Mirror and Image
Author's Note: While the names are (obviously) Japanese, and we'll be using the Jounin's first names with the suffix of -sensei, (Mr. Hatake just sounds too strange as apposed to Kakashi-sensei) this is an American school. Anime can only tell us so much about Japanese schools, and frankly we know more about the American education system.
Hatake Kakashi was late. But then, that was nothing new. He'd seen some other teachers at the donut shop, but his coffee had tasted so good that he lingered. As he pulled into the parking lot, he noticed that, once again, his parking space was taken. This, too, was nothing new. Other people had the illusion of importance by driving a different car every day. Kakashi held his illusion of importance by using a different parking space every day. Besides, he liked walking.
It was his third day at school, his first with the kids. The previous two days had of course been professional development. Both days he'd slept in (trouble adjusting to getting up early again, you understand) and had missed the morning sessions. The afternoon session of the first day had been a guest speaker to motivate the teachers into doing a good job this year, about using communication to enhance learning blah, blah, blah. Kakashi had spent the time reading his book. The second day's afternoon session was a departmental meeting, in which Kakashi again spent his time reading his book while seven other adults argued bitterly about the new national English standards being too demanding in coupling with the new NCLB AYP, let alone the state's standards.
He loved professional development days for that exact reason: the reading.
Parking under a tree, he breathed in the warm late summer air before walking across the parking lot to one of the school's side doors.
Opening the door opened a cacophony of unharmonious voices, all shouting. He'd managed to forget over the summer just how loud middle school students were. His sigh was inaudible, however, and he navigated his way through the halls with practiced ease. The eighth graders occasionally waved and called his name, and he smiled blithely when he felt the situation called for it. The fifth graders, new to the building, were already lost and asking for directions, while an assorted collection of older students were running in and out of rooms - always directly in Kakashi's path, of course - in a chase or search of some other student. He was always disconcerted that kids who were half his age were for some reason taller than him. True, most were still only chest height, but an unnerving number of thirteen year olds towered over him. Backpacks were strewn everywhere. They were light because there were no books in them, but that would change by the end of next week.
Kakashi stepped over three sets of legs that were sticking out into the hall, students sitting on the floor giving excited and no doubt exaggerated stories of their summers and vacations and other adventures. Finally making his way to the seventh grade wing, Kakashi fiddled in his pocket for keys while he counted the number of backpacks cluttering his closed door. Five, no seven of assorted colors and sizes were dumped in front of it, proclaiming that his homeroom students had been there and were now lying in wait somewhere for him to open the door and let them in. He made a show of looking around conspiratorially before finally unlocking his door and opening it.
His timing was perfect (naturally) because the last student had finally set foot in the room when the final bell rang, signaling the start of homeroom and morning announcements.
"Good morning, Konoha Middle School." Kakashi did a quick headcount and compared the number on his attendance roster that he had put on his desk the previous day. The numbers matched, therefore everyone was present. He checked them off and logged into his computer to send it in while the old man kept talking.
"This is your principal, Sandaime Sarutobi, wanting to personally welcome you to a brand new year. There will be new opportunities, new experiences, new students, and new memories. This building is a haven for any and all students who want to learn; I earnestly hope you take what we have to offer. Have a good day and a good year."
"Hm, shorter than last year. He babbled for ten minutes that time," Kakashi muttered to himself.
"Everybody complained, that's why," a voice said from behind.
"Ah, good morning, Iruka-sensei."
"Good morning Kakashi-sensei. I just came to remind you that Team Time is the lunch period this year, and that we have a new science teacher: Kurenai-sensei. Since you weren't here for those announcements yesterday," he added in a flat tone.
Kakashi did what he did best: smile. "Shouldn't you be getting back to your homeroom?"
The tanned man shrugged his shoulders in defeat. "Fine, fine, see you in Asuma's room later."
Kakashi raised an eyebrow. "You're not going to team teach with me this year?"
Iruka grimaced. "No, I will be, but there are some last minute IEP changes that I haven't been informed of, so I'm spending most of today just figuring out which way's up. Today's just a 'get to know each other' day except for Asuma, so you won't need me anyway. Asuma can handle his pretesting without me, and I've got a sub in my room in case any need extra time and such."
Nodding, Kakashi rolled up a piece of paper and threw it at a student who was running around the room. Of course, it hit the student's head perfectly. "Okay students, I have a few things I want to say about how my homeroom operates."
Kakashi arrived in Asuma's room early for their team meeting. The first day of school was the only day during the year when he'd be early because there was too much material to cover and not enough time. They were going to need Iruka's information about the IEPs right off the bat and Kakashi had a few things to say before the team meeting was handed over to Iruka.
"Hey, Kakashi," Asuma greeted. "I've got to run and make copies. All my class rosters were off and I need to make more pretests for the rest of the day."
"Better wait on that," Kakashi replied. "You can send a para out to make copies if you need to, but I have a few things I need to stay."
Asuma's smile faded as he put his papers down and pulled a seat over. "Good or bad?"
Asuma nodded as the door opened.
"Kakashi! It's good to see you've regained your youthful vigor and gotten here early!"
"Hello, Gai," Kakashi greeted with a casual shrug before eyeing the young woman by his side. "You must be our new science teacher, Kurenai. You'll forgive my not making your acquaintance over the past few days, I had been pulled into team leader meetings and getting a few briefs on things we didn't have enough information on to talk about at the usual opening procedures."
"Of course," she replied, pulling up a chair as well. Gai gave his usual sparkling smile as he took a chair.
"Sorry I'm late everyone!" The wondrous smell of Chinese food quickly permeated the room as Iruka came in with a paper bag. "I had a few minutes between meetings and ordered the usual for everyone. Kurenai," Iruka turned to his new colleague, "I didn't know what you'd like, so I just got some chicken rice and dumplings."
"Why, thank you," she replied, taking her container as Iruka passed them out.
"Now that we're all here," Kakashi started, opening his usual pork rice, "I have a few things to say. First, the good news. The ring was taken down over the summer."
Everyone but Kurenai heaved a huge sigh of relief.
"Ring?" she asked.
"There was a ring of college-aged kids," Asuma explained, "who were picking up middle school girls and raping them. We had six girls on our team end up in counseling last year."
Kurenai's jaw dropped.
"If you have any preconceived notions about this part of town," Iruka murmured, "you'd better banish them. These kids have it rough."
"You said that was the good news, Kakashi," Gai turned to their team leader. "What's the bad?"
"Some of you have seen Uchiha Sasuke in class already today. His parents were killed in a car accident over the summer. His brother Itachi is currently his guardian."
"Itachi?" Asuma growled. "That jackass? Please tell me he's grown up since we had him."
"I wouldn't know," Kakashi replied. "I was privileged enough to miss his time here by a year."
"If Itachi is going to be raising Sasuke," Gai drawled, "we'll need to keep an eye on him. Not only will he be dealing with his parents' death, who knows how his brother has matured."
"If he has," Asuma snorted.
Kakashi glanced at the clock. "Iruka, I think you should have enough time to give us the basics. Save the details for tomorrow."
Iruka nodded. "First up, Uzumaki Naruto. Classic and severe ADHD. He's on meds so he should be okay during class. Mostly, he'll need extra time on assignments and for testing I'll probably pull him to my room.
"Akimichi Chouji is very low in his reading. I'll probably be having him for English and Reading. His spelling and handwriting are horrendous.
"Inuzuka Kiba has mild ADD. He'll need extra time on assignments and tests and will need some coaching in math.
"Kazekage Gaara is the one to watch. He has SED. I'm setting up a social contract and a point sheet. This is a kid you really don't want to pick a fight with.
"Nara Shikamaru is on the other end of the spectrum. He should be in a gifted program, but he's too lazy to do any work. Challenge him. A lot."
Iruka passed out packets on each of the students, listing others that had special needs. "These are their IEPs. Shikamaru requires daily emails to his parents, as does Ryoko and Takamaru."
"Any other observations from today's classes?" Kakashi asked.
"No students were as interested in my stories of history like Rock Lee was last year," Gai lamented.
"Everyone signed my social contract," Kurenai offered. Kakashi noted her use of the social contract. Other teachers had tried. It would be interesting to see if she could make it work.
"I never have anything to add," Asuma stated. "I'm pretesting so I can't offer anything."
"I've been running all over," Iruka replied, slumping back. "I can barely identify my students."
Kakashi smirked. "I picked out Naruto quickly enough. He's hyperactive to a fault. Beyond that, nothing outstanding." Kakashi had done his usual introduce-yourself discussion, asking students to list what they liked and what their goals and aspirations might be. As usual, most students had goals that were either far too grand or far too shortsighted, but they were only twelve. Some, like Haruno Sakura had had a specific and attainable dream to be a doctor. Others, like Kiba, had proclaimed something further out of reach such as being a basketball star. The knuckleheads stated that their dreams included working at McDonald's for the rest of their lives.
Kakashi smirked. When asked what his dreams and goals were, he had been evasive. The students were going to have to work to get information out of him, and as long as their work ethic was encouraged, Kakashi would love playing hard to get.
"Alright then," he smiled. "A few small things for our new member," he nodded to Kurenai. "Even though I'm team leader, we always meet here in Asuma's room. Every Friday is takeout since our plan is during the lunch wave this year. We don't allow backpacks in the classroom. We do a thing called A period Excellence, where the A period classes compete. Asuma can explain it better later. We also occasionally do a Homeroom Challenge to break things up for the kids and give them something to look forward to. Our original science teacher was in charge of planning fundraisers for all this. I'll be taking over that post this year, but I want you to help me out, because I tend to be overloaded as it is. Next year, we'll see if you're okay to take over the fundraising."
"Fine," Kurenai replied, a smile on her lips. "I did a little fundraiser work at the previous school I worked at."
"Speaking of which," Kakashi continued, "I know you worked at a private school previously. While hardly the upper echelon, you worked at a 'better' school than this. You've already heard a little of what can happen here in town. I'm stating flat out, the students here are going to be very different than what you worked with previously. They are poor. Some of them won't be able to afford a calculator. They won't have the money to replace anything they break. They're going to be putting up with shit at home that you never think actually happens. These kids need boundaries, love and support. But above all, boundaries. You don't give extra chances, you have to come down hard and fast. Otherwise, they'll walk all over you. Today may have gone well, but the honeymoon will end all too quickly."
Kurenai smiled. "I'll admit that I'm from a private school and that I'm still fresh out of college, but I don't think you need to worry."
"Kakashi didn't mean to imply that you'll be unprepared, Kurenai," Gai replied, "but that you should be aware that things could be very different than what you're used to."
"It'll be fine," Asuma interjected. "I'm right next door if she needs me."
"Good," Kakashi leaned back. "So, we have maybe five minutes before they come back from specials. How was your summer?"
The third day Kakashi was late. Lunch conversation was good. Genma was regaling the faculty lounge with his summer vacation gone horribly awry, leaving Kakashi terribly amused. He was more than happy to offer his own colorful commentary, and he was curious what the second lunch wave would say as they heard the last vestiges. He finally wandered back down the halls to Asuma's room, taking in the math posters, Algeblocks, Geoboards, and giant thermometer, among other things. The others were already assembled, and only Iruka bothered to look irritated at his being late. He smirked to himself; Kurenai would be assuming that look before long, and then she, too, would join in the understanding that he was always late.
"Any interesting gossip yet?" he asked.
"No, not really," Asuma answered. "I'm still hearing complaints from the kids about testing them on the first day of school." His face grew an evil smile. "One of the parents emailed me complaining. I told her I wanted to let the grade know on day one that I wanted to know what they knew, I wanted to be able to teach them to the best of my ability, and I wanted them to know that I don't quibble, I get right to the point. I said as much before I handed out the tests. She hasn't gotten back to me yet."
"They should have talked to the Hyuuga, or the Sasaki, or the Fuan. They all know the drill."
Kakashi took his seat and tilted it back into a perfect slouch. Iruka rolled his eyes but opened the team notebook. "Tsunade will be coming up at some point today," he said.
"Who?" Kurenai asked.
"The school nurse," Gai offered. "She makes the rounds every year to inform us of the fortitude of our youth."
"There are so many new faces and names, sometimes I feel like I'll never get the hang of them all," Kurenai lamented.
"It always takes a while," Iruka offered. "I take over a month to get all the other students names down, I'm so busy with mine. Kakashi has them all memorized in a day; I don't know how he does it."
"Practice," he replied, turning the page in his book.
"Will you ever put that filthy material away?" Iruka demanded.
The special education teacher seethed while Asuma and Gai laughed.
"Did I miss something?"
The five teachers looked up to see the blonde nurse of the middle school. "Ah, Tsunade, have a seat," Gai said, standing up and offering his seat. The nurse took it gladly. She turned to Kurenai.
"You're the new science teacher, right?" She nodded. "You have a lot of faces to get to know, if you can latch onto it, I'm the school nurse. There are a couple of yours that cling to me, like Haruno Sakura and a few others. What I'm here for, though, is to let you know about a few of them.
"First off is Uzumaki Naruto. I'm sure Iruka's passed on that he's Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder to the extreme. He's on medication that I keep in my office. He takes it twice a day, once in the morning before he comes here, once immediately after lunch. Lunch shouldn't be a problem because I've talked to the duty teachers and they make sure to point him to my office before the bell. The problem will be in the morning, because he has to take it before school in order for it to be in effect. I've been going through this since fifth grade; whether he takes it or not is dependant on the foster parents he has. The first ones were very good about it, but his current set want to have him be responsible for it. It's a nice thought, but he really isn't going to remember. They're reminding him for now, but that'll drift off as the year progresses. It happened last year.
"I get more than prescription students, though," she added, a sad look on her face. "This is a rough city, and some of the students are in really rough places. Do you know which student is Inuzuka Kiba?"
Kakashi raised his hand, as did Gai.
"I had a long conversation with his father yesterday. They're just barely getting by. He was evasive, but I think they're near the state of homelessness. Kiba may well be living out of his locker. Literally. He and a few others on Free and Reduced lunch, but we need to make sure that he's eating breakfast as well, that he's getting a shower during gym class, that sort of thing.
"There's also Uchiha Sasuke. I think you all know by now that his parents died over the summer. The social worker has him and Gaara and a few others in grief counseling, but he's going to have mood swings, and he's the type to keep it bottled up until he explodes. Gaara's the same way, and we still don't know everything that's up with him.
"You should also keep an eye on the couples. They're at the right age, and I'm sure that some of them are going to be pregnant before the year is out."
"But they're twelve!" Kurenai exclaimed.
"Yes, with one or if they're lucky two parents who are working double shifts to make ends meet; meaning that they're not home and no one's looking after them. I've seen it for years."
"I did say this was a rough school," Kakashi muttered, flipping a page in his book.
"Any others that we should know about?" Asuma said quickly.
"I think that about covers it. In the meantime, could you pass these out during homeroom tomorrow? I need to get their medical and insurance information for my files as soon as possible. They have a week to get them in, and then we start dogging them."
Kakashi smiled. "I hope a lot of them forget. I like dogging."
Author's Note: A few things. First, we don't like high school fics. So we thought we'd challenge ourselves and try to write a good one. So what happened? It ended up as a middle school fic.
Second, this story will only be done from the point of view of the teachers. Sometimes the best way to look at a relationship is from the outside instead of the inside. As adults, Kakashi-tachi can see things that the kids can't. Plus, it puts a bit of a different perspective on the twelve-year-olds having a relationship and how "innocent" (read: childlike) it really is. These kids aren't declaring never-ending love.
Third, over the course of this story, we will try to avoid stating any overt couples, but bear in mind you might see a few pairings appear briefly out of left field. At this age, students "hook up" and "break up" quite quickly. Besides, these kids are twelve.
Finally, all events that occur in this story have been witnessed in some way shape or form, by us. Mirror really did work at a school were there was a "ring" that picked up middle school girls. Image really was at a school where a student had a relative who died over the summer. The other plot devices that you'll be seeing will probably shock you or make you say, "That doesn't happen in school." Yes, in poor schools it does. We're not even going to get into the situation where a student that Mirror taught went home every Thursday to get raped by her father. However, we will not do what other authors do and dive into the whole drama of it. We're coming from the teacher's perspectives, not the students, and you'll get a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes that teachers try to do to support their students. (We teachers do more than you think...) A lot of this will be understated as a result.
Oh, and yes, you'll see the occasional original character from time to time. They'll just be names in passing.
So, we tried to set up a lot of threads in this one little chapter. It's hard with the first (few) chapter(s) to be eye-grabbing. How'd we do? Do you still want to see more?
A Few Useful Definitions:
Since this is a school story from the teacher's point of view, you'll see a lot of the educational jargon that teachers can spit out when in conversation with one another.
PPT: Planning and Placement Team. Whenever a student has special needs, an IEP is created. (See below). A PPT is the meeting on how the student is doing with their IEP goals, and a chance for parents, teachers, and other interseted parties in how the student is doing to meet and discuss things. Concerns about grades, other classmates, classes, and just about anything under the sun can be brought up and modifications to the IEP can be made to accomodate any agreement made between parents and teachers. Manditory attendees are: A parent, a special education teacher, a regular education teacher, a special education coordinator. Optional attendees include: principal, vice principal, guidance counselor, social worker, therapist, parole officers, oh, and the kid too.
IEP: Individualized Education Plan. When a student is diagnosed as special education (for anything from pregnancy to broken legs, to learning or physical disabilities), a plan is drafted by teachers, parents and professionals on what would be appropriate goals for the student to be able to make over the course of the school year. Almost EVERYTHING that deals with special education is required by law.
SED: Socially and Emotionally Disturbed. These are special education students who have SERIOUS issues. They are often put into isolated classrooms, despite how smart they are, because these are the students who CAN NOT interact well with others. These kids will have major behavioral issues, attitudes, and could pose a danger to their fellow students, depending on how disturbed they are.
ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is a subcategory. These are students, usually boys, who have real difficulty with paying attention. Their focus wanders frequently and they can't stay on topic. The hyperactivity half of the disorder is extreme excess energy. These are students who couldn't sit perfectly still if their life depended on it.
504: Part of the educational law. This is Section 504 of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) that states that there are students who have special needs that aren't necessarily permanent. Pregnancy and broken limbs usually fall under this category. When a student is classified as 504, they usually need temporary adjustments to school, such as time at the end of class to leave and get to their next class with a broken foot, or maybe medication if they have an illness that's being treated, etc.
LD: Learning Disabilities. ADHD is part of it, there's also dyslexia, dyscalculia, and a whole host of other things. Basically, it's when a student has trouble with an aspect of learning.
Duties: Teachers have various duties that they may have to do during their free time. The most common that students probably know of is lunch duty or hall duty. There can also be morning duty, bus duty, ISS duty, and a whole bunch of other responsibilities that get farmed out to teachers.
Curriculum: This is a bible that teachers use. It starts with national standards on what kids should learn when, is refined with state standards (that should but may not necessarily line up with national standards). Teacher's lesson plans need to line up with these standards. When you think of teaching, you might think of lesson plans, but curriculum is sort of the year-long lesson plan of what gets teached when.
Vertical Curriculum Meetings: This isn't something that happens in a lot of school districts, in fact, it's only happened in one that we've ever been in. A vertical curriculum meeting is when both high school, middle school, and possibly even elementary school meet in regards to curriculum and how it should be taught. For example, the math teachers of the high school could come down to the middle school to talk about concerns they may haveabout the kids not having a good grasp of solving equations and together, all the teachers can brainstorm how to better set up the curriculum to make more students learn.
NCLB: No Child Left Behind. I will not get into personal opinion in regards to this law. It was set forth by George W. Bush and basically states that EVERY single child across the country will be able to make certain standards, or at least, that's what we're striving for.
AYP: Adequate Yearly Progress. How much progress we need to make each year as a school to maintain accredidation (ie, what keeps the school doors open).
Plan: By contract, teachers get one free period a day in order to plan out lessons, make copies, and basically prepare for their classes.
Team Time: No, no, not the title of our story. In the middle school setting, there is often a team set up, a set of teachers from each subject working together with the same bunch of students. As such, by contract, teachers have another plan, only this time with the other teachers of their team to discuss concerns about students, plan activities, and lots of other things you'll see Kakashi-tachi doing over the course of this story.