By Ben Kinkaid · 09/04/2018
Holly knelt to help one of the children. She ran her hand along the cord, straightening it out before plugging him in and then returning to the front of the class.
“Ok, I’d like you all to step into your E.D.I space for the first part of today’s class. Please select any one of the green subjects that you haven’t already uploaded.” In front of her sat three rows of four students, all eight years old. Each child was sat, eyes closed, slumped against the curved backs of their chairs. The back of each child’s head was aligned with a hole – about the width of a finger – in the top of the chair. Up through the hole, and plugged straight into every child’s entorhinal cortex was a needle-like polymer that wove its way through the cerebellum and along the brain stem. At its root the polymer thickened into a strand of wires that ran into the base of the chair where it connected to a curriculum-standard system.
“Mrs. Drayton? I’ve finished all the green ones, can I do a blue one?”
“No, Sam, I’d like you to do one of the red ones on free-radical mechanism equations. And remember to say please when you ask a question next time.”
“Where are the red ones, please, Mrs. Drayton?”
“Now you’re just being cheeky, Sam. You know that’s not when to say please.” She smiled. Even though everybody just uploaded information now, there were still kids like Sam . “You’ll find the red ones under the title Chemistry.”
E.D.I, where the children were currently learning, was one of the virtual spaces that Holly monitored. Inside, they could process, create and test whatever they had uploaded in a risk-free environment. Holly couldn’t join them in this virtual environment, but she could watch what they were up to and how they were interacting with each other. This was Holly’s least favourite part of her job.
“After you’ve practised all the things you’ve learned from your upload, I’d like you to return to the classroom and get yourselves ready for break-time.” Via a three-dimensional display on her desk, Holly could see some of the kids nodding and smiling. Sam and a few others were already creating practical experiments, and drawing equations in the air around them. Holly sat back in her chair and rubbed her eyes.
“Miss? What are we doing after break?” Arden squeezed Holly’s hand to get her attention.
“If you call everyone else over, we can go in and find out.” Holly smiled as she watched the child run off to let the others know break-time was over. Some of the children still ran around on the green screaming at each other, but most of them just sat on the benches to one side, talking about what they’d learnt over the last few days. She thought they all looked content, sat in the sunshine.
They all came running over once Arden reached them, and when Arden joined the back of the group with the stragglers they all headed back down the steps inside.
“OK, now try that with the person sitting next to you. Remember, you need to convey an understanding of how that person is feeling. And try to be respectful.”
Each child turned to another. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
“My deepest condolences.”
“You have my sympathies.”
“Matthew, try not to smile when you’re giving your condolences. This is a sad time, you need to be sincere.” Holly wandered between the chairs. “That’s good. Good job, Clara. You too, Sam, but make sure to maintain connection with the other person. Look into their eyes or cast your eyes downward. That way they’ll feel like you’re being honest.” She returned to the front of the class.
Arden raised her hand. “Miss? If somebody dies that we didn’t like, do we still have to do this?”
“Arden, that’s rude!” Clara called out from across the class. Arden looked embarrassed.
“No, Clara. It’s ok.” Holly smiled. “It’s best to be honest in any situation, but you should still try to be respectful. If somebody you didn’t like passes away and you’re in a situation like this, it’s best not to say anything, or think of something positive to say about that person.” The class continued like this for some time, with the children practising phrases to utilise, should someone they know die.
“I’m going to ask a personal question now, and if you’d rather not answer that’s ok. Do any of you know anybody that has passed away? Maybe you didn’t know them very well, or maybe you only saw them and never knew them. Anybody?” Holly waited until one or two hands were raised. “Jacques, do you mind telling the class a little bit about that?”
Jacques shuffled in his seat a little before starting. “My grandpa went last year. He was very old, and Mama said that he didn’t like to go to the hospital, so he went in his sleep at home.”
“Thank you for sharing that, Jacques. Can you tell us how that made you feel?”
“I don’t really know, Mrs. Drayton.”
“Well, when your Mum told you, how did you react?”
“I asked her if I could see him, and I gave him a hug. It didn’t feel right because he was getting cold.”
“Ok, could someone else explain why Jacques might want to hug his grandpa?”
Clara put her hand up quickly and then called out. “Because he missed him, and a hug is like saying goodbye.”
“That’s good, Clara, but make sure to wait until I’ve asked you to speak before giving your answer.” Holly laughed. “Does anybody know what Jacques felt like when his grandpa passed away?”
Some of the class nodded. Sam raised his hand, and when Holly pointed to him he said, “It’s a bit like an emptiness. When my Dad went away to America, I felt that. I knew that he wouldn’t come back, and I didn’t want to only see him in pictures. He’s not dead. Just gone.” A hush fell over the class for a moment while the children imagined what Sam and Jacques had felt.
“Thank you for sharing that, Sam, and well done for connecting your experience with Jacques’. I can tell by the looks on some of your faces that you’re quite moved by Sam’s story. I think that’s enough for today. Well done, everybody! You’re all making excellent progress. ”