Frank Fig

    Most of Frank’s young life had been devoted to just surviving, since his family moved nearly every year. He truly didn’t know how to make friends, so he spent hours alone in his room. Unlike Fifi, his older sister, Frank didn’t have anything that kept him motivated. Thanks to Grandmother Fredericka Fig, wherever the family moved, Fifi had private ballet lessons. Grandmother Fig suggested hobbies or classes for Frank, but he just had no interest in any of them. Neither of his parents cared to monitor his free time, so Frank constantly played video games. Each morning, he woke up feeling really sad. He knew that Grandmother Fig and Fifi loved him, but he felt invisible to his parents.
    Things changed when the Fig family moved to Fruitland. Instead of leaving him alone, his mother started yelling at him. By the time he left for school, she had insulted him at least six times. Frank thought he was keeping his anger inside, but it often surfaced in school. He picked fights with classmates and talked back to some of his teachers.
    At least once every two weeks, Frank landed in the Principal’s Office. Mr. Bruno Blackberry, fortunately, started to take an interest in Frank. Mr. Blackberry checked with all of Frank’s teachers. He exceled in math and science classes, courses taught by male teachers. The other subjects were taught by women, and that’s where Frank’s challenges occurred.
    For fifteen years, Mr. Blackberry had taught English and history at Fruitland Elementary School. Now as its principal, he had some great advantages because he knew all of the staff and the curriculum extremely well. One thing he couldn’t determine was why Frank, a student with high standardized state scores, would be earning such abysmal grades in English and history.
    With certainty, Mr. Blackberry realized that Frank would soon be a “visitor” to his office. In preparation, Mr. Bruno Blackberry checked out the history and English materials that Frank’s classes were utilizing. Soon after that, just as anticipated, Frank was “given a pass” to Mr. Blackberry’s office.
    This time appeared different. Frank’s anger had gotten him removed from Mrs. Charlotte Cranberry’s English class. Rather than being given a time out, Mrs. Cranberry requested that Frank be permanently transferred from her class.
    “Frank, it’s always nice to see you. I just wish you’d stop by to say hi rather than being sent here for doing something that upset your teacher. I’m looking at Mrs. Cranberry’s note. She’s very angry! Please tell me what happened.”
    “Mr. Blackberry, you’re different from other principals. In the past, when I’ve gotten in trouble, the principals always assumed that I was a troublemaker. Today, I didn’t do anything wrong! Mrs. Cranberry has never liked me; she’s always yelling at me, just like my mom.”
    Mr. Blackberry heard what Frank said about his mother. He decided to deal with that issue later. The focus needed to be on one of his teachers. “Why does Mrs. Cranberry yell at you, Frank?”
    “She always says that I do the homework incorrectly. Rather than show me the proper way, she embarrasses me in front of the entire class. She requires class participation as a part of our grades. I try to participate, but she always says that my answers are wrong. Today, I knew that my answers were correct, so I called her a name.”
    “A name, Frank. What did you call her?”
    “A meanie!”
    “That’s what got her so upset?”
    “Yes, Mr. Blackberry, but she came into the classroom looking very, very disturbed. I looked in her eyes, and it seemed like she had been crying. When she yelled at me, and I called her a name, she almost hit me. She seems to be angry about something that has nothing to do with me.”
    “I’m very sorry to hear that, Frank. That’s so unlike her. We all need to talk.” Mr. Blackberry called his assistant and requested that a substitute immediately be sent to Mrs. Cranberry’s classroom so she could be a part of the discussion.
    While Mr. Blackberry and Frank waited for Mrs. Cranberry to enter his office, he chose not to address Frank’s negative comment about his mother. Instead, he focused on Frank’s mathematical success.
    “Ms. Kiwi told me that she’s extremely impressed with your mathematical expertise. In fact, she’ll be recommending for you to be placed in an advanced class next year!”
    “That’s great, Mr. Blackberry. She’s an awesome teacher! I love going to her class. Math is so much fun! But the odds are that we’ll be moving, again. We basically move every year. The house we’re renting is so beautiful; we’re close to the ocean. I can see it from my bedroom, and it calms me after my mom yells at me. Whoops, I said it again.”
    “Frank, we do need to talk about your relationship with your mom. Does that have anything to do with your frequent moving?”
    “I’m not sure. Fifi, my older sister, and I hate to move! I never thought about whether my mother didn’t like moving. Each time, my dad secures an excellent position at a university, but during the academic year something happens, and we are forced to move. I don’t talk with my dad very much, and I told you all my mom does is yell at me. Basically, I try to stay away from her. Mr. Blackberry, I never thought about whether she hated moving like my sister and I do.”
    As Mr. Blackberry prepared how he would continue discussing Frank’s relationship with his mother, Mrs. Cranberry entered the principal’s office.
    “Good morning, Christina. Let’s talk about what happened in your classroom.”
    “Bruno, you’ve known me for more than twenty years. You know that I love to teach, and I love kids.” When she said that, Frank looked shocked. He surely didn’t feel loved!
    Frank’s body language wasn’t missed by Mr. Blackberry. “If you had said that to me yesterday, I would have agreed with you, Christina. However, Frank’s facial expression completely contradicted what you said. You look quite upset!”
    “Well, I do have to admit that there are times when Frank annoys me. It seems that he wants to cause trouble in class.”
    “As you stated, Christina, we’ve been friends and colleagues for a long time. I’ve never heard you talk about a student the way you just described Frank ‘s performance in your class. Is there something else that we need to discuss?”
    “Well, Bruno.” Mrs. Cranberry quickly became overwhelmed, sobbed, and it appeared that she couldn’t stop.
    “Should I ask Frank to leave so we can talk, Christina?”
    Although it appeared difficult, Mrs. Cranberry stopped crying to say, “No, Bruno. Word will get around town soon enough. When Frank called me a meanie, he used the same word Chris, my youngest son, used yesterday when he heard my husband Conrad saying he wanted a divorce. Chris said that I’m a meanie in the morning before I leave for work, and I’m a meanie when I come home. He didn’t blame his dad for wanting a divorce! So, when Frank called me a meanie, I felt like I was going to explode.” She turned to Frank. “Please forgive me!”
    After a brief moment of hesitation, Frank responded. “Mrs. Cranberry, I never wanted to hurt you. I promise I’ll never call you that name again, and I’ll really try to do a better job when I do my homework for you class. You’re a very smart lady, and I’m glad that you’re my teacher. I hope I can come back to your class tomorrow!”
    “I feel a little better that we’ve all had this talk. Yes, I’ll look forward to seeing you tomorrow morning, Frank.”
    After Mrs. Cranberry left the principal’s office, Frank turned to Mr. Blackberry and smiled. “Thank you for speaking with me, Mr. Blackberry. After school, I’m going to be brave and talk with my mother. I realize that it’s going to be extremely hard, but I plan to tell her that I love her. I saw so much pain in Mrs. Cranberry’s eyes; I see that type of pain in my mom’s. Then, I’m going to be brave and ask her if she likes moving so much. May I come to see you tomorrow to tell you what she said?”
    “That would be wonderful, Frank! I look forward to learning the outcome of your conversation.”