Rosemary Burnish wandered up and down the aisles of her classroom and talked animatedly about her favourite subject - history. She'd been a history teacher at Jefferson High School for almost thirty years and nothing gave her more joy than to pass that knowledge on to the children that made up her classes.
Eying the slumped forms and bored faces of the kids nowadays was disheartening, though. Kids seemed to be caring less and less about their schoolwork. Classes like history seemed to be something they endured now rather than something they willingly participated in. She'd had some of these pupils in her class last year, and, while a few familiar faces made the effort to take notes, most of the class didn't seem to want to exert even that much effort... apart from their new transfer student.
Rosemary eyed the tousled dark-blond hair of Daniel Jackson's head. It was a sad story. He'd started the term late because he'd been switched to a new set of foster parents after his last foster-father had been brought up on charges for physical abuse. So far, the boy had been as quiet as a mouse in her class. She noticed that he was scribbling away as she talked and she moved closer to his desk so that she could circumspectly check to see if he was going to be a willing-learner or a 'doodler'.
She could feel her eyebrow rising as she realised what she was seeing him write but she didn't draw attention to him. Instead, she continued her circuit of the classroom before making her way to her desk to draw the class to a close by assigning the homework assignment for Friday.
As the class dispersed with the bell, she called out, "Daniel, may I speak to you for a minute, please?"
Daniel Jackson - face expressionless - quietly sat at his desk as the rest of his class made its way towards the cafeteria for lunch. "Yes, ma'am?"
Rosemary gave what she hoped was a reassuring smile as she said, "I won't keep you long, Daniel. I was just wondering if you were enjoying the class. Your work has been exemplary and you've caught up with your classmates far quicker than I'd anticipated."
She watched as the boy tilted his head slightly to one side and studied her face carefully for a second. Apparently he liked what he saw in her expression because he graced her with the first smile that she'd ever seen on his face as he said, "Yes, Ms. Burnish. I love history. I always have."
"I'm glad." She paused and then waved towards the notebooks piled neatly on his desk, saying, "I did notice one thing, Daniel, and I hope you don't mind me asking. You were taking notes today in what looked like Arabic, weren't you? It's been many years since I visited that area of the world but I believe that I recognise the script."
"Yes, ma'am," was the soft reply. "That's not a problem, Ms. Burnish. Is it?"
"No, no, of course not!" she was quick to reassure him. "I was just surprised to see it, that's all. Especially in a high school history class. Where did you learn it?"
A slender hand pushing the hair from in front of his eyes, the boy said, "I've always known it. I was born in Egypt, ma'am. I learned it as I learned English. To be frank, I used it more as a child than I did English. My parents were archaeologists. I grew up on digs around Egypt. I played with the children of the local workers."
Rosemary Burnish blinked in astonishment. The 'troubled' foster kid that had had a tough break with his last foster father apparently had a more colourful background than the staff had been told.
"I see," she said with a smile. "I take it you find it just as easy to take notes in Arabic as in English then?"
Daniel Jackson graced her with a second smile, this one sad. "I was home-schooled until I went into foster-care. My parents and the other archaeologists they worked with all took a hand in teaching me. I learned several languages that way. Mother always said that the best way to practice a language was to keep using it.
"She used to give me specific days for each language. Thursdays were for Arabic. It's just a habit. If you'd prefer I'll change to something else."
Sitting forward and leaning on her desk, Rosemary Burnish said, "Don't you worry about that at all, Daniel. You work with whatever you find comfortable." She then smiled and added, "Though I would appreciate it if you continue to turn your homework assignments in in English."
That got a genuine laugh from the boy and she excused him to catch up with his class for lunch. He'd reached the door before she called out one final question. "Daniel, just out of curiosity... how many languages can you speak?"
Pausing at the door, Daniel turned and said, "I can speak five fluently, a couple more need a little work. Oh yeah, and I can read ancient Greek and cuneiform. I've still got a way to go till I master them."
The door swung closed behind him and Rosemary Burnish closed her jaw with a snap. Oh my lord! What kind of mind had been dropped into her classroom and why hadn't she been told in advance? The poor child must be bored silly half the day. This won't do. He needs a challenge.
With that thought in mind, Rosemary Burnish headed off to speak to the principal. There had to be something that could be done to help this child. Daniel Jackson was a gift. Teachers encountered a child like this maybe once or twice in a career. She would not let him down.