‘Today, students, we’re writing about utopia,’ Mrs Bottrom, the teacher said.
Her class group slumped in their chairs, some even with their heads resting on the table. Only one made eye contact with her. Millie Knoxfield. The girl was clever, exceptionally so, and Nellie Bottrom’s years as a teacher told her this student would make something of herself.
The rest of the students in this English class drained her. She left each day weary and snappish. Over the years she’d been witness to a sharp decline in the behaviour of teenagers. And their parents. It was as if respect, paying attention and a keen interest in learning were no longer a priority in life.
I’m too old for this shit. At 55, Nellie was nearing retirement and she couldn’t wait. She cleared her throat.
‘Alright, attention please. All eyes this way.’ Nellie paused while those half-asleep roused themselves, and others slid their mobiles into pockets. ‘Good. Now utopia. Read pages 55-62 in your textbook. I’ll give you twenty minutes to do so, then,’ she raised her voice as some were already fishing in their school bags to find the book.
‘Back here, please.’ This with a sharp click of her fingers. God she hadn’t done that for fifteen years. She almost giggled with glee over the looks on their faces. Her thoughts immediately turned to the emails she’d receive overnight, from parents who would protest such an act of ‘discipline’.
She jotted the words ‘clicked fingers’ and the time on her notepad on the desk as a reminder in case the principal called her into the office tomorrow.
Nellie continued, ‘Then write a short story based on what utopia is for you. I want you to use your words like paint, make it lavish, colourful, rich and a treasure to read.’
A collective groan came from the student group. Except for Millie, who was sitting in her seat, her head inclined towards Nellie with what could be called active interest.
‘It’ll be marked and will account for 25% of your total grade for English this year. Get to it.’
Nellie winked at Millie, who was already flicking open the textbook.