Mr. Frost 1
He stood in front of the mirror in his bedroom as he folded the collar of his shirt down. In the early hours of the morning, before the sun had barely risen above the horizon, he prepared for the day ahead, not wholly knowing what to expect. He stared at himself for a moment in his button-down shirt and tie, straightening his back and squaring his shoulders to present himself with some authority. After four years of college with months’ worth of student teaching, he finally had his chance to experience what teaching a class was like full-time.
While in college Damian had held down two jobs to help pay for his tuition. He worked long hours and lost time that he could have spent partying around with friends. He was fortunate enough to have parents who allowed him to live at home while in college. It helped offset the cost of living considerably. After all, living in the Washington, DC area was not a cheap undertaking.
“We live in a bubble here,” His father would say, “there are plenty of jobs and plenty, and so much of our country’s leadership living here that economic catastrophe barely scratches us.”
He was right about that, nonetheless, living on your own was virtually out of the question. Without roommates and/or a hefty paycheck, there was no realistic way to do so. Luckily Damian’s parents were easy to live with. They were good at leaving you alone, while also being available in case you needed a person to talk to about anything. The perfect roommates, though bringing a girl home was a tad awkward.
After graduating, Damien began substituting and using his contacts in the county schools the best he could. Like most college graduates, getting your foot in the door was not the easiest thing to do. After a few months of substitute teaching, he gathered a steady few frequent substitute requesters. He even reconnected with his old English teacher of his, now a Vice-Principal at one of the schools he frequently found work.
One day a teacher at said school took maternity leave, and the school requested that Damian cover her classes at the start of the new school year. He immediately said yes.
He just had to make it to the end of January, then he’d substitute part-time again, and hopefully become a full-fledged teacher the following year. He just had to do well enough to get a reference.
His father met him on his way out the front door. He was a stocky man with a long, scraggly brown head of hair. Damian always looked up to him, metaphorically speaking. Physically Damian was taller and had been since he was about 14 years old.
In any case, Damian’s father was the most honest person he knew. With a smile, Damian’s father handed him a bag with his lunch in it and said “Now, go on. Change some lives today, or at least keep some kids out of trouble.” His father patted him on the shoulder and closed the door behind him as he walked towards his car.
During his drive to the school, Damian remembered how he felt going in on his first day of high school. Nervous, unsure of how things were going to play out, but confident that he would figure things out one way or another. He always had anyhow, even when getting kicked off the basketball team his junior year, he went on to throw shot put and discus instead.
Damian pulled into the parking lot of the school, parked his car, and looked upon it with a clear mind. The school seemed to glow, with a rising sun peeking from behind the school, giving it a halo-like effect. The sunlight had just begun to bend across the horizon, igniting the different shades of orange and pink in the sky creating a beautiful collage of colors.
It was a new day, and the warmth of the sun absorbed into Damian, invigorating his spirit further. “I got this,” He whispered to himself as he took his first step towards the school.
He arrived at Edgewater High School earlier than he would have normally. Even so, the main office of the school was bustling with activity. Teachers and administrators were filing in and out, getting themselves ready for the new school year. Damian weaved in and out of the way of teachers, most if not all he did not know, and finally made his way to the woman at the front desk.
“Hello, I’m Damian Frost. I’m filling in for Mrs. Carmen Martinez’s 11 grade English classes?” he said.
“Oh yes, Mr. Frost, Vice-Principal Anderson has said good things about you. Thank you for helping us out for the remainder of the calendar year,” She smiled at him, seemingly very sincere. “Let me put together your packet. I believe Carmen left quite a bit for you to do over her time out. Just give me a moment.” Her desk was a cluttered mess, likely because of the new year, and she shuffled papers around sporadically placing them in a folder.
“Thank you,” Damian replied, smiling back at her “I appreciate it”.
While standing awkwardly waiting for his packet of information, Damian suddenly heard the familiar voice coming from behind him. “Damian, or should I say Mr. Frost now? Ha-ha.”
The voice chuckled in such a way that there could be no mistaking it. It was the school’s vice-principal, and Damian’s favorite teacher from when he was in high school, Daniel Anderson.
“Dan! Or is it Vice-Principal Anderson now?” He answered back.
Dan just smiled and said, “Dan will do just fine,” They shook each other’s hands as companions do. As Dan shook Damian’s hand, he bore a wide smile across his face. His smile hid the wrinkles of time that age had slowly crept upon him.
His eyes were a hazy blue color, and with just one look, he could make failure feel like a success, and half-effort feel like trash. All he wanted was the best for his students and now his school. Dan had given Damian a chance to teach, and Damian was appreciative of that. Many schools turned him down because he wasn’t “experienced enough”, but not Dan. He gave him a real chance. Damian was determined not to let him down.
“How’s your family?” Dan asked.
“They’re doing well. Lee graduated from the police academy and is out on the streets now, and Mary is in college thinking that she wants to teach kindergarten someday. My parents are still working their hands to the bone as usual, but what can you do.” Damian smiled, then shrugged.
“Yeah, I’m sure they are. But just remember, the hard work your parents put in made you who you are today. They want the best for you and your siblings. That’s why they work as hard as they do. Without that work ethic, you might never have been able to reach the milestones you have. Never forget that, Mr. Frost,” Dan said placing his hand on Damian’s shoulder.
The first students were now beginning to fill the halls.
“Better be on your way champ,” Dan patted him again, still smiling. “You don’t want to be late for your first day of school.”
“I won’t sir, and thank you again.”
It always feels good to hear reassurance from past teachers. It’s funny how when you’re in school, you only really hear, or maybe care, about half the things teachers say to you. Then you graduate, life hits you in the face at hundred miles per hour, and suddenly you hang on their every word of advice.
“Mr. Frost?” Damian turned, “Here’s your packet, Mrs. Martinez left you six months worth of work in her room. You’ll have to make copies of everything, but just follow the daily lesson plans in this folder.”
She handed over a green and gold folder with the words “GO EAGLES!” on the front. Next to these words was the school’s athletic logo, a white circle with a gold border, and shaded-in green, a soaring eagle in the center.
“You’ll be in room 147. If you need anything at all please come find me. If you need immediate assistance, there is a list of quick dials that will call security to your room. Best of luck!”
His classroom was smaller than most in the school, but Damian did not mind. Sure, he couldn’t walk around with ease as he wanted, but it had its charm. Because of the size, he’d have to have small classes, and with such proximity to each other, there would be nowhere for a student to duck down and hide.
The classroom sat on the second floor of the school building and had a great view of the school’s parking lot and athletic fields. Damian was happy to see that the classroom was arranged such that he could turn and face out the windows whenever he liked.
He was a daydreamer at heart and always had been even when he was young. He’d just sit in a chair and disappear into his world. It helped him unwind during stressful times. Looking out into the world helped him calm his mind and think.
Looking out the window this morning, he could see the parking lot full of students talking with one another, parking their vehicles, and stepping off their busses. Memories of his excitement on the first day of school formed inside his mind, as he turned and looked at the clock. Only a few moments now.
He looked down at his desk and checked to make sure his papers were ready to go. Everything was where it needed to be. “There’s no need to worry.” Damian thought, “You’re going to be fine.”
It would be an understatement to say that he was nervous. Today would be the start of a new journey for him. Everything he’d learn would be tested now. Damian felt the pressure that he needed to be a success out the gate, maybe to prove to others that teaching was right for him or maybe to prove it to himself. Either way, today was just the start of that journey.
It was important for him to establish himself as the teacher and authority this first day. He often thought about how he’d start class, what he would say, and the tone he would set. He knew and was told, that if he came out the first day too lenient, he’d never have his students respect or attention.
Because it was the first day of school, he would be teaching every class period. It was a day for introductions and a day for both teachers and students to size each other up. First impressions were everything today. Nice teachers have a hard time controlling their students, which Damian certainly did not want. He had to establish himself.
Students began to file into his class, and Damian did as Dan did when he was a teacher still. He stood at the door and high-fived every student as they came in, telling them good morning and welcoming them to class. When the bell rang, he took a deep breath, closed the door, and began to speak the lines he rehearsed.
Today’s classes were short and flew by quicker than he could have anticipated. Each group of kids had their quirks and flavors of humor, but his careful preparations had assured him that he’d be ready for any situation. It wasn’t until the last period of the day that he met his first real challenge.
He knew he would have his hands full when the students coming into class began yelling at each other and make jokes about one another. They were a high energy group and had spent time together before. This comradery, though wanted in most circumstances, could potentially lead to a chaotic classroom if not taken care of properly, and Damian knew this.
The class began just as every other had. Students came into the classroom, taking a student survey that he had placed at the front, and slowly with continual asking took their assigned seats. Everything was going according to plan. The bell rang, and he began his introduction of himself to the class.
“Welcome to your 7th-period class, English 11. My name is Mr. Frost, and it will be my pleasure to introduce you all to the world of literature.” He began to walk around the room, posturing himself in a way that he learned would comfort new students. “We will explore many different periods, and along the way, you will learn how to analyze what we have read. By the end of this year, I hope you all can appreciate the deeper meanings of novels and stories, and hopefully, you can take what you learn with you once you all graduate. But to graduate, you have to pass this course.”
During his speech, the students seemed to either look interested in what he was saying or looked worried about taking this class for the next nine months. “Guys, I don’t want anyone to worry. Some of you might think this class will be hard and believe me for some of you it might be, but I will be here every day. If you think you need extra help, talk to me. I might be able to work with you after school. In class if you are confused or if I say something that makes no sense, please raise your hand and let me know.” At that moment the worried students seemed more complacent and less stressed. You could even see the relief in some of their eyes. Damian felt good about that. He then moved forward by explaining the survey he handed to them.
“Now you all should have received a survey from the front as you came in. I want you all to begin working on it and finish it today before you leave. It is three pages long and...”
Suddenly the door to his classroom opened, and a young man stood in the doorway wearing basketball shorts, a grey shirt, and white Nike sneakers. He wore a green and yellow Edgewater High School hat, which pushed his long hair straight down in front of his eyes. His shirt, though worn in and dirty, showed that he was part of the football team. He approached Damian, avoiding eye contact, and said, “Sorry I’m late. I got lost looking for the class.”
The students, his friends no doubt, laughed ever so slightly knowing that this was a lie. Damian silenced the laughter with a swift glance that only a teacher would have given.
“A junior student lost in the hall? Sure.” He smirked at the boy. “Well take your seat ah...” Damian looked down at the late slip. “Barrett Greer right?. Looks like you’re seated upfront.” He could tell the boy didn’t like that answer.
“I don’t want to be in the front,” He said without hesitation.
“Sorry, I – I guess? That is your seat. Maybe if your behavior is good, we can talk about a change.” Mr. Frost could feel the awkward tension beginning to build between the two. He turned his back to his student to show that he wasn’t about to argue this point and tried to remember where he had let off with the rest of the class.
“I’m not sitting there, sir,” the boy said as Damian walked away. Damian turned around and said, “I’m not offering you a choice. Your seat is in the front.”
Not listening, the student took his seat in the back. “Well, I’m sitting back here. What are you going to do about it? Send me to the office on the first day?” He held a smug look on his face as if he were invincible.
The class was now eagerly waiting to see what might happen next. Damian knew right then and there that at this moment he would either win over his class or lose control of them.
The two stared at each other, neither budging on their conviction. The boy’s eyes seemed familiar to Damian as if he had seen them angrily staring at him before. There was something about their color and the way the boy angrily stared that just seemed uncanny. Finally, Damian pulled out his power move and put down his foot. He approached the phone located on his desk and held it to his ear. “Are you sure you don’t want to do what I ask? It isn’t that serious you know? I’m not asking you to move the world.”
“I’m not moving,” the boy said with a look of disgust. The look from Barrett hurt Damian. He didn’t want to call the office and have this kid taken to there over something so small. But he couldn’t let his class see that if you stood up and disrupted class, that you would get what you wanted. He needed to do this, and establish that this was his classroom, not the students. It was something that he didn’t think would need to be done on the first day of class. He dialed the office.
He requested someone to escort a student and hung the phone up. The phone felt heavy to Damian, like a giant rock in his hand. The boy, upset at what had happened, sat in his seat and looked at pure malice. The class was dead silent, and no one made any sudden movements as if a dangerous animal was loose in the room.
A security officer eventually came to the door, asked Barrett to gather his things, and prepared to escort him to the in-school suspension room. Before they left, Damian handed the boy a survey to fill out while he was sitting in the office.
“I’d still like you to finish this please,” he said. Barrett took the papers with a sleigh grin, and sarcastically thanked Damian, and assured him he would complete it. After the boy left, Damian continued from where he left off. He was somehow proud of himself, even if it was only standing up to a high schooler.
At the end of the day, after every student left his class, Damian reflected on his first day. It had gone very well for the most part, and surprisingly quick. He had only had one student act out, and the rest behaved themselves or at least were manageable. Still, the boy in his 7th-period class worried him. Would he have to deal with this kid all year? The thought brought him some unwanted stress.
Damian decided to do a little more digging into Barrett’s past. It turned out that this kid was, a senior, not a junior like the rest of the 7th Period. He failed his English course the year before and was forced to take it again now. The state required passing four years of English classes for a student to receive their high school diploma. A quick search also showed that Barrett Greer was a football player and a pretty good one at
that. “Failed the year before, and a star athlete. That just great...” Damian thought to himself as he cleaned his classroom.
Damian began to pack up his things when Dan strolled into the classroom. He had a broad smile on his face, almost mockingly so. “How did things go today?” he said finally.
“Good, good. Every class went by smoothly, and I was well prepared as you suggested. I have a good feeling about this year Dan.” He smiled.
“Well, that’s good to hear.” Damian thought that that would be the end of the talk and resumed the gathering of his materials. He was hoping that word of the troublemaker hadn’t reach Dan’s ear. Unfortunately, he was wrong.
“So what happened to you and Barrett Greer? Not often that a kid is sent out of their class on his first day. And one of our star athletes nonetheless.”
“Ah,” Damian said hesitantly. “Well, he came late to class, he refused to take his assigned seat, and I couldn’t fold on the first day. So I called security to take him away.”
“I see.” Dan did not seem to like that answer. “Yes Barrett was this way last year, and the year before that as well. It reminds me of someone.” Dan said looking at Damian who was staring off into the parking lot.
“I guess people handled him better. With that attitude, I don’t see how he made it to senior year. I know this is my first day and all, but I’m not impressed by his mood. He did refer to me as sir though, that was nice.” Damian said still looking out the window
“Barrett is a handful I agree, but he‘ll come around. He’s a hell of a quarterback too, and you should see him run track. He won regionals in the one hundred yard dash, and just nearly missed winning in states.”
“You sound like a fanboy.” Mr. Frost said jokingly to Dan.
“Well, he does bring a lot of attention to the school. We won a school spirit award from the county last year, and they gave $10,000 to our athletic programs. I’m confident in saying that Barrett’s performance on the field and track was the reason for it. Winning changes a school, and Barrett is a winner. You know that.”
“I’m sure he’s great at sports, but he’s still in school. You know as well as I do what happens to people when they bank off their athletic skills and that falls through. I don’t want him to end up like Jerome and...”
“Let’s not bring that up; you don’t have to remind me,” Dan said sharply. “I know, Barrett will make it through your class I’m sure. Honestly, you won’t see much of him. He’s notorious for skipping.” Dan shook his head. “But, I’ll work with him. I have this way of connecting with troubled youths. You should know haha.”
Damian wondered how he could have gotten so lucky in getting Barrett as a student. “Well, I will do my best to help him as well,” Damian said half-heartedly.
“Good! Well, I came by here to give you the survey Barrett completed.” He handed the survey over to Damian and then left the room laughing, and leaving him to review it himself.
Damian stared at the sheet of paper, amazed that Barrett even attempted the survey. It was like a confirmation that he had won. He needed to help Barrett understand his role in the school. Damian was the teacher, and Jimmy, the student. One needed to listen to the other. That’s just the way it went.
Looking at the form and for a moment continued to feel happy that Barrett finished the survey. But then reality hit him like a punch to the gut, as he realized that in every written answer Barrett had written the following phrase repeatedly: “Suck it bitch.”
Damian put down the survey and frustratingly sighed. “Maybe he will pass my class with a D.” He kept saying this, trying to convince himself that