Under An Island Sun – Episode 03

The main characters from the story

He had finally managed to get a challenging class to settle down to some translation when another teacher came into the room.

“You’re to go to the headmaster’s office,” she told him in a low voice.

Not low enough. Two pupils in the front row exchanged a smirk.

They put their heads down when they saw his steely glare. Only last week, he’d given them another detention.

“I’m to take the class for the rest of the lesson,” the teacher added, not looking happy at the prospect.

Philippe nodded.

“I’ve set them work that should keep them busy.”

For all Grandmaman’s advice, he couldn’t help a sense of unease as he approached the headmaster’s office.

That increased at the sight of the headmaster’s serious expression as he beckoned Philippe to sit.

The older man leaned back in his chair.

“I’ll come straight to the point.

“The school has had complaints from the parents of two pupils, alleging unreasonable conduct by you and stating they have been unfairly treated.”

Those exchanged smirks made sense now. Philippe squared his shoulders.

“The pupils I assume you’re referring to have a tendency to be disruptive.

“They enjoy making life difficult for their teachers and the rest of the class.

“They regularly bully other children. Last week I had to discipline them for taunting Pierre Bernard because of his limp.”

He could remember how it had taken all his willpower to control his fury.

“According to the boys’ parents, they felt unfairly treated for what they regarded as teasing, a part of everyday school life.”

Philippe frowned.

“I hardly think that picking on a boy with a disability could be classed as a bit of teasing.”

“I agree, and have said so in clear terms to their parents. Unfortunately, they still argue that your reaction was excessive.

“The mother of one of the boys claims it took all of her persuasion to get her son to school the next day.”

He smiled dryly.

“On the other hand, Pierre’s father phoned to thank me for your action. It seems he has had no trouble from anyone this past week.”

The headmaster’s face became serious.

“The complainants are influential within the school.

“I persuaded them not to pursue any formal action on this occasion, but they have insisted that if anything similar happens again, they’ll press for your dismissal.”

“Can they do that?”

“They can certainly make life difficult, for me as well as you.” The headmaster leaned forward.

Philippe, you are an excellent teacher.

“Your students learn much from you and the quieter pupils appreciate an atmosphere where they can get on with their lessons without disruption.

“But you need to learn to deal with people in an authoritative way that doesn’t cause problems.

“You have to be a diplomat as well as an enforcer of rules.

“It’s a fine balancing act, but it can be done.”

“I promise you that I shall try my utmost.”

Even as he said the words, Philippe knew that wouldn’t be enough.

“I can’t afford more trouble. I sense something restless about you, which doesn’t help, so I have decided you should take a break for a while.

“We’ll hire a substitute until you come back – if you come back,” he finished.

Philippe blinked.

“Am I being suspended?” he asked.

“See it as a sabbatical. Use the time to do something different. Perhaps travel.”

Philippe was too shocked to reply. Not only was he still taking in the headmaster’s remarks, but he was trying to predict how Nicole would react to the news.

She would probably see it as a failure; something that never went down well in her books. Or would she see it as a chance for them to move to Paris and better career prospects, as she’d been hinting lately?

As a talented lawyer, her ambition was understandable, but recently she’d become more insistent.

Philippe hated the idea.

He enjoyed living in La Rochelle. He liked its proximity to the countryside and the wide horizon of the Atlantic with its sense of open space.

He was sure Nicole’s career would flourish there if she was patient.

Patient wasn’t a word that described Nicole, though. Beautiful, tempestuous and intelligent were more accurate.

The headmaster stood up. The meeting had clearly come to an end.

“I shall complete the paperwork and put the wheels in motion. A replacement teacher can be here by Monday.”

He held out his hand.

“Enjoy your sabbatical. I’m sure you will make good use of the time.”

To be continued…

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