, the principal of the school. How much influence, it had started to show.
Two of the students, most bothered by her absence, were Kendra and Shawn, students of the tenth grade.
“The school management is surely going to the dogs, at this rate,” Kendra said.
The students of their class were free because the designated teacher still hadn’t found their classroom. She was there to fill in for Mr. Nathan, the chemistry teacher who had resigned last Saturday.
“But, who can we complain about?” Shawn sighed, frowning.
“The school coordinator won’t listen to us, saying it is out of her reach. The principal will say that the issue is too petty to be concerned with her.” Kendra said.
Most of the students had left the classroom, knowing that the school coordinator had many tasks other than preventing the students from leaving the class.
“Let’s go the library,” Kendra said.
The library was about the only organized place left.
And it was in shambles too.
“Hey! I just found a book starting with T in the A shelf,” Shawn said almost sarcastically.
“Not to mention the Return of Sherlock Holmes in the Nonfiction section,” Kendra said.
“Most of the books are about to fall off the shelves,” Shawn said, “And some of the students haven’t bothered to return the books they borrowed.”
Kendra was a perfectionist; she couldn’t stand disorder like this.
“Ma’am, I would like to address that the arrangement of the library and its management is very unsatisfactory,” She said, stressing the last word.
The librarian looked around herself as if looking at the hall for the first time. The old woman practically lived in it.
“Well, it’s due to kids like you that the library is like this. You don’t have any manners, do you?”
Not wanting to be condemned further, Kendra and Shawn went outside to the playground.
“I remember Mrs. Connolly taking her occasional inspections of the library, guiding the librarian how to arrange books in a better way,” Kendra said.
“She even used to help in rearranging the books, the kind soul,” Shawn sighed.
“She used to help everyone around, bless her,” she said.
“But nobody realized it then,” he said, “We only know her worth now.”
“She was like salt to food, invisible. But one only feels the importance of salt when it’s not there.
The teachers’ staff room was currently empty, let alone for Mrs. Brown and Miss Howard, the two most senior, wittiest schoolteachers out there.
“I’ve heard that there was a row between the principal and Mrs. Hector, the one who teaches English,” Mrs. Brown said.
“If only Cathy were here. She always assisted the principal and helped her make the right decisions. I never heard of an argument under her watch,” Miss Howard added.
“I remember her arranging the timetables for the teachers, we exactly knew which class to go, and the times of multiple teachers never coincided. There were no confusions,” Miss Howard said, “But we barely gave her the credit she deserved. Maybe we deserve this chaos that we’re facing.”
“Yeah we gave way more credit to the principal and the vice-principal,” Mrs. Brown said, “Now we know exactly what they contributed to the school.”
“May God bless her with a speedy recovery!”
The school office was very busy at that time of the day. The waiting room was filled with interviewees who had come to fill in the vacancy of two teachers who had left.
There were a large number of people as compared to the seats in the office, and many had to stand. There were arguments about who came first, who deserved the seat, and who deserved the stand. Many had started to grow impatient, and they peeked inside the office room, often arguing that it was their turn to go next. When asked not to peek inside, many of the teachers got offended and left
The vice-principal sighed, thinking,
“If only Cathy were here, she’d manage to control the situation without offending anyone. She had a way with people, always coming to see whether they were comfortable or not. I could really use her help right now.”
But it was her, the vice-principal, who had always insulted her and doubted her abilities. She had even filed a report against her because she was worried that her influence might hurt her position. The school didn’t have any need for a deputy vice-principal. Oh, how wrong she was!
Shawn and Kendra were sitting in Kendra’s room. Kendra had a laptop in her lap. They were carrying out a magnificent plan of theirs.
The only contact they had with Mrs. Connolly was her e-mail, which they doubted she ever used. But it was worth a try.
They wrote a nice little e-mail to her, inquiring her about her health and asking her whether they could come to visit her at her home.
They knew that she’ll never refuse.
She just sent her an address.
Mrs. Connolly lived close to Kendra’s. So, they decided to walk to her home.
Her house was a humble one, just like her. Shawn knocked at the door, and a maid led them inside. But they were astonished on entering the room where Mrs. Connolly was laying.
She seemed even healthier than usual.
She was sitting straight, with a book in her hand, fully capable of any time of movement or hard endeavors.
“How are you, ma’am?” Kendra asked, shocked.
“Me? I am full in spirits my dear; there was never a matter wrong with me.”
“But, then why aren’t you coming to school?” Shawn said.
“Oh! That! I thought that Copper Cove could really do without an assistant vice-principal. I just wanted to take a short break, you know. I’m growing quite old and tired,” She moved the table single-handedly and made room for her students to sit.
“But, you can’t imagine how the school is like without you, ma’am,” Kendra started.
“I expected that much. Tell me, do the teachers miss their class, or forget them without me? Does the librarian ever bother to arrange the shelves or have them arranged without my advice?” She asked, with a proud smile.
“No, ma’am, some of the teachers have even resigned due to the mismanagement, and the newly recruited teachers are not good, because they are hired in a hurry,” Shawn said, sipping some of the tea the old lady made for them.
“And…and the canteen guy is always late because you are not there to remind him of his timings and the classrooms are not cleaned daily, because the school coordinator has no schedule of her own,” Kendra added to Shawn’s remarks.
“I know, my dears, and I am so sorry that you had to go through these times,” Mrs. Connolly said, serving them cookies.
She smiled, “Does Terry the gatekeeper forget to check for breaches because I’m not there to remind him frequently?”
“Yes, the school has several cases of stray cats and dogs crossing the school bounds,”
“Ah! Poor souls,”
“So, when are you coming back?”
“When do you want me to come back?”
To make a long story short, the teenagers finally persuaded Mrs. Connolly to return, but on one condition.
The principal must personally ask her to do so.
The teenagers went straight to the principal’s office, which was still crowded by the interviewees. They’d to wait for a long time for the office to empty, but it was worth it.
Mrs. Connolly was coming back.
Kendra presented the principal with the news that Mrs. Connolly had finally recovered, and she would love to resume her duties as the assistant to the vice principal.
The principal, though usually expressionless, was pleased to hear this.
Shawn, with sheer cleverness, suggested the principal write her a letter, welcoming her back on board, and explaining how much the school had missed her.
The principal couldn’t see anything wrong with that idea, and she quickly put it to execution.
One Monday morning, order returned to the Copper Cove School once more. The teachers had perfectly scheduled timetables, the students didn’t roam out of the class, the stray cats and dogs went bag to their homes in the city. The library looked grand now, with her books neatly arranged. The canteen guy didn’t forget his timings and the classrooms were sparkly clean one more. The interviewees were very satisfied to be teaching in such a school.
Because Mrs. Connolly was back!
And better than before, because everyone, teachers, and staff alike, greeted her most affectionately, and the students gave her the utmost respect. All she had to do was to disappear from the school for two weeks, and she finally got the recognition she discovered.
And Copper Cove was a well-managed, disciplined school once more.