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The New Old Teacher by Armando94

Tony had graduated college that spring, bittersweet that those good old glory days were coming to an end. The endless nights of partying or studying, the countless trips made with friends new and old, and everything in between that happens when you transition from your teens into the next decade of your life: your twenties. Tony was fearful of his twenties because that was when reality would finally sink in, the time to become a real adult. Not the "adults" that they all were in college. College you were still in that nice bubble that could easily remove you from the real world. Once Tony crossed that stage, however, he knew that adulthood would finally settle in, for better or worse.

However, most would say Tony had nothing to be afraid of. He graduated with honors, no penalties or late fees from books or papers, was able to still have a blast with all his friends the last few weeks and especially senior week, and he had a trip planned with his family and his girlfriend after graduation at the end of May when she would wrap up and graduate school too. The only thing that made Tony most nervous was getting a job. Granted, he was planning on living at home (as pretty much all his friends were save for those moving across the country or to different states with not easily accessible commuting access) but that still wasn’t enough. Luckily, he had a few opportunities in the works. You see, Tony had majored in education and had done a lot of observations and student teaching during his time at college. To his surprise, he preferred working in the elementary sector of schooling. Not that he wouldn’t have minded high school but for some reason it never grasped him in the same way as the others did.

So, coming out of graduation, he had three top options he had been interviewing and speaking with. One was as a kindergarten teacher about half an hour from his parents, not too bad. But maybe that young of an age could still be a challenge. The second option was as a seventh grade teacher not too far away. However, it was his rival middle school growing up though so that felt strange, but a job is a job. But the number one position he was really gunning for was a fourth grade teacher at the elementary school he went to. Fourth grade was also around the time that kids would switch for certain classes, like math or science or social studies. The position he was going for was actually for his old social studies teacher, Mr. Vine. Now in his mid forties, Mr. Vine was making the move to be a principal at a different school. The opportunity was obviously great and Tony could only hope one day he could do the same. It was a surprise to Tony when he heard about Mr. Vine’s position being open, one of the secretaries at the school was a mom of one of Tony’s oldest friends. She told him to tell Tony about the open post a couple months back, and that Mr. Vine was planning to leave for his new position after the end of this year. Tony got right into contact with him over his spring break and came in for a visit…

It felt extremely strange to be back in this building. Tony had not been here probably since he graduated from fifth grade. Everything felt much smaller! But, for some odd reason, he knew exactly where to go. Also because Mr. Vine still had the same classroom he did twelve years ago when Tony was a student of his. After checking in at the office and getting his visitor badge, he made his way to the old classroom. Mr. Vine was expecting him towards the end of the day so when Tony knocked on the door and he ushered for him to come in, the students in the class were excited for the distraction.

"Everyone, I want you to meet one of my old students," Mr. Vine introduced Tony to the class. He talked to them about how long ago Tony was a student of his. Mr. Vine also allowed Tony to talk about his college experience and that he was hoping to become a teacher himself. The kids asked very basic questions that Tony was able to answer until Mr. Vine gave the five minute warning that they needed to clean up and pack up their things so that they’d be ready for the bell. Tony helped the kids with cleaning up and a few of them waved goodbye to him when they finally were released for the day.

Then it was just the old teacher and old student in the classroom. Tony first said, "Thanks so much for having me in again Mr. Vine."

"Please, you can call me David now, Tony." They both laughed at that and shook hands like real men. Mr. Vine asked Tony more about his college experience and if he was excited to graduate. Tony talked him through all the typical emotions a senior would have at this point, and all the stresses that come with it before and after the commencement day. All the while, when delivering his monologue, Mr. Vine was looking back at Tony paying attention to it all. And Tony couldn’t stop looking at…his haircut. It was still the same look he had all those years ago. He only looked like he aged a few years if Tony was being honest. The hair was all still intact, not thinning or at least showing signs of that. Mr. Vine always had his hair gelled to a perfect pomp and flip in the front. But it wasn’t huge and over done. No, his haircut was still pretty short, perfectly cut by scissors and accenting the natural waves in Mr. Vine’s hair through the product massaged in.

"Well, from the sound of it you definitely have your whole life in order, now its just about getting that job I suppose," Mr. Vine remarked. "Don’t worry, I’m willing to help you out in any way I can to push your application along. So long as you want to have this position."

"More than anything Mr. Vi—I mean David," Tony flushed red. "I just know that I am definitely going to have a lot of competition for this post."

"I won’t lie to you about that, there most likely will be. But you’ve got the experience and nearly there with the degree, you just need to be confident. Oh, and professional of course. If you really want this position. Plus, I wouldn’t mind leaving you with half these supplies and decorations since I won’t need them anymore!"

That relieved Tony a lot, if Mr. Vine believed in him and wanted to help, that was a major plus. He would just need to do all the necessary work for the application once it was posted. The two men went and grabbed coffee near the school where they were able to further discuss the position more and what Tony would need to do or say in his application to stand out as an applicant. It was great to have help for this, but Tony also knew not to put all his eggs in one basket…

Going back to school for the last eight or so weeks, Tony definitely kicked it into gear how he was going to attack all his applications and potential interviews. He focused on this along with his last studies, was better about going to the gym and what he ate. Tony definitely would be first to admit he had put on some weight but now he could lose a bit and sculpt the rest to seem more muscular. Spending a couple hours at the gym everyday, he saw progress in his physique almost immediately and progress in his stress level. He felt happier and healthier too! This definitely kept him mentally in check. He also was shaving his face more regularly, since college dog days were almost over. Tony and his friends would show each other their applications and cover letters and what not for all the places they were applying to for work after school. They all knew that it would be difficult and that some places want to hire immediately or others do not put out their dates for a while. Luckily, Mr. Vine’s position was posted at the beginning of April and he was kind enough to email Tony about it when the school let him know they posted his position online. Before that, Mr. Vine had already been very helpful with giving Tony tips about what to expect with the application process.

By May, that was when Tony had narrowed down to the three job options mentioned earlier. They were the ones who had been in contact with him and wanted him to come in for interviews. They understood that he was graduating soon but luckily he went to a state school and wasn’t terribly far from home, so he was able to make it work amongst his minimal amount of finals. And he still had the week after graduation between vacation to go on interviews. That’s when he had the interview for Mr. Vine’s position. He felt confident, dressed in a nice shirt and tie combo with dress pants, had copies of his resumes and references at the ready. He was totally ready to knock it out of the park! So when he interviewed with the school board as well as the principal and vice principal, everything went over swimmingly. The only thing that Tony felt bad about was his appearance. Yes the outfit was fine, and he definitely was looking a lot more trim and fit than a couple months before when he visited the school. His hair was only "O.K." if it really were left to a judge to decide. Typical medium-length hair for a guy his hair, parted appropriately and smoothed down as well. It didn’t look bad, but Tony probably should have gotten his hair trimmed that week. He had the time after all, now with school being done and he should have gotten one before vacation in a few days.

But it didn’t matter, they were all super pleased with him and wanted him to come back in a few weeks to do a demo. They reached out a couple days after saying all this and so Tony immediately emailed Mr. Vine to let him know the good news. He was so excited for him as well, telling him he knew he would do great on the interview. Now all that mattered was the demo, which Mr. Vine was willing to help him with. Tony would have to prepare a lesson based on whatever the board decided they wanted him to teach a class on. Then it would be in front of Mr. Vine’s class as well as Mr. Vine and the principal and others. Definitely nerve wracking but to have the actual teacher helping him out, he still felt very good about all this. Mr. Vine told Tony to relax and enjoy his week vacation and when he came back they would go over everything to help him get ready.

Once back from vacation, looking quite tan from all the sun, Tony and Mr. Vine coordinated when they would discuss everything for the lesson demo and to go over any other questions Tony had. When they were discussing all this on the phone one night, Tony asked Mr. Vine a random question, "Hey, can I ask you something? It might be a bit off the beaten path."

"Sure, go on," the teacher replied.

Tony didn’t know if he should ask this or not, but he figured why not, "How do you think I look? I mean, I know you talked to me about being professional and all, do you think I am?"

"Absolutely, they definitely would not have proceeded with you even if you were great to talk with at the first interview. Professionalism is key especially on an interview of all things. Why do you ask?"

"I don’t know, I just wasn’t so sure if I looked, you know, too much like a college kid or anything. I’ve definitely not allowed myself to let my scruff grow in too much, and I don’t know if its my hair like if it looks too boy-like and I’ve outgrown it. Maybe I’m not making any sense."

Mr. Vine laughed and said, "How about we grab some coffee this Saturday. You have the demo on Monday so maybe a bit of pep talking in person will help you out, sound good?"

"Yeah, sounds good, I appreciate it David."

"Alright, sounds good, talk to you later and get some rest. You have some important things coming up this weekend and week. Goodnight Tony."

"Okay, goodnight David," and the two hung up after having gone for over an hour over what Tony was planning on doing for the teachers demo.

Saturday arrived and Tony met Mr. Vine at the coffee shop near the school. They talked about other things than the demo coming up next week. They talked about college, talked about sports, talked about Tony’s vacation, his girlfriend who he’d been with for three years, talked about Mr. Vine’s wife and kids. They pretty much did not discuss teaching itself! It was relaxing for Tony, a nice breather away from everything else they had been getting along with. After sitting there and relaxing for what was definitely over an hour, Mr. Vine sat up from his chair and said, "Come on, let’s go for a drive."

"But we came in separate cars," Tony remarked.

"Just leave yours here for now, I don’t think they will tow it. There’s plenty of parking here." And so the two were off and into Mr. Vine’s car, he was thinking of maybe getting a new one next year once he was officially in his promoted position. They drove off from this strip mall for about ten minutes across town until they were another ten minutes from that into a different town. They pulled into another strip mall now and parked the car. Then Mr. Vine got out of the car and Tony followed in suit. When he turned around, closing the passenger door, he got a better glimpse of all the different storefronts at this strip. He almost instantly knew what he was in for when he saw the one smack in the middle staring back at him as well as the spinning pole on the outside. "Ron’s Barber Shop" the sign said across the top.

"Come on," Mr. Vine said, "we don’t want to be late," slapping Tony’s back to get moving. Late? Late for what? Was this all planned?

"I’m confused, late for what," Tony foolishly responded.

"You were the one going on the other night about not being sure and all about your look, specifically your haircut. I’m here to help you with that, or, Ron is here to help you with that I should say."

"You were able to get an appointment that quick?"

"Of course I could, he’s my brother after all," Mr. Vine laughed. Mr. Vine was one of five kids and he was the oldest, and his youngest brother Ron was in his mid to late thirties, and was the same Ron that owned this barbershop.

The two of them entered the shop and Tony was instantly hit with the scent of after shave, tonics, and that barbecide. He made sure his nose didn’t turn in disgust because he didn’t find it disgusting either. It just was extremely strong! Of course everyone at the shop knew Mr. Vine, calling him David too. In the first chair was someone around Tony’s age getting his haircut by none other than Ron himself.

Ron said, "I’ll be with you real soon, nice to meet you Tony," Tony smiled back casually and then Mr. Vine directed him to wait on the bench with him as if they could have been a father-son duo. Not too long after waiting, Ron was finished up with his client and he was saying to Tony, "Ready whenever you are."

Tony hopped up from the bench and walked right up, shaking hands with Ron and officially introducing themselves to each other now. Then Tony took a seat and was caped up by the huge white sheet. "So my brother told me your going after his job?"

"Yes," Tony responded, "Well, not like I want to take it from him, but you know he’s going to be a principal—"

"I know, I’m messing with you," Ron laughed and Mr. Vine laughed from the bench too.

"Go easy on him will ya?" Mr. Vine said. "Today is supposed to be relaxing."

"Alright brother," Ron said. "What were we thinking today Tony? David? Any input from you?"

"What do you think Tony?" Mr. Vine asked.

"Well, I know you mentioned I need to look professional and look the part. And I wasn’t really planning on getting a haircut, when I should have though. So whatever you guys think?" Tony sounded a bit unsure and hesitant himself.

"Well, we can definitely take the bulk of this hair off," Ron said as he felt both sides of Tony’s head with his respective hands. "That will help show your face frame, accent it and all. Plus the shorter hair will make you look mature and older."

"How short do you suggest?" Tony asked.

"I’ll go as short as you think we should go."

Then Tony had an idea, and turned around in the chair to look over at Mr. Vine, "Say, David, what do you think about me getting your haircut?"

"Seriously? You want to look like me," the teacher was in total shock. He laughed to himself a bit and said, "Well, I’m not gonna say no, I’ll take the compliment. Ron, you know what to do."

"Taking his job, and his hairstyle," Ron joked with Tony. At least this made him laugh this time and eased him into the chair. Ron took a spray bottle and began to wet down Tony’s head, then a pair of scissors and began to remove the bulk from the sides and back of Tony’s hair. He asked Tony about college and other stuff as he would to any other new client. All the while, Tony was looking back at the mirror and seeing the clumps of brown hair land on the stark white cape around his body.

Once most the hair was removed and there was a noticeable difference in Tony’s appearance, then Ron began to really pay close attention to how he was going to groom this head of hair to match his brothers. It was going to get a lot shorter and have to be a lot more precise. He went between thinning shears to using texturizing scissors. All to make sure that the hair was getting the proper trims. The top also needed to be attacked too, lots of hair falling off from here. And Tony’s forelock, when wet down and combed out passed beyond his nose, was severely chopped. Just a few quick crunches and the deed was done. Tony even felt himself jump a bit in his seat.

"That definitely needed to go," Ron stated and laughed a bit. Tony chuckled a bit too to make it less awkward between barber and client.

"Looking good already," Mr. Vine said from the bench, inspecting the work.

Ron continued to work on the top, thinning it out here and there, texturing this section and that. Until finally, it all seemed to be congruent and to his liking so far. So, Ron got a blow dryer and began to work it with his hands through Tony’s head. At this point, feeling the barbers head directly on his skull, Tony noticed just how much hair he really had lost! It felt strange, he hadn’t had his haircut this short in a long while. Maybe not since he was a kid even. But this was different, because he did not look like a kid anymore.

After the blow drying was done, Tony expected it to be styling time. Instead, Ron pumped one of the gears on the chair to make it go down, and then reclined it so Tony was lying out instead of upright. "If your gonna nail this interview, might as well get a proper shave, right?"

"That’s a good thought," Mr. Vine said from his seat. "I hadn’t even thought of that."

"One step ahead of you brother, this is my job after all."

Tony had a faint smudge of scruff across his face so a shave would be fine, he would have done it himself at home the night before the demo. However, he had never had a wet shave before, when Ron asked him if he had. He was in for a real treat. First, the hot towels came around him and BAM was that a different feeling. Tony felt his eyes pop out for sure. This was definitely a part of the relaxing bit of the day that he needed. Then another towel was applied around the top of his head too, no wonder they hadn’t styled it yet. Then Ron firmly massaged the toweled head around and around until the heat from it slowly subsided and it was time to get going with the wet shave. First was the application of the shaving cream, not too thick and not too thin. When Ron came at Tony with the straight razor, he realized then and there how different this shave would be from one of his disposable plastic ones. Ron pulled at the skin and ever so slightly removed the bits of hair around Tony’s cheeks, then his chin, and then his upper lip. He also edged out around the front line of Tony’s hair. He mentioned, "We’ll do your neck and nape after, don’t worry." Tony couldn’t wait for how that would feel. Then it was drying off the face with some more hot towels, and then applying some sort of rubbing alcohol thing (Tony wasn’t sure) around where he had been shaved.

Then the chair was propped back up and Tony was able to see his reflection. Of course he’d shaved his face before but he had never felt like it made his face look so clean! This truly was different. Then Ron got out a pair of clippers and began tapering the sides and back of Tony’s hair. Not to the skin, that was one thing Tony noticed about Mr. Vine. He didn’t have a skin fade but the sides and backs and the sideburns were tapered ever so slightly but definitely still noticeable when freshly cut. The rest of the hair was where you could see the tussled waves of hair gelled in.

Then Ron applied some hot lathering cream around the neckline and arches around Tony’s ears and sideburns. Not severely taking them up high, just cleaning them up and perfectly outlining the haircut. Now it would really stand out as sharp. Finally, it was time to add product into the hair, and he took a goop of stuff and threw it on top of Tony’s head before shoving it this way and that throughout the head. Then he would finely with two fingers works strands into strands to give it that wave look that Mr. Vine wore with his haircut. Up and down, wave here and curl there, and in the front making it stand up. Tony was able to watch all this in the mirror, getting an idea of how he was going to have to style it himself for Monday, and eventually for the rest of his life (or most of it)!

Once it all seemed agreeable and to Ron’s liking, he took out a handheld mirror, showed Tony what his hair looked like from behind. Perfect, just like how the front looked, and when Tony turned to the sides they were twins of each other. "Look good?" Ron asked his client.

"Awesome, why didn’t I do this sooner," Tony heard himself say. This made both Ron and David laugh. Ron grabbed a duster and brushed Tony down before releasing the cape from around his body. When Tony stood up, he felt like a new man. He was still Tony, but just new and improved! He turned around and walked over to Mr. Vine who smiled back at him.

"I can’t believe you did that."

"Me neither!" Tony really was shocked he did too.

"Well, suits you well," Mr. Vine said. "If all goes well Monday, which I’m hopeful about, the students next year might think Mr. Vine never left!"

"Especially if Mr. Vine lets me have his old classroom decorations."

"Yes, yes, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves young man!" The two of them laughed and went up to the front with Ron to pay for the haircut. Mr. Vine said it was on him this time, "But I expect then that you will become a loyal client of my brothers."

"Yes sir, I mean David."

"Once a month at least, I want to see you in my chair," Ron said. "That’s how I like my clients best."

"You can count on that then," Tony said. And then Tony and Mr. Vine were off, they had to go get Tony his car after all. But they stopped for some lunch first which was nice. Then Mr. Vine wanted to make sure Tony got home and rested up the rest of the weekend, especially the next day because after that would be Monday, the big day. Good thing they still had Sunday tomorrow, because when Tony went out for dinner that Saturday night with his girlfriend, well, let’s just say it was a good thing that his parents had gone out late that night too and weren’t home for a good while, and that Tony’s girlfriend was already gone by then too.

Eventually, Monday rolled around and Tony got up early to make sure he could shower and get his hair all in check, plus eat a good breakfast. He had laid out his clothes for the demo the night before. Putting on a pair of nice chinos, a light blue button down shirt and pale pink tie to match it all. As he was styling and adding product to his hair that morning, he got the sense that all this could become a routine come the fall, if things worked out for him today. He ate some eggs and toast with OJ to drink. Again, he could get used to all this. Maybe not a gourmet breakfast every morning, but still.

Tony was the first of three prospective candidates to give the demos today. Better to be first he thought, get it over with and help set the tone or impress the best. The students in Mr. Vine’s class were already aware of what was going on today, but they were treating it as if they were getting three substitute teachers in the morning before lunch time. Mr. Vine would sit by his desk during the demo, and in the back row were the principal, the vice principal, a guidance counselor, and someone from the superintendent’s office. This definitely felt like America’s Got Talent or something, but Tony wasn’t afraid. He felt confident from all the pep talks with Mr. Vine, how well he had performed on his first interview, and his fresh cut to boot. Luckily, no one made a comment about him and the current teacher having matching haircuts, maybe it would have been totally apparent if David had hopped in Ron’s chair that Saturday too after Tony’s cut.

All in all, the demo seemed to be going well. Especially because all the kids in the class were totally engaged with Tony, or Mr. A to them. They wanted to participate, or ask questions, even when they might have been the wrong questions to ask. The kids didn’t goof off which was a major plus. And the entire back row seemed pleasant throughout the duration of the hour of the demo. None made a face, all just here and there taking notes throughout it. So was Mr. Vine, but Tony knew his might be a bit bias too.

Finally, it was all over, and Tony couldn’t have been more relieved. Not that teaching wore him out, but this was a different kind. He was really being judged and graded for this as if he were the student. Then the students were able to have a little break while Tony was cleaning up his things, a few kids offering to help him which was actually really nice and surprising. Mr. Vine then came over and offered to help so the kids could go play, "Nice job," he said in Tony’s ear. "Didn’t speak too fast and didn’t say many ‘umm’ if I heard correct."

"Good, I hear that something that kills people in interviews," Tony added.

Then Tony thanked the panel and they thanked him, but he had to get going because the next candidate would be starting in less than twenty minutes now. So Tony brought his things out to the car after checking out with the front office. He drove over to the coffee shop they had become familiar with frequenting and got himself a cup and relaxed in one of the booths while looking over his notes and writing down his thoughts on how it all went. He didn’t overthink it but he definitely wanted to process and go over it all. He went home eventually and figured he should just continue to take his mind off things so he continued his binge of a TV show that was coming out with a new season that summer. He made himself some lunch later and continued to veg out at home while his parents were at work and his other siblings were in school or at their summer jobs. Tony was going to work for a friend’s family’s restaurant. But he hadn’t had too many hours so far, since he was busy with his interviews and applications.

He texted Mr. Vine asking if they could talk on the phone later that night to get his feedback on how the demo went. When he got the call after 8 PM, he was both nervous and excited to hear Mr. Vine’s official thoughts. Picking up the phone hesitantly and starting out the conversation cool and collected, asking David how the rest of the day went with the candidates and the board. Then honing in on how his performance had been. Mr. Vine was happy overall with his performance and said that the panel was definitely interested in Tony for sure, the kids interaction with him was a huge plus to his scoring for sure. Obviously Mr. Vine didn’t have the final results and he wouldn’t give them up to Tony either. He told him to just be patient and that since this was the final stages of the process, an answer should happen by the end of the week. All Tony needed to do was relax and be patient and let fate take its turn.

So Tony did, he hung around at home doing chores for his parents or running errands for his siblings, or hanging out with friends and picking up a few shifts waiting tables now that he felt he could and it would be a good distraction. It wasn’t until Friday right before noon when Tony was about to go on a break at the restaurant that he saw he had an incoming call. The area code was from this county so he quickly picked it up hoping for the best. "Hullo?" he said real fast.

It was the school principal, asking if this was Tony. They had the vice principal in their office with them at that moment as well and they wanted to know how Tony was doing that day. Small talk back and forth the first fifteen seconds or so, thanking him for coming in the other day for the demo, briefly discussing their thoughts on his performance.

"That being said, we would like to offer you the position for this role," Tony couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He was overjoyed and so excited he had to bite his tongue from hooting and hollering. "Now, we know we are coming at you with an offer on the weekend so definitely take some time to think it over and let us know your thoughts by Monday if you could. But we would really like to extend you the offer, after meeting with you and two other final candidates. You definitely would bring something to the table and the classroom. We were most impressed by you and have high hopes and expectations for you."

"Can I say yes now?" Tony prematurely asked.

The principal and vice principal laughed on the other end of the line. The vice principal, now speaking for the first time, she chimed in saying, "You can, but let us know for sure on Monday. We would be happy to have you on staff. And I know David Vine would be happy for you to take over his role."

The phone call eventually ended and Tony was so excited, he texted his parents and siblings first, then a couple of his buddies, and of course his girlfriend. Then he realized he needed to text one specific person for sure. He texted Mr. Vine asking him if he could talk, and the response he got back was "How about we meet up for coffee after I’m finished at school?"

This time, Tony paid for the coffee in celebration of the job offer and as a thank you to Mr. Vine, for all he did to help him. "I can’t thank you enough," he said after a long stream of endearing words as they sat across from each other. Then Tony grazed his hand against the back of his head and along down to the taper of his neck.

"I can’t think of anyone better to take over my spot, one of my own students from the past. You’ll love the position and I’m sure next years kids will love having you as a teacher."

The rest of the summer Tony was able to kick back and relax before the start of his new job. He worked at the restaurant, went on a few weekend trips when he could, and also began to make lesson plans and get supplies together for his classroom. David was always a phone call or text away to ask questions or see if there was anything he could have from his old room. When Tony began decorating his classroom at the end of August, that’s when everything came together and fell into place. It was all actually starting to happen and he couldn’t be anymore excited.

One last thing though, on the Wednesday afternoon/evening, the day before school really started. Tony and David made sure they paid a visit to Ron’s so they were both looking fresh for their first days of their new jobs, haircuts and face shaves, the works! They didn’t visit the barbershop together all the time, and Tony had kept his promise of going about every four weeks. But this was for something special, something new for both of them. And of course, it was all Mr. Vine’s help for getting Tony to the place he was now. One of the new fourth grade teachers.

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