Anais looked up from her book as Gumball stormed into their shared room, arms crossed and huffing. He stalked over to the bunk beds and jumped face-first onto his, the bedsprings creaking from the sudden weight.
“Reason number eight to convince mom to move houses,” Gumball said, his voice angrily rising up from below Anais. “We could change schools.”
Anais slid her bookmark in and climbed down the latter, settling on the edge of Gumball’s bed. “Are you having problems with Mrs. Hawkins again?”
Gumball groaned in answer.
Starting 9th grade had been tough for Gumball. Just when he thought nothing could be worse than Miss Simian, he had been unfortunate enough to land in Mrs. Hawkins' class, who, in Anais’ opinion, sucked. He’d been having trouble with his grades, and Anais had suggested that he go to the teacher to see if they could work something out. But apparently, they hadn’t worked anything out, if this was anything to go by.
“Did you try talking with her about—”
“Yes, I tried talking with her!” Gumball snapped. “I—sorry. I’m just frustrated.”
“It’s okay,” Anais assured. “What happened?”
Gumball rolled over onto his back, the covers twisting around his legs, and began gesticulating angrily. “She just—she didn’t even listen to me! I told her I was having trouble with the, the division stuff, and she just kept saying that I need to pay more attention in class. I said I was trying, but it was hard, and then she said that if I spent less time doodling on the worksheets—ugh!” He slammed a fist against the mattress. “And, and, she kept making it sound like I was being lazy but that’s not it!”
“Well, clearly she doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Anais said. “You’re not lazy at all. Dad is lazy.”
Gumball pouted, flopping over again. His anger seemed to melt into something more sloggy as he went on. “I wish I were smart like you and Darwin. Then maybe I’d actually be able to get all this stuff to stick in my head, and it wouldn’t matter whether I can pay attention in class.”
“You are smart,” Anais stressed. “ADHD doesn’t make you stupid.”
Gumball rolled his eyes. “Try telling Mrs. Hawkins that.”
Anais felt her mind beginning to churn. “…Maybe I will.”
Gumball blinked up at her. “What?”
Samantha Hawkins, as always, arrived at the school an hour early, a steaming mug of coffee in hand. She had no idea what demons had possessed her to teach highschool school; she was forever envious of the local elementary school’s 9:00 start time.
Before she could collect everything for the day and get started on going over the vocab quizzes from yesterday, though, she had to deal with the young, pink haired girl who was standing in the middle of the classroom, hooking her tablet computer into the classroom projector. Because this was Elmore, and these things happened.
“Hello?” she opened.
The girl turned, noticed her, and lit up. “Ah, Mrs. Hawkins! So nice to meet you, I’m Anais. I hope I’m not intruding?”
Samantha was extremely tempted to say ‘you are,’ but she didn’t want her going to her mom or whatever and having her breathe down her neck, so instead she said, “Do you need something?”
“You know your student Gumball? Or maybe you know him as Zach?”
Of course she knew her student Gumball. Couldn’t sit still for three seconds. “Yes?”
“Well, he’s my brother,” Anais explained.
“Oh.” Suddenly everything made sense.
“Since you two weren’t able to reach an agreement on how to accommodate him in your class, I thought I’d give you a short presentation!” She tapped a bit on the tablet, and a powerpoint came up on the screen, entitled ‘Accommodating ADHD in the Classroom.’
“Anais, this is all very, um… nice, but—”
“First, let’s look at what behaviors to expect from an ADHD student,” Anais said, cutting her off by clicking to the next slide. “Teachers may be tempted to write off fidget activities such as drumming your fingers, tapping your leg, playing with a small toy, doodling, etc. as pure distractions, but multiple studies have shown that inattentiveness usually results from under stimulation to the brain, and as such, these activities usually provide an increase to content retention. As long as the activity isn’t bothering other students, teachers are not recommended to police such behaviors.”
Smantha's mouth hung open. Were those… in-text citations?
The powerpoint transitioned, and Anais went on. “Extrapolating from that, ‘traditional’ lecture-based teaching styles have proven less effective than more interactive alternatives; their more streamlined dissemination of information is more than offset by lower student retention rates caused by lack of engagement with the material. This can be solved by…”
Thirty minutes and a countless number of slides later, and Samantha’s coffee was no longer hot.
“…In conclusion, adopting a perspective focused more on changing classroom policies to accommodate students instead of attempting to change students to fit classroom policies is beneficial for both the child’s education and development,” Anais said. She clicked to the next slide, which was an itemized bibliography. “Oh! And that’s it. Um.” Anais rubbed awkwardly at the back of her head. Now that she’d finished with her presentation, it seemed like she didn’t quite know what to do next. “Thanks for listening?”
“No—thank you,” Samantha said. “I don’t quite know what to say. It’s embarrassing that I had to hear this from a student, but I’m glad you took the time to do this for Gumball. You’re a great sister.”
“So you’ll try to help him?” Anais asked hopefully.
“Your presentation was very persuasive,” Samantha said with a smile. “The points you made about being more lenient with deadlines and giving gentle reminders should be easy, and I’ll have to think about my lesson plans. I’m not sure how much I can change them before the year is up, but… well. Just know I’m very thankful.” She paused. “Do you think you could find a way to send me that presentation, Anais? Your parents should have my email.”
Anais beamed. “Yeah! Of course! Wow, I wasn’t sure you were going to listen.”
“I think you had every right to be doubtful,” Samantha admitted. She’d have to apologize to Gumball at some point, but for now… “You’d better get to class.”
It was during recess the next day that Anais got practically tackled in a hug by Gumball.
“Wahh!” Anais exclaimed, wheeling backwards unsteadily, only to be saved by Darwin urgently extending an arm to steady her.
“Anais!” Gumball said happily. “Whatever nerd stuff you did to Mrs. Hawkins worked! She didn’t even tell me to stop playing with my rubiks cube while she was talking!”
“I’m glad,” Anais said. “Such is the power of research! And if she ever doesn’t have time to help you one on one, you can always come to me, you know?”
Gumball gave her one more squeeze. “You’re the best little sister ever.”
They devolved back into their regular antics from there, but Anais couldn’t help but smile whenever she saw how vibrant Gumball was acting—a stark contrast to his sullenness the previous day. She may have been the youngest by a couple of years, but she was a protective little sister, and that was a role she took seriously; and right now, she was glad she did.