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Mr. Florian is the somewhat eccentric headmaster that we are introduced to in Chapter One of this moving story about education. He presides over Greenslade Secondary School, which is somewhat unorthodox in its academic approach, as we come to discover. Note the first description that the author gives us of his headmaster:
Behind a large desk sat a small man whose large head was decorated with a fine crop of carefully groomed curly white hair; the face was either tanned or olive-skinned, lean with high cheekbones and surprisingly smooth, as if the youthfulness which had deserted his hair had found permanent accommodation around the aquiline nose and full senuous mouth; his brown eyes were large, slightly protuding, and seemed filled with a kind of wonder, as if he were on the verge of some new and exciting discovery.
Note the way this description points out the enthusiasm of Mr. Florian and his child-like curiosity. It also perhaps foreshadows the alternative methods that he adopts in his school, as discipline is very different and the school is made up of children that would be regarded as "difficult." Mr. Florian however shows real compassionate concern and understanding of his students and the kind of challenges they face in their homes, including lack of proper nutrition, sleep and the stigma of being labelled a failure. He is committed to student-staff interaction that treats students with the respect they deserve.
Headmaster Florian is your typical school administrator. He is not necessarily against the students, but understands that the students are an active group that drove the last teacher to leave. He is a bit leery of Braithwaite's desire to really work with the kids on a real world level and treat them as adults. He is not as jaded as the other teachers that are in the staff room that deride the students, but he is the one who is left to clean up all of the messes that the students make. He understands the challenges in working with the kids. He is the one who understands that they are rejects from other schools and that this rejection has cast an impression of being discarded, something they project onto themselves and the adults who have worked with them. At the same time, he also understands that this is precisely what makes it difficult to work with them. Florian's administrative position creates a sense of distance between he and the children. This is precisely what we get from Florian throughout the work, in that he is distant from the children, examining the issues of liability and challenge than anything else. Certainly, the ending where Braithwaite's efforts had paid off encourages him to believe in what can be done.
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