Daniel adjusted his tie one last time before climbing out of his truck and heading toward the school entrance. The guard escorted him to the principal's office where he was immediately ushered into the office.
“Dr. Jackson, we're pretty excited to have you on the faculty.” Dr. Sorens waved toward a chair.
“Please, call me Daniel.”
“Okay, here's your ID, your security badge.” Daniel slipped the lanyard around his neck. “Are you ready to get started?”
“A bit nervous, to be honest.”
“Well,” Dr. Sorens led the way down the hall. “I think all teachers have that first day butterfly. You'll be using Mrs. Tomas' classroom; she's going to sit in with you the first few days, at least until you get the feel of it.” They stopped in front of a door and Daniel took another deep breath. “You'll be fine.”
He knocked before ushering Daniel in. “Mrs. Tomas, students, this is Dr. Daniel Jackson. He will be teaching French and Spanish this year. We hope to expand that next year, depending on what other languages you show an interest in.”
“Class.” Mrs. Tomas rose.
“Good morning, Dr. Jackson,” they chorused in Spanish.
“Good morning, I'm glad to be here,” Daniel answered back.
“Dr. Jackson, you've seen the syllabus, you know where the students are.”
“I have and thank you for letting me step in.”
“Oh, it's a pleasure. I'll be using this as a planning period, plus we have some students who are going to exchange in Spain next year so we'll be having some conversational Spanish lessons. Hopefully, you can sit in on a few of those.”
“I'd love to,” Daniel turned to the class. “Okay, I'll tell you a little about myself and maybe we can get better acquainted.” He had simplified his rather complicated resume and quickly ran through it. “Okay, now, do you have any questions?”
Several hands shot up, Daniel pointed to the first one he'd seen. “Hi, my name is Michael and I'm nine years old. Do you know that they have apps that you can put on your phone and it translates all kinds of languages?”
Mrs. Tomas rolled her eyes at Daniel. “Yes, Michael, in fact, I have the translator on my phone. I spent the summer in France and I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to converse. So I take it you don't really think you need to study other languages, that you can just whip your phone out and converse with anyone?”
Michael nodded. “I mean, they have like every foreign language on there.”
Daniel boosted himself up to sit on the desk. “I believe that when you say 'foreign', you mean other Earth languages? You do know there are other ...let's use the term 'people' out there? Well, those languages are not on there. Let me give you an example. I was taken hostage on a planet by a creature called an Unas. He didn't speak English and I didn't speak Unas but I figured out pretty quickly that if I didn't figure out how to communicate with him, it was not going to end well. I wanted to get him to a place where he saw me as a human, as another creature and not just a hostage to be presented as a symbol of his cunning and courage.”
“It's not just translating another language.” Another little voice piped up.
“You're right....?” Daniel prompted.
“Mai-Lee. And it's not enough to translate. My dad says that taking the time to learn the other person's language means you respect their culture, where their ancestors came from.”
Daniel beamed. “Your father is right. Anyone can whip out their phone and hold a 'conversation' with someone else. But to take the time to learn, to sit down and figure out who that other person is and where they came from shows that you understand why it's important that we learn other languages.”
“Can you teach us that language? In case we get to go to other planets and meet an Unas?” Mai-Lee carefully pronounced the word.
“Okay,” Daniel hopped down and grabbed the marker, writing two letters on the whiteboard. “The first word I learned to say in Unas was 'ka'. It means 'no'.”
Jack grabbed a water and headed through the house. “Hey, BJ” he stooped to pet the dog. “Where's Daddy?” BJ pranced into the living room and jumped up on the couch beside Daniel, whose face was currently hidden by a cushion. Jack whipped the cushion away, kissed Daniel and covered him back up. “And how was your first day of school?” He sat, pulled Daniel's feet into his lap. “Want a foot rub?”
“You know what language those kids want to learn?” The cushion muffled the words.
“Uh,” Jack plundered through his memory. Had Daniel even told him what class he was teaching? Surely he'd said something? “Spanish?”
“Unas!” Daniel flung the cushion to the floor. “They want to learn Unas in case they run into one.”
“You should take them a picture of one. That'll cure them of that pretty damn quick.”
“I finally just put my foot down and said that I would only teach them Unas if they learned Spanish.”
Jack grinned. He'd figured that these kids would walk all over Daniel. At least at first. Once Daniel figured out the secret would be treating them like an alien race, he'd be okay. “Pretty smart, are they?”
“Oh, God, you have no idea! I'm pretty sure I didn't know half that much at that age.”
“They're what...ten...eleven? How many languages did you speak by that times?”
“Um....okay, a dozen or so, I guess.”
“This might be the internet generation, Daniel, but they don't know a fraction of what you can teach them.”
“I guess.” Daniel said uncertainly.
Jack wisely said nothing about the college classes Daniel would soon be teaching. There were bound to be more than a few co-eds who would soon be sighing over their new professor. Best to let Daniel find that one out all on his own.