"A Teacher Who Believes in You"
Danso is just settling down to lunch
when his social studies teacher
catches his attention.
"Would you mind if I sat here?"
Mr. Stanner asks, waving at a seat
around the otherwise empty table.
"Go ahead," Danso says.
The teachers have their own dining room
offset from the big round cafeteria where
the students eat, but nothing says that
they have to stay in there. It's not rare
for teachers and students to get together
over lunch to talk or plan activities.
"I've been thinking about what you said
in class," Mr. Stanner says as he sits down.
"You didn't like the old idea of orphanages,
and you didn't sound much happier about
the modern foster care system. It seemed
pretty personal, so I'm wondering if
everything is okay at home."
Danso chews thoughtfully at his pizza
before responding. "It's better now," he says.
"Hannah is fantastic. My ... younger siblings
are adjusting. But it's been rough in
a lot of ways, and I still worry."
"Anything I could do to help?"
Mr. Stanner asks. He has a salad
heaped with meat and nuts and
little round tomatoes that he chases
energetically with his fork.
"Not that I can think of,"
Danso says with a shrug.
"It's all family stuff, not school,
except when people get on my case
because I'm not like the other students."
"You can't undress a salad,"
Mr. Stanner says, as he pours
something thick and pink over his.
"You can't go back to being like
the regular kids after everything
that has happened to you."
"You sound like you actually get it,"
Danso says, tilting his head.
"I'm the middle kid," says Mr. Stanner.
"My older brother was kind of a wild thing,
drove our parents crazy. Then in high school,
Abbet got his girlfriend pregnant, so he
had to grow up in a real hurry."
"Yeah. Kids do that to you,"
Danso says, staring into his soda.
"So what's eating at you?"
asks Mr. Stanner. "Maybe it's
something we could work out."
"It's the foster care system,"
Danso says. "It's not ... okay.
I mean, it's better than nothing for
the ordinary children whose families
fall apart, but the real gap is the superkids."
"How so?" Mr. Stanner says, frowning.
"It's getting worse. Fast," Danso says.
"There aren't enough people who can
take care of children with superpowers.
Hannah's got five of us living with her,
when her usual max is two. Even with
me helping, it's still a lot to handle."
"I only know a little about superpowers,
but I'm curious about how they impact
society," Mr. Stanner says, munching
on his salad. "I'd be interested in more."
"Well, it's like this," Danso says.
"Since superpowers became known,
the rate of manifestation has been rising
while the age has been dropping. So
there are always more younger people
than older people with superpowers."
"Okay, that makes sense," says Mr. Stanner.
"It's basic demographics. Superpowers
have a similar population pyramid as
a developing nation -- which, hmm,
tend to have problems dealing with
orphans and other unwanted kids."
"What really causes trouble is that
most ordinary people don't have
what it takes to raise superkids,
even if they want to," Danso says.
"Like Rosita's family really wants her
back, but they can't, because she won't
stay with them. She poofs back to me.
And that sucks for everyone."
"No wonder you're upset,"
Mr. Stanner says. "I'd be
pretty freaked about that too.
Any ideas on what to do?"
Danso hunches over his plate.
He hates talking about this, because
the adults keep trying to convince him
that wanting a family at his age is
some kind of mistake.
"Wow," Mr. Stanner says,
leaning back. "That looks like
you have been getting a lot of
really bad responses. It's okay,
you don't have to share it if
you don't feel comfortable."
"Somebody has to fix it," Danso says,
picking at the remains of his pizza.
"I've got good experience. It's just
people snap at me when I try."
"Like what happened when Benji
didn't have lunch money, and Mr. Furst
threw a fit over you buying lunch
for the kid?" says Mr. Stanner.
"You heard about that?"
Danso crams the last of
his crust into his mouth.
"Everyone in the teacher's lounge
heard about it," says Mr. Stanner,
"for a week. If it weren't for that,
though, we wouldn't have talks
about planting a school garden.
So I'd say you're already starting
to make a difference here."
Danso thinks about summer, and
the greenhouse that Aidan built,
and the plans they've discussed.
He doesn't know Mr. Stanner
all that well, but if the guy's telling
the truth about his family background,
then maybe he'd understand after all.
"I want to be a foster parent," Danso says.
"I want to do it for real, on purpose, not just
catch-as-catch-can picking up kids that
some grownup dumped on me."
"That's a big goal," Mr. Stanner says.
"What do you think you might need
to get from here to there?"
It's the first time anyone other than
Hannah or Aidan has really taken him
seriously on this topic, so Danso
has to stop and think about it.
"I need good family skills," Danso says.
"So home economics, parenting,
those kinds of classes."
"That's a good start," Mr. Stanner says.
"Have you got your babysitting card?"
"I ... no," Danso says, his throat
closing around a sudden lump.
"Mom said I could earn it when
I turned thirteen, but ... she died,
and then everything was awful."
"That would be an easy place
to start, then," says Mr. Stanner.
"You're already know the skills,
just need to log them and maybe
fill in a few gaps you missed.
You could do it in a weekend."
That's not a bad idea. Danso
knows that most kids his age who
are serious about family skills have
gotten their babysitting card already.
It's kind of an anticlimax compared
to raising kids on the street, but he's
short on credentials and this would help.
"Yeah, I can do that," he says
picking up the paper packet
of cookies he got for dessert.
"Drop by my office, and I'll give you
a form to fill out for some class credit,"
Mr. Stanner offers. "You'll have to pick
which class it counts for, because
babysitting ties into everything
from health to home ec."
"That's great, I can use all the help
I can get," Danso says. He knows
that his school records are a mess.
"Since I know you'll knock off this one
in a couple of days, let's talk about
something more challenging,"
says Mr. Stanner. "Have you
thought of a summer project yet?
High school students are generally
eligible for long-term projects
outside of the classroom."
Aidan has been the one pushing
Danso to think about summer plans,
but Aidan doesn't really think in terms
of school projects and homework forms.
"Kind of, but nothing solid," Danso says.
"Eighteen is the minimum age for applying
to the Green Heart program," Mr. Stanner says.
"You need a supervisor until twenty-one, but
you could earn junior status. That looks great
on an application as a foster parent -- and it
would give you a lot of relevant skills toward
your goal of helping superkids in need."
Danso knows about the Green Heart program
for marking safe adults and safe places,
because Hannah has both the pin
and the sticker on her window.
"It's a good idea. I'll look into it,"
he says. "Why are you so interested,
though? Most grownups think I'm ...
too headstrong, and they don't
like my attitude very much."
"Well, you're not shy about telling people
what they're doing wrong, and that's not
going to make you a lot of friends,"
Mr. Stanner says. "I think that it's
a natural result of your experience,
but you might consider more tact."
"Yeah, I hear that a lot," Danso admits.
"As for my interest, well, that's my focus
as a teacher of social studies," says Mr. Stanner.
"I look at how society works and doesn't work,
where the current issues are, and how to fix them.
You've found a problem that you want to solve.
I am all on board with that prospect."
It's been a long time since Danso
had teachers he could really rely on,
back before his mother passed away.
It would be nice to have that again.
"Thanks for your help, Mr. Stanner,"
he says. "I'll pick up those forms and
see about earning some credentials."
"If you need any more support,
just let me know," Mr. Stanner says
as he stands up, taking both their trays.
"Now, would you like to join me for ice cream?
The freezer bar is still open, and one thing I
do know about superpowers is that they
tend to run up your appetite."
Something Danso loves about
his new high school is the lunches.
In addition to the basic cafeteria line,
there's also a food court with options
to make your own salad or dessert.
You fill a cup with ice cream or
frozen yogurt, then pile on toppings
such as fruit, nuts, or syrups. Danso
likes the flexibility because you can
learn what you like and can afford.
"You're on," Danso says
as he follows Mr. Stanner
toward the freezer bar.
Sometimes, all you really need
is a teacher who believes in you.
* * *
Jerry Stanner -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair with a mustache and small beard. He wears glasses. He teaches social studies at the Onion City high school where Danso goes. Jerry drinks large quantities of caffeine to keep going.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Social Studies Teacher, Good (+2) Energetic, Good (+2) Enthusiastic, Good (+2) Thinking Outside the Box
Poor (-2) Requires Caffeine to Function
* * *
"The dream begins, most of the time, with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you on to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth."
-- Dan Rather
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