The woman is neatly dressed, without pretentiousness, she has a clearly articulated speech – similar to Soviet-era television announcers, and very sparing gestures.
– I came to you without a child, but I ask for your consent to talk to me about it.
– Yes, of course, this is completely normal, parents without children often come to me. What is your child’s name?
– I don’t have a child. That is, I have a daughter, but she is already an adult and lives in Moscow, separately from us.
– Does your grandson have a problem?
– No, I don’t have any grandchildren yet.
I was discouraged. Nephews? Husband’s children from previous marriages?
“Explain what kind of child you are talking about,” I asked.
– I’m a high school teacher. I teach Russian and literature. It will be about one of the students in the class in which I am the homeroom teacher.
She named a private gymnasium that I knew by chance, which has existed for a relatively long time and is very expensive, where children of wealthy parents study, who for some reason could not study at prestigious public schools (after all, it is there that we in St. Petersburg still try to send children “from good families.” These children are brought and taken away in cars with drivers, they are constantly entertained, and all their material needs are met more than in abundance. It is clear that a lot of problems arise from all this, personal and social, but what can a teacher of Russian and literature do with them?
– This child has no problems.
– Sorry, I don’t understand anything.
– It’s embarrassing for me to even say…
Then I had a completely wild assumption that this middle-aged woman had fallen in love with one of her students, and I firmly decided to stop guessing:
– But you’ll have to say it because otherwise, we won’t get anywhere.
– Oh sure. The child is all right. Problems, if you can call them that, arise in our teaching staff, and now – I came to consult with you. To be completely honest, we want to get rid of the child, but in the current circumstances, it seems to be impossible.
– Is rich dad the main sponsor of the gymnasium? I asked, not without causticity, forgetting about my own decision made two minutes ago.
– It’s the other way around! – said my visitor and with teacher’s pedantry specified: – That’s right one hundred and eighty degrees on the contrary.
The story she told next seemed very amusing to me.
A few years ago, the staff of the gymnasium and its trustees, as it were, made a strong-willed humanitarian decision: let’s take a talented child from a poor family and teach him in our beautiful, expensive gymnasium for free. It will be very beautiful, it will improve our performance in all possible social areas, and we will help the child and his family at the same time. In addition, it is traditional (they consider their gymnasium to be humanitarian, a little Orthodox, and even a little monarchist): in the Russian Empire, in almost all gymnasiums, there were free capable students “from the bottom”.
The noble decision was approved almost unanimously. At the same time, everyone understood: everything is good in moderation – they were not going to take a child from an orphanage to the gymnasium. We searched, and found a very suitable option: a fourth-grader boy took second place in the city Olympiad in the Russian language and in the same year received a diploma at the Olympiad in the world around him. The family lives relatively close, there are only three bus stops from the gymnasium. Hereditary Leningraders. Mother – a librarian, father was a military engineer, died of a heart attack four years ago. They live very poorly. We talked privately with the boy’s teacher, who has known him for four years. When she realized what it was about, she even burst into tears: “Lord, thank you, but how happy I am for him! He is a very, very capable and good boy, and the family is good. Thank you very much,
An almost perfect candidate. Do we take? Well, of course, we take.
The only worried person is the gymnasium psychologist: colleagues, but we have very, very rich guys studying here. They are expensively dressed, they have all these gadgets. Or, let’s say, one of them invites him to visit. In a three-story mansion with a swimming pool and billiards in the basement. Will the poor child have psychological trauma from all this?
But everyone was already inspired and brushed aside the psychologist: our students almost never invite each other to visit, they have no time and no need. As for clothes and things – well, firstly, we have a gymnasium uniform, and secondly, everything is clear from the very beginning, and the boy is definitely not a fool, and he certainly watches TV, which means he knows that people live differently.
– Well, the psychologist turned out to be right in the end. The guy has a complex and gone berserk?
– Not even close.
In the fifth grade, Yasha went to a new school. Adapted quickly. He has excellent knowledge and grasps on the fly. There are 12 people in the class (in the past there were 34) – consider an individual approach. The psychologist looked after Yasha, of course. At the end of the first trimester, he asked: how do you study here?
– It’s just amazingly interesting! Yasha answered happily.- So many new and fun things.
Classmates also received Yasha well. They were all a little sleepy and infantile, but generally friendly since the world had never really demanded anything from them or done them any nasty things. Yasha was fascinated, literally opening his mouth, looking at their gadgets and sneakers, attentively and patiently listening to their tongue-tied stories about trips abroad. He asked about the details of their lives. Yashin flattered his classmates with interest (they got used to each other and were almost not interested in each other). Several children immediately told their parents: I would like to invite Yasha to our house. Better overnight.
The most responsible mother (she herself once came from Cherepovets to a modeling competition) consulted a psychologist: is it possible to call? Will it harm the child? The psychologist sighed and allowed: call!
Yasha admired, jumped with delight, and clapped his hands:
– Is this all yours? And when you want, you can swim there?! But what is this – such a huge TV ?! Is that your dad’s crocodile?! Is this his car? Did he really let you drive? And will he give me? If the driver allows? Well, let’s ask him another time then. Please, please!
By the end of the fifth grade, seven out of eight cool boys said: Yasha is my friend. The three girls looked askance at Yasha, but with interest.
At the request-begging of one of the boys, his parents took Yasha to Prague for the first autumn holidays. The mother was against it, but the father insisted: with this boy, ours seems more cheerful. In Prague, Yasha took a gadget from a boy, and a car with a driver from his parents, and in three days made a photo selection “Red Roofs”, which then took third place in some network international photo contest (the authors were considered Yasha and the boy together because they really went everywhere together).
Then, very quickly, Yasha changed his clothes – classmates gave him everything old, but almost unworn. I got three gadgets of not the newest model. It turned out that Yasha can make wonderful, provocative psychological portraits. The three girls hesitated, but in the end reluctantly admitted: that this is not like photo shoots with parents and selfies against the background of sights – this is alive. Yasha offered to make a wall newspaper about a cool life – his mother taught him. Everyone supported. They started amicably, but there is no skill – they quarreled to the bone. Yasha decided: the editorial board three people for two months. Then we change. Let’s see who’s better. Everyone agreed. The fact that Yasha remains “for all the time” was not even discussed. One dad suggested to his daughter, when it was her turn, to hire a professional journalist to help. Yasha laughed: “How can you not understand? Then it will not be your newspaper, but his!”
Such newspapers appeared in five classes of the school. Three died two months later. In one editorial board was headed by a teacher. From another, a delegation of five girls came to Yasha: “Can you help us?” – “No problem! Of course, I will help, ”Yasha answered. All three classmates were offended and did not talk to Yasha for three days.
– What grade is Yasha in now?
— In the eighth.
– And what happened? Why do you want to get rid of it?
The teacher lowered her head. She paused. I waited.
– Against the background of ours, he is too alive. It is already visible to everyone. And somehow not in a good way worries everyone. Almost all of his classmates have no motivation to study. Not at all, you know? Their concentration of attention is no more than 15 minutes. They don’t read anything but their friend feed. We, teachers, of course, are trying in every possible way to interest them, but we must honestly admit that we are outright losing to almost meaningless surfing on the Internet. Why should they stress? Places in institutes are already ready for them, and their parents’ money will be enough for them for the rest of their lives. And they know it. They all want to be successful bloggers or showmen, but they have absolutely nothing to say or even show to the world, except for what, again, was bought with their parents’ money. They are not evil, not stupid, but they are all very lethargic. You see, we have kids from senior classes, who have never been to the subway … And Yasha grabs any new knowledge with his teeth. During the lessons, all the time he asks questions brings some tasks, and information, and asks to explain something. He reads a lot, wins olympiads, distributes some leaflets to earn money, was a supporter of Navalny, but then became disillusioned with him, travels freely around the city, visits his old grandmother in the village of Sosnovo, chops wood for her, digs up a garden. This year he wrote a paper for the Olympiad in history and social science: “Social problems in the Philippines – the view of modern English-language media and Filipino housekeepers living in Russia (St. Petersburg). Comparative analysis”.
I couldn’t help but giggle in admiration, but the teacher just smiled sadly.
– We all read it – this is a good basis for a master’s thesis. One father (the Filipino nanny of his youngest daughter was one of Yasha’s main informants when writing this work) directly asked me as a class teacher: what are we all – parents and teachers – doing wrong? You are high-level specialists, we pay a lot of money for the education of our children, we create all the conditions for them – why such a strange result?
After that, we sat down in the teacher’s room, talked, and realized that we had reached a dead end. On the one hand, it is necessary to get rid of Yasha, but on the other hand, there is not a single reason for this. He is well and certainly comfortable with us. He never broke anything.
– Do you want to save face?
– Oh sure.
I thought. One of the situations in which “no one is to blame and everyone is sorry.
“Too lively” and initially talented Yasha, who has long understood perfectly well that in life he will have to “make his way” on his own, one hundred percent uses the opportunities of an expensive gymnasium that he accidentally got. And for his classmates, this is all “by itself” and “it has always been and will be so” – why strain? Yasha is vectorially directed towards growing up, into an independent life, where there will be no indulgences and supports, where one will have to think, analyze, generalize, and fight. And his classmates, in general, have nothing to strive for – they already have everything. What is their motivation to grow up? And the concern of the employer of the Filipino nanny is understandable: why didn’t my son write this work? Because he is simply not Yasha and less talented, or is there something else? And the anxiety and confusion of teachers are understandable:
The contradiction is obvious, and it is about to begin to be reflected in Yasha. So it’s time to move on. But where?
I remembered one of my classmates at the university, a guy from some small town in central Russia, to whom, judging by the description, Yasha was very similar. In the eighth grade, he was the winner of the All-Union Biology Olympiad, passed the competition, entered the boarding school at the Leningrad State University, lived and studied there, and from there entered the Faculty of Biology.
– Is the boarding school at Leningrad State University still alive? I finally asked.
The woman was silent for a few seconds, thinking, then slowly nodded.
– Here is an honest solution that solves all your problems at once. You demand confidentiality and say to Yasha and then separately to his mother: you have outgrown our gymnasium. To move forward, to develop, your brain needs a different kind of nutrient medium. We will prepare you and help you with all our strengths, but in the ninth grade you will not go here, but to the gymnasium at St. Petersburg University. Can he get in? If I remember correctly, there is a natural science cycle, and Yasha is an obvious humanitarian.
The woman thought.
– I suppose he can take this as a challenge to his abilities and respond. But would he still be offended?
– Don’t you understand yet? Even in the fifth grade, Yasha was perfectly able to turn his grievances inside out – it was embarrassing not for him at all, but for someone who had extra gadgets, sneakers, and crocodiles.
– Do you think he understood then?
– A child with such intelligence? Yes, of course. He still uses the situation to the fullest, you’ll see.
– We will try. But if he refuses, we can’t kick him out, can we?
– Of course, you can’t, I said confidently (that’s all I could do for Yasha). – After all, this will be your moral and even professional collapse. Let’s do this – you call me later and tell me how he reacted, okay?
– Oh sure.
She called only a week later (presumably, they had been gathering there with courage all week).
— Oh, thank God, he reacted very calmly.
– But how exactly?
– He said: well, there is no eternal freebie. Thank you for everything. When will I start doing more math? Is it too late today?