"What's wrong, son?"
"That Ms. Rayner's so unfair," Jake said, with that look of injustice on his face.
"Calm down, honey," Dana said, as he stomped down the hall to his room.
"What's up with your brother?" I asked Sean, as he was still taking off his coat to hang up in the closet.
"She gave him a detention for tomorrow at lunch."
"Why?" Dana asked.
"Because she's a.... not nice," he said, as he restrained himself.
By now Jake had come out of his room and he was fuming. He told us that she gave back the Business exams and he got 74%, which he thought was too low. When she took up the correct answers, he thought that there were a few of the multiple choice and other answers she gave that were wrong.
"I went up to her after class, because she wouldn't look at anyone's paper until then. I was first and I showed her a few questions in the multiple choice section that I thought she had the wrong answer for."
She brushed him off saying that he was wrong and looked at the other people's papers behind him. While she was talking to the next boy in line, Jake got his textbook out and found the proof that he was right. After she had finished with that boy and once again disagreed about the same questions, Jake came up and tried to show her in the book why she was wrong.
"She went hairy and said I was insubordinate. I told her I knew what that meant and I only wanted what was fair. I didn't yell at her or anything."
He said that she flew off the handle and told him that she was the teacher and the answers were wrong and he had better leave.
"And what did you do then?" Dana asked.
"I told her that she was being mean and that wasn't the way a teacher should act."
She then told him he had a detention at lunch the next day in the detention hall and then threatened to double it when he protested.
"Let me see the paper, Jake," I said.
He went down to his room and brought it back to me. When I looked at it I was disgusted.
"This was one of my exams that I made up before I retired 8 years ago and I can quickly see that at least two of your answers she marked wrong were correct."
I told him to get washed up for dinner and I would look at the rest of the paper in the meantime. After I was finished remarking it I had his mark at 86%. It was obvious she didn't have my marking scheme, but probably found the exam copy in the file with the old exams at the other school. She was notoriously lazy and hadn't even bothered to update some of the questions to reflect the new curriculum and business information that had changed. I was now very angry and was resolved to take action. It was not something I wanted to do, because I had told the boys that I wanted them to solve their own problems with teachers as much as possible and that I would be reluctant to intervene unless it was serious.
"I can take care of this, Dad," he said.
"No, you can't. We'll take care of it," I said as I gave him back the remarked paper. "You were correct about her having wrong answers and according to what you've told me your actions didn't merit a detention."
He had calmed down by now and showed us his other exams, as did Sean. Dana and I were very pleased with both of them. As we expected, Sean's lowest mark was in English, but he got 69%. He wasn't satisfied, but he wasn't that unhappy either. However, he got 98% on his math exam and was the highest in his class.
"Where'd you lose the two marks?" I asked as I teased him. He stuck out his tongue at me as we all laughed.
Jake's English exam was outstanding as well and his mark of 92% was the highest in his class.
"Let's put dinner in the fridge for tomorrow night and go out and celebrate," Dana said with a big smile.
"Anyone for Hortons?" I asked.
"Very funny, Dad," Jake said as the boys gave me a look.
The next morning I drove the boys to school and went in to see Ms. Rayner before classes started. I came up to her room and she was sitting reading the morning newspaper. I wasn't surprised, as classroom preparation wasn't her strong suit.
"Trudy, I'd like a moment of your time, please," I said as I came towards the desk with Jake's paper.
She wasn't very accommodating and was very defensive when I questioned her as to the exam and her handling of Jake's query.
"Your son's got a smart mouth and he deserved the detention," she said very forcefully.
I took a deep breath to calm myself down before I said, "Let me make one thing clear, Trudy, Jake will not be serving that detention. I'm here to try and resolve two very serious problems. Not only are you wrong about my son's demeanour, but your marking of the exam was less than competent. Now we can solve this one of two ways; you remove the detention voluntarily and remark his paper properly, or we involve your department head and the Principal."
She looked at me, scowled and said, "You can't bully me anymore. You're not my boss. I have to get ready for class now," she said as she turned away and started to busy herself.
I went home and decided to come back when Jake had his lunch hour. I met him as he came out of his last class before lunch and told him to meet me at the office in about 20 minutes.
"Don't worry about the detention," I said.
I wanted him to have something to eat before we went into the Principal's office, because I wasn't sure how long we would be there. He had his lunch and as we entered the main office, the head secretary came to the counter to help.
"Hello, Al. What can we do for you today?" she asked.
Before I could answer, the rude secretary that Dana had the run-in with earlier in the year, came up to the counter with a list of some sort and barged in.
"You're Jake, aren't you?" she said, as she looked at her list then at Jake.
He nodded his head yes and she handed him two pieces of paper.
"I was going to call you down next period. Those are two detentions to be served for tomorrow and the next day. We double detentions when students skip them," she said with a very officious tone, as she started to walk away. The teacher in the detention hall had sent the list of no-shows to the office after the first five minutes, for follow-up.
I grabbed them, scrunched them up in a ball and tossed them at the garbage can that was beside her as she was making her way to her desk. She was startled as the paper hit the rim of the can and landed in front of her. She turned and looked at me with an angry glare.
"That's one of the reasons why we're here," I said as I glared back at her. I turned to the head secretary and said, "We'd like to talk to the Principal, please."
Gord was just making his way from the Vice Principal's office and he saw us and came over. After a short conversation, we headed to his office. I explained what the problems were and told Gord that I'd like Jake to tell his side of the story. Despite the fact that it took five minutes for him to finish, he did a great job laying out the chronological events.... in detail.
"Well I must say, that gives me a very clear and detailed picture of what transpired," he said as he smiled at Jake.
He dismissed Jake and called down Trudy's department head, Barney Gordon. When he arrived, Gord briefed him on the incident. Then I showed them Jake's exam and my original copy which was eight years old. I explained what the problem was with the exam and Jake's mark, which precipitated the confrontation. Neither one of them were very happy. Gord then got up to call Trudy into the office, as she was waiting outside, as he had called her down as well.
"Ms. Rayner, please explain why you assigned Jake a detention for today?" he said after she sat down.
"He was insolent, and abusive and accused me of incompetence in front of his classmates," she said very coolly.
"I'd like you to be more specific please, Ms. Rayner," Gord said as he leaned forward in his chair.
She told him a much embellished story which had a grain of truth, but was certainly not what had actually transpired.
"Did he swear at you?"
"No, but he...."
Gord cut her off and then asked, "Were there other students present when this was happening?"
She was clearly getting uncomfortable and I was very happy at the approach he was taking. She told him there were a few students there and then he moved in for the kill.
"What were the students' names? I'd like to call them down to verify the accusations," he said.
"Are you questioning my veracity?" she asked, as she squirmed in her seat.
"What are the names, Ms. Rayner?" he said more forcefully.
"I can't remember," she said as she was now red-faced.
"I believe Charles Depew was there, Mr. Caudle," I said.
Gord went to pick up the phone to tell his head secretary to call Charles down when Trudy started to break down.
"Alright, maybe I overreacted. I was having a bad day. Don't you people have bad days?"
Gord didn't waver and dressed her down in front of us. He then told her that he wanted all her papers to be remarked by John Gregory and Barney.
"This time we'll use the marking scheme Mr. Gregory prepares. Mr. Gordon will also be scrutinizing all your term marks," he said as he glared at her.
When she left the office, Barney rolled his eyes in disgust.
"I feel for you, Barney. I had to put up with her for many years, so I know what you're going through," I said.
"Needless to say Jake won't be serving detentions for this," Gord said.
I then brought up the problem of reprisals and asked if it was possible to get Jake into John Gregory's class. He said that because of workload provisions in the teachers' collective agreement that wasn't possible, as another student in John's class would put him over his limit. He also said that he was going to put her under review, but I'd been down that road before with her. The union in the board was reasonably strong and had bailed her out a few times for things that were more serious than this. I told him with all due respect, that I didn't have much faith in the review process.
"I have another solution, but I need to run it by Jake," I said.
I told them that I wanted to have Jake withdrawn from her class and spend that period in the Learning Resource room, which was for kids with learning exceptionalities. He would work on the independent study course in Business which was available through our continuing education department, so he wouldn't lose the credit.
The independent study courses were print versions of the regular day school courses. The Business course was broken up into four units of study with 5 lessons each. There were questions that the students had to answer and hand in for each unit that was marked by a day school teacher in the board. The courses were really more appropriate for adults, as the students had to learn on their own. However, with me tutoring Jake, he would be able to handle the material very well. The downside was that Jake would be missing the social interaction with his peers, which was something I wanted to talk over with him. Since he was such as social kid, I knew it would be hard for him to give up that part of the classroom experience.
"I'm not intending that Jake learn the course by himself, as I'm willing to 'volunteer' to come and tutor him three days a week."
"We'd have to bend some rules, but I don't see why that couldn't be done. I'm sure your qualifications are still up-to-date, Al," Gord said as he gave me a smile.
When I came out of the office, I saw Mark sitting in the outer office.
"I'm here to see Mr. Caudle over a disturbing matter involving Ms. Rayner," he said, with a very perturbed look on his face.
That night when Jake got home I asked him what he thought about my plan.
"But I really like the kids in the class and I should be there to stick up for Charles," he said.
I didn't know what he meant by the last remark and he told me that he had intervened a few times on Charles and also Ronald's behalf when she gave them a rough ride. He also told me that she had given all three of them detentions on two occasions, unjustly.
After I heard that I said, "Jake, I really want you out of her class."
After some discussion he agreed and I was going to set up the change in the morning with Gord.
After Dinner, the phone rang and it was Mark.
"You won't believe what that witch did to Charles yesterday," Mark said.
He told me that she had embarrassed him about the note from Guidance that was sent around to all of Charles' teachers. It was his turn to have her look at his exam and she gave him the same treatment she gave Jake and the other students that were ahead of him.
"She told him that just because she got a note from Guidance about him having some emotional upset, that didn't mean she was going to give him any more marks on his exam."
He said there were other kids around and a couple of them wanted to know what emotional trouble he was having, which made him very uncomfortable.
I could tell he was angry and he said, "She then made some sarcastic remark about it was probably because Charles' goldfish had died."
Mark had come to the school that morning and went to guidance to see Lucy Smith. She referred him to Gord and assured him that the teachers weren't aware of the specific problem and that the incident with Trudy should be handled by the Principal.
"I want Charles out of that class, but he said the other Business class is full."
"Mark, I may have another solution," I said.
I outlined what I was about to set up for Jake and he thought that would be much better than leaving him to endure her sarcastic barbs for the rest of the semester.
"That would be wonderful, Al. I'd be tickled pink to have him taught by someone of your stature. My friend that works for the Board says you had an excellent reputation when you were in the classroom."
I told him to phone Gord in the morning and ask that the same arrangement be set up for Charles. I told him I would phone later to touch base with Gord to tell him I was OK. with it.
The Thursday before the hockey tournament in Orangeville, I picked up the boys and Brandon from school to take them to the mall to shop. This was my second trip to the school that day as I had been tutoring Jake during his former Business period. I was now going to be going in 3 times a week to tutor Jake and Charles, as well as Ronald, Brandon and Carly O'Toole, Sean's track team member from last year. Her father, Steve, Sean's physed teacher and track coach from grade 8, had called Gord as soon as Carly got home after school the evening before. She had explained to him about the resource room class I would be teaching. Apparently, Carly was a little too 'spunky' for Trudy and they didn't get along very well. In Ronald and Brandon's case, they told their parents that evening, as Jake had told them about the class when they were having lunch. Gord called me the next day to ask if I was OK with the extra kids and I agreed.
Word travelled fast and some of the other kids in Trudy's Business class got wind of the arrangement. A few of them had their parents ask if they could do the same thing, but Gord finally had to cut it off at the five kids, as there was about to be an avalanche of requests.
Brandon and the boys were right on time, as they walked quickly out the school door and crossed the parking lot to the LX.
"Well, do you have your shopping list, Brandon?" I asked as he climbed in the back.
He said his mother wrote out some things that he needed, including the white shirt.
I wasn't taking any chances and I asked him, "Do you have your mother's debit card?"
He hesitated and rummaged through his backpack. Things didn't look good for a few moments, but finally, he found it.
"Here it is," he said with a big smile on his face as he held it up.
While I was driving over, the boys had a discussion about what was on the list. I could tell that Brandon would have a new look when they were finished. We went into the mall together and I told the boys I would meet them in two hours in the food court to take them home and I took off to do some shopping of my own. When I met them later in the food court, they had lots of bags, many of them from the Tommy Hilfiger store. It was obvious Sean had done a good job as Brandon's fashion consultant.
"Were all these things on the list, or did a few things get added along the way," I said as I chuckled.
"Brandon's mom didn't say how many of each item," Jake said, as the three of them had big smiles on their faces.
They really weren't extravagant and got him a lot of things that he could mix and match to give him a lot of different outfits. As well, the white shirt they bought was a very nice quality one, which they got on sale. Brandon was very pleased at what they bought and was grateful for the boys' help and companionship.
"Are you sure everything fits?" I asked as they finished a cookie and drink I got them at my Horton's outlet. They assured me that Brandon tried everything on and the salespeople helped them get things that fit him properly.
We dropped Brandon off at his house, as it was on our way home. His mother had just got in and was very pleased at the purchases.
"I must say, this is a little different than I would have got for you. Someone has good taste, and likes a bargain," she said as she took a look at the sale tags on some of the things.
Brandon wanted to show the boys his room, so they went upstairs and I waited in the hall with his mother and his youngest sister.
"I really appreciate your boys helping Brandon out. He really likes both of them and also likes you, Mr. Depew and Rickie as his coaches." She gave me a big smile and continued. "I must thank you as well for letting Brandon join the tutorial session with Jake for his Business course. I didn't realize you had been a teacher. He complained just about every night about Ms. Rayner since the start of school."
The boys came down a few moments later and we said our goodbyes and made our way to the LX. On the way home the boys were talking about the shopping expedition. They said Brandon was a neat kid and they all got along great. They also said that he appreciated them helping him pick out some things that were 'more like other guys wore' as he put it.
"No more Disney undies, now," Sean said, as the two of them burst out laughing.
When we got home Dana said that Ray Mueller had called about her petition to adopt the boys.
"We have a court date with Judge Steenhof for the week before Christmas," she said.
She looked a little anxious and I asked her what Ray said about her chances.
"He said it's a slam dunk."
"Then why the worried face?" I asked, as I put my arm around her and gave her a big smile.
The boys asked if Stéphane and Charles could come over for a couple of hours after dinner to jam, as they had done all their homework. Jake then asked if it was OK if Ronald came with Charles, as he had never heard them play before. I hesitated a little, but then I thought nothing would happen as long as Sean was there.
"If Mr. Depew is OK with it," I said.
When Mark dropped Ronald and Charles off, he came in for a few minutes to talk to Dana and me.
"Ronald seems like a nice boy. I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that he's my son's love interest," he said as he sighed.
The boys jammed for about an hour and a half, as this was the first time since the dance-a-thon that they had been together. When they came upstairs after they were finished, everything seemed fine between them. The only problem they were having was hunger.
"I bet you boys would like some fresh baked muffins and milk," Dana said as she laid out a full plate for them.
There were no overt displays of affection between Charles and Ronald, except for some longing glances. Sean seemed to be Ok with things as the five boys devoured the snack before their parents came to get them.
It gave Dana and me a chance to get to know Ronald a little better. He was 15 years old and was in grade 10. He was taking Business as one of his optional subjects, because he couldn't fit it into his timetable during his grade 9 year. He was a little taller than Charles with mid-length brown hair and a fair complexion. He was a good-looking boy and apparently was a good athlete. He was on the school's junior basketball team and ran track, as well as played soccer in the summer.
"So what'd you think of the tunes, Ronald?" I asked.
He didn't know what I meant, so Sean translated for him.
"My dad meant the songs. He's old, you know," he said with a big smile, as he moved away from me so I couldn't get a hold of him.
"The band's really good, especially the drummer," Ronald said as he gave Charles a big smile.
Charles blushed a little and returned his smile. As much as I was accepting of their relationship, I still found it a bit strange. I knew it would take a while for me to get used to the dynamic as well.
We were leaving at 4 o'clock in the afternoon on Friday, for the hockey tournament in Orangeville. Our game was at 8 pm. that night and it would take us two hours to drive there on the touring bus that I had chartered for the team. The parents were driving separately and would meet us at the Best Western motel outside of town where we had booked the rooms.
The boys looked great as they showed up wearing their hockey jackets, white shirts and team ties. The ride on the bus was a noisy one, as they were very excited about the 'road trip' as Ray called it. Mark and I were treated to many choruses of '99 bottles of root beer on the wall'. Rickie was right at home and joined in with the boys. After that had run its course, Rickie plugged his iPod into the outlet on the bus radio and we were treated to an eclectic mix of 'Guns and Roses', 'Led Zeppelin' and 'The Black Eyed Peas', followed by a Don Cherry 'Rock'Em Sock'Em' hockey video which played on the TVs hanging from the racks above the seats.
"This is a little different than when I drove my girls to their dance competitions," I said to Mark.
Finally, we arrived at the motel and got the boys checked into their rooms and we went down the street in the bus to the Swiss Chalet and had dinner. Most of the parents made it and sat by themselves as the boys sat at their own tables the staff put together for us. Mark, Dana and I sat together, as Rickie wanted to sit with the boys. Even though Rickie was 20 years old, he was still a big kid at heart.
After dinner, we got the boys loaded into the bus and went to the arena to watch some of the tournament games that were playing before ours. This would give the boys a chance to digest their dinners before we had to play. All the games were in the Alder Street Recreation Centre, which had two ice pads. The Red Rink was where we were playing that night, which had seating for 950 people. We were playing a house league team from London, Ontario.
We got the boys and their stuff into the dressing room about 45 minutes before the game so they would have time to do off-ice stretching before we went over strategy. Mark, Rickie and I went into the hall outside the dressing room and talked over the strategy for the game while the boys were getting dressed. After about 20 minutes Mark motioned to look behind me. There was Brandon standing partially dressed with no skates on.
"I forgot my hockey gloves," he said, with no sign of panic on his face.
"I guess you can't play," Rickie said, teasing him.
He had his patented blank look on his face and paused for a few moments and then said, "OK."
He started to walk away and I called him back.
"Rickie was only kidding, Brandon. We'll get one of the other boys who's not on your line to lend you his gloves when he's on the bench," I said.
He smiled and started to take off for the dressing room.
I called to him and said, "Brandon, what's your home phone number? I call your mother and ask her to bring them tomorrow."
"The light's on, but no one's home," Mark said as the three of us laughed as Brandon disappeared into the dressing room.
The boys were a little nervous when they got on the ice for the warmup. I hadn't appointed a captain of the team, but Pieter and Sean were voted by the boys as assistant captains. They ran the pre-game warmup drills and then got the boys to the bench for some last words. Rickie got them fired up and our first line went out to start the game.
The London team was about the same skill level as we were and it was a well-played contest. Jake wasn't that busy, but he had to come up with a couple of great saves early to keep us in the game. Finally, near the end of the first period, Pieter set Charles up at the point and he let a missile go that the goalie didn't see until it came back out of the net, to give us a 1-0 lead.
The game went back and forth and at one point in the second period, Pieter passed the puck to Brandon in our own zone and he immediately passed it to one of the other team's players who was in front of our net. The player shot the puck very quickly and Jake was able to stop it and smother the rebound.
"Earth to Brandon! We're wearing the black sweaters, not white," Rickie said as Brandon sat down on the bench after his shift.
It was a close game but we managed to win in the last minute when Sean scored from in front of the net.
"Boys, that was a great game. You all played hard and we're proud of you. One more win tomorrow morning and we're in the final game against the winner of the other division," I said after the game in the dressing room.
There were two divisions of three teams each and the winners of each division played off for the championship and the next best teams played for the consolation round on Saturday afternoon. We told the boys to pack up and have their showers at the motel as it was late.
Everyone had a good sleep and the next morning Dana and I heard a commotion out in the hall as we were getting ready to go to breakfast. When I opened the door and looked down the hall I saw one of the boys banging on his door with nothing but a towel around his waist.
"Darren locked me out," he said.
Darren was his roommate and was the team jokester. Every game and practice he would roll the clear tape that was around his shin pads into a ball and throw it into one of the boy's hockey bags when they weren't looking.
"Darren, it's Coach Burger. Open the door, please."
He opened it and peeked around the door with a big Cheshire cat smile on his face.
"I guess the door closed by mistake."
His roommate rushed past him and locked himself in the bathroom.
"No more jokes, Mr. Funny Guy. It's a long walk to the arena, so don't be late," I said as I tried to give him my stern look. However, I wasn't very successful, as I had to turn away as I was having trouble stifling a laugh.
The boys were ravenous and devoured breakfast in the motel restaurant. The boys were getting along well and it looked like they all got enough sleep. Charles and Sean were sticking together and it appeared that things were much better between the two of them. We were entertained while we ate, as there were many stories about things that had happened during the night and that morning.
"Ray snores like crazy," Jake said, as Ray popped him on the arm.
"Well someone I know likes to take long showers," Ray said in retaliation.
"Jake's not the only one," Darren's roommate said, as he looked at Darren. All the boys were now laughing their heads off.
The morning game was a good one as we played a team from Parry Sound, the home of Bobby Orr. They weren't as good as we were and we ended up winning 5-3. That meant we were in the final game at 3 pm. in the afternoon.
"I guess we can make those calls now," Dana said as she joined me after the game.
We wanted to surprise the boys and had contacted Melissa and Rachel's parents before we left, to see if they could come up to watch if the boys made it to the final. They said they could and we were to give them a call to let them know what happened.
"Do we tell them now, or let them find the girls before the game?" She said with a big smile. We decided we wouldn't say anything and let them be surprised when they arrived.
The last game was against the home team from Orangeville. When the boys finished the warmup and came to the bench, a couple of the boys were remarking at how big some of their players were. Orangeville was in rural Ontario and there was a large farming community around the town.
"I guess the boys grow really big on the farm up here," I said to the boys with a big smile.
We told them not to be intimidated and to use their speed. That was easy for the coaches to say and after the first five minutes we were down 2-0 and the Orangeville team had managed to lay some good checks on our boys. I called a timeout and we gave the boys another pep talk to settle them down.
"You're not using your speed, boys. They're bigger than you, but they're a lot slower. Start skating your buns off," I said as the referee came over to tell us time was up.
They listened and at the end of the first period we had tied it up. Charles had managed to let go a couple of rockets from the point, one of which went in and their goalie was clearly intimidated as were their defensemen. They were falling over each other trying to get out of the way when Charles wound up. Sean also picked up his game, as Bulldog finally appeared. He was skating hard and laying checks on some of their bigger players. He seemed to have sparked the whole team, as all of the boys had picked up their skating and were also physically going after the other team.
Jake was standing on his head and had made numerous great saves, as he was holding us in the game. With one minute to go, it was tied 3-3. Ray carried the puck to the opposition blue line and dumped it into the corner. Sean rushed in and got to the puck first, outmuscled their defenceman and passed it to Ray in front of the net. He didn't hesitate and fired the puck into the top corner of the net, just like his father did on numerous occasions. The boys were going nuts on the bench after the goal went in and we had to settle them down to play the last 30 seconds.
We were able to hold on and win the game and tournament. The boys were ecstatic and jumped on Jake after the buzzer went to end the game. The presentation of the trophy was done on the ice as were the individual awards. Each boy was given a small trophy to take home with him.
Sean was named the game MVP for our team and Jake was named the best goaltender of the tournament. All the boys clapped loudly when they went up to get their awards and both boys were beaming. I knew that they would have bigger smiles on their faces after they had showered and saw Melissa and Rachel.
"Boys, there are some people who want your autographs," Dana said as they came out of the dressing room and saw the girls waiting in the hall for them.
Needless to say the four of them made a beeline for each other and ended up in big hugs. What I didn't know was that Ronald came up with his parents to see Charles and was also waiting in the hallway. When Charles came out, Ronald went over to him and they locked thumbs in a handshake. We couldn't hear what they were saying, but they both had big smiles on their faces. It was obvious they wanted to hug as the other two couples were doing, but they restrained themselves as there were lots of the other boys around.
The five families went to Kelsey's afterwards to eat and we had a couple of tables put together to accommodate everyone. The kids were at the one end and the adults were at the other. The kids were having an animated discussion and were having a great time. Melissa and Sean weren't the only ones discreetly holding hands under the table from time-to-time, as I could see Charles and Ronald were as well. I caught Sean's eye at one point and directed his attention to Charles and Ronald. He saw them holding hands as he looked down, then shrugged his shoulders and smiled at me. I was very proud of how far he had come.