Why is the narrator somewhat shocked by his visit to the first class?To Sir With Love by E. R. Braithwaite

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

After talking with Headmaster Florian, Mr. Braithwaite descends the stairs and pauses outside the first of the classrooms when a tall red-headed girl nearly collides with him.  Curious, Mr. Braithwaite enters the classroom where students are gathered around each other; for a short time, no one notices his presence.

Braithwaite is surprised at their casual postures and rather untidy appearance as the girls are dressed in too-long clinging skirts and too-tight sweaters.  One of the students asks, "Are you the new teacher?" while another rudely quips, "Are you taking Old Hack's place?"  To these questions, Mr. Braithwaite excuses himself saying, "I think I'll look in at the staffroom," and leaves.  Clearly, he is shocked by this exchange with students.  For, his vision of a classroom is the traditional one:  neat, straight rows of desks, and well-mannered and neat students.  With the memory of what he has just seen, Braithwaite wonders what kind of teacher Hackman has been.  As he heads toward the staffroom, he re-encounters the auburn-haired young woman with whom he has had the close encounter, and he realizes the import of Mr. Florian's comment that things are certainly different around this school.