Mrs.Teash sat at her desk, a slim metallic and fully computerized work center. A small bulb-like object in the corner of it projected a holographic image that spread on the desktop. On one side of the image, rows of file, folder and application icons could be seen; on the other, the program she had been using lay open.
Furniture that’s smarter than you, thought Mrs.Teash. She readjusted her finger-caps, and slowly but determinedly, pressed the close button of the application. It disappeared immediately.
She took off the finger-caps as her first grade class appeared on the classroom monitor. The doors opened automatically and a computerized voice instructed the children to walk in a straight line. The children took their seats and looked intently at Mrs.Teash.
“Good morning, class. Your substitute Human Studies teacher shall be here shortly.”
The children nodded politely.
Mrs.Teash took her BriefcaseX90, a small portable data storage/access unit that was wirelessly integrated with her desk, and left. As she did so, a yellow-haired, light-skinned teacher entered.
Would I have been able to tell that if I had not already been informed?, Mrs.Teash thought to herself.
The door closed behind her.
She began walking swiftly through the empty, spotlessly clean halls. The need for lockers had been eliminated now that every desk had an Internet-enabled computer integrated in it. She turned into the hallway that led to the re-education classroom. The rapid technological advances in the recent decades had caught quite a few of the older teachers unawares. Re-education was supposed to correct that.
She bumped into Mr.Kulida, the mechanic.
“Good morning. Problem?” Mrs.Teash asked.
“Routine check of the maintenance bots.” He answered.
Why don’t the bots check themselves?, she wondered.
Suddenly, she had reached the re-education room. The doors automatically opened to reveal a group of older men and women sitting in rows. A teenaged boy stood at the head of the class. He had pierced ears, gelled hair and clothes that looked like they’d been stampeded on by wild horses.
Students teaching the teachers, thought Mrs.Teash dryly and smiled.
The boy glared at her as she took a seat.
“I’m tryin’ to tek a class here, why do you have to mess wid dat?” he asked through clenched teeth.
Amazing, I actually understand him, Mrs.Teash thought.
“Yo, chill. All o’ deese da same dude.” A voice called out from the back.
Mrs.Teash turned and saw that the boy’s two aides were leaning against the wall at the back of the room.
The boy was silent for a moment before saying:
“Yeah, kay. So you all know dat you will be able to tek de classes only after completin’ re-education, an’ da progress don’ look gud people.”
“The Progress doesn’t look good.” corrected one of the teachers.
“Hey lady, I’s da best in English in ma class, you ken’t correct me.” The boy said severely.
The teacher said nothing, but her face turned red with anger.
“Look geezers, dis da language dat goes on da Internet.” said one of the aides.
“Yeah, an’ da Internet makes de world go round.” said the other one.
All three teens laughed.
“Don’t you children have manners?” asked another teacher indignantly.
“An’ don’t you have to retire?” sneered an aide.
“Yo dudes, stop messin’ wid ma students. People, put on dem finga-caps an’ tu’n on yo’ wo’k centa’s.” said the student-teacher.
The class did so even though a few took slightly longer than others, much to the annoyance of the boy who went around mumbling “retire da lot”, “get da new crop o’ teacha’s” and “senile idiots”.
“Ok people. Today we handle IMing.”
A teacher sheepishly raised a hand.
“Uh…what?” he asked nervously.
The boy stared at him, surprised, before hurriedly saying:
“Instant Messaging. You will use dis to tok to yo’ students instead ov actually tokkin’ to dem. Quicka, mo helpful an meks use ov da monitoring capabilities dat are in yo’ wo’k centa’s. Mo efficient.”
One of the aides was explaining, somewhat rudely, to an old teacher where the program was located.
“Once you open de program, you’ll have to keep in mind dat a certain lingo is used. Fo’ example, how will you write dis line: ‘Your work is due for checking people.’ ?”
No one answered. The boy sighed and said:
“Teash. An’ mek it gud, I don’ wanna waste ma time.”
Mrs. Teash wrote painstakingly into the Text area of the messaging program: ‘ UR wrk s du 4 chckin ppl ’. “Yea, gud. Don’ write in caps tho, dat counts as shoutin.”
Mrs.Teash sighed. She hated using the English language in this way. She hated being insulted by a bunch of kids who couldn’t even talk properly. A re-education certificate was mandatory for all teachers above 50, however.
Things weren’t really great even when I started teaching ,but I’m sure they mustn’t have been this bad, she thought. I should leave this job.
“Kay people, yo’ wo’k centa’s have video monitorin’ capabilities. You ken use dat to keep an eye on de students. Dat lil button dere is for opening da video monitorin’. Iss always on tho. Dat wraps up our class.” the boy said.
“Don’t we have ten minutes left ? You could tell us about those visors on that shelf there.” said a teacher.
“Yo gramps, we got lives.” said one of the aides.
“Yea, an ma BX90’s been beepin’ for da last 5 minutes.” said the other one who was examining his BriefcaseX90.
“So iss settled. I’ll tell you ‘bout dem brain-caps – yeah, dat’s what de’re called – next class.”
Some of the teachers grumbled, but everyone got up and began filing out of the classroom while the aides started an animated, incomprehensible discussion with the boy who kept glancing casually over at the teachers.
Mrs.Teash began walking back to her class. School was nearly finished, for junior classes at least. I wonder why parents still pick up their children in person, when they could just as simply program their cars to do so?, Mrs.Teash thought.
Nonetheless, Mrs.Teash found a parent waiting outside the classroom. “Aren’t you the Human Studies teacher?” he asked.
“Yes, and their class teacher. I’m coming back from a re-education class.” she answered.
“Oh.” he said. Then he added with a shrug, “Guess that must be one of the robotic Subs, then. Heard they’re really good. Well, whatever gets my kid an A+.”
Mrs.Teash nodded quietly.
“Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to –” he began hastily.
“It’s ok. They are quite good with the children.” Mrs.Teash said in a casual way. Yet, she couldn’t help feeling a little disheartened. Perhaps they really don’t need us anymore, she thought.
“Say, that reminds me, why do you suppose they’ve regrouped subjects like Languages and Human history into the collective group called Human Studies? As if we’re little bugs that are to be studied under microscopes or something. And why are most Human Studies teachers robots?”
“Perhaps it becomes very difficult to study your self and maybe that’s why we have robotic teachers of the subject. And as for the re-categorization, well, I’m sure you know that subjects like AI Studies are also taught from grades three and onwards?” Mrs.Teash replied.
The man nodded. As he did so, the class doors slid open and the students began filing out in a straight line. Some of them said goodbye to Mrs. Teash and greeted the parent, but most were quiet. The father went to his son, a boy named Johnny, and both of them left. Mrs.Teash stood there quietly.
Things really have changed a lot. The students seem fine, that teacher seems to be managing perfectly.
Mrs.Teash had a crushing feeling of being useless.
Outdated. Obsolete in rapidly advancing world where everything is disposable. It’s only a matter of time before the school board realizes that the re-education classes are a waste of time and funds. Happens every time they get machines to do jobs previously done by humans. Happened in agricultural and industrial sectors, why should the Education sector be any different?
She felt a tug at her sleeve.
“I just wanted to say, I don’t like being taught by the substitute teacher…she doesn’t smile the same way you do.” the child said shyly before walking away quickly to join the others.
Then, slowly but surely, a smile appeared on her lips.
Perhaps some things never change.