After Fry's little escapade onto the roof to escape the classroom noise, Mr Magnesium-Fitzgerald went first to grovel to the head, and then consulted Mr Irons for some more guidance.
"I understand what you're trying to do." Mr Irons said. "You want the kids to learn to make their own rules, so that they think and challenge why we do things a certain way. But you can't let them go all Lord of the Flies when you have special needs kids involved. Kids like Fry, and Bethany, they need rules and stability, and they need you to be the adult."
"Bethany's loving it." Mr Mags said.
"She might be loving it now, but if you don't keep her in line she'll struggle to adjust to Mrs Patel's class next year." Mr Irons said. "She might not have a formal diagnosis of ADHD but I can tell you, that little girl needs teaching correctly first time."
"I've got a plan." Mr Mags said. "I'll let you know if it doesn't work."
The next day he calls Fry into the classroom before the start of classes. Fry comes in, a little wary, wondering if he's going to get told off.
"Right." Mr Mags says. "Firstly. You don't go climbing any more ladders or buildings in this school, unless we tell you to, okay?"
"Secondly, sit in your seat for a moment." Mr Mags says.
Fry sits in his seat. He's moved away so that he's out of reach of Ben, but he doesn't want to change tables, so Ben is still pretty close. To his surprise, Mr Mags measures a distance from him, gets out his phone and plays what seems to be some sort of background noise.
"Tell me when this gets too loud." he says, gradually turning it up.
"Now." Fry says.
Mr Mags walks around the other side of the table, measures again, and repeats it. Then he goes over to where Ben sits and repeats it again.
"What is that?" Fry asks, as Mr Mags goes over to the smart board. A collection of little speedometer-like things has appeared at the right hand side.
"Make a noise for me." Mr Mags says.
Fry hesitates, then starts singing a song they're doing in music. He notices the needles on the little dials go up.
"You know how we have attention points?" Mr Mags says. "Which I award to you lot for various things? Every table that keeps the dial under the red line for five minutes gets a point."
Attention points are a bit like credits. Fry doesn't like them as much, because the rules for getting them seem to be more random. But you do get prizes, like sparkly pencils, and this could certainly be useful to him. And he likes the way that your points flash up next to your mini-me on the class screen.
"How does it know which table is making the noise?" he asks.
"Because the detectors are on the ceiling, the same distance from the centre of each table." Mr Mags says. "It doesn't record what you're saying, just the volume. In fact, the software can even tell if the noise is coming from a different table, so you won't lose your points if the next table made the noise over the line."
"That's clever." Fry says.
"Thanks." Mr Mags says. "Now, let's see how long it takes your classmates to figure out how it works."
"You're not going to tell them?" Fry asks.
"Nah. Be patient. By the end of the morning, they'll be quiet as mice." Mr Mags says. "Including Ben."
Fry is doubtful about this. But to his surprise, his classmates spot the dials pretty quickly, and set about trying to work out what they are.
"Hey, table two just got attention points for not doing anything!"
"Our needle went over the line when you yelled that!"
"Say something again, see what happens..."
By the end of the morning, sure enough, everyone is being really quiet.
It doesn't last quite as Fry hoped. Within a couple of days, Ben quickly realises that if his table do go over the meter, that this is the perfect opportunity to make another loud noise, which he decides to do by dropping his desk lid with a BANG. After the third time he does this, seeing not just Fry jump but Joram also, Mr Mags intervenes.
"Whoever's doing that, knock it off."
"Sorry sir, my hand slipped." Ben says.
At the end of the class, Mr Mags calls Fry over again when the others go out for break.
"Mr Mags?" Fry asks, when the others have gone out. "Why do you pretend you keep forgetting everyone's name? I know you know who Ben is."
Mr Mags grins at him.
"You ever pick your nose when nobody is looking?"
Fry blinks. "Yes."
"People don't act the same when they think they're invisible. It shows you who they truly are." Mr Mags says. "Well, most people anyway, you're an exception."
He puts his feet on the table. Fry moves slightly away from them. He doesn't like Mr Mags' horrible hairy feet. Why can't the man wear shoes like everyone else?
"Fry, did Mr Irons ever tell you that whole 'Everyone has a story' thing?"
"Yes." Fry says.
"Want to know the next line?"
"Everyone has a story." Mr Mags says. "But that doesn't give them the right to pick on you." He puts his feet down and leans forward. "Let me tell you something, Fry. In this world, some people are going to be mean to you. When you hit secondary school, you'll probably have a dozen Bens in your life. They will pick on you for being different. And that's NOT okay. And you are going to have to learn how to handle it."
Fry isn't sure what to say to that. Mr Mags continues.
"Some people have problems and act like jerks. Some people just are jerks. You need to learn how to handle either because Fry, in a few years time, you will not be able to run to a teacher without getting a rep as a tattle tale. Now that said, if you want an adult to step in here, now, you just say the word. You can come talk to me about anything. But I also want to arm you with skills to deal with things that are unreasonable and unexpected. Do you understand?"
"So tell me." Mr Mags says. "Ben calls you a baby. What could you do?"
Fry considers this.
"I could ask him to stop."
"Good. What if that doesn't work?"
"I could ignore him." Fry says.
"Right. You could go off to find a friend."
"I could say something back."
"Yes. Though that might make things worse." Mr Mags says. "Because then it becomes an argument. So if you're going to do that, at least try and make it clever and amusing. And if anyone asks, you didn't get that advice from me. If you let Ben get under your skin, he'll see and keep doing it." He picks up his bag of marking. "I don't think Ben is going to do anything really foul to you, so why don't you have a go at fixing it yourself first, and then give me a shout if it doesn't work?"
Fry considers this advice over the course of the rest of the day. Ben lets his desk lid drop another couple of times. Hm. How does he reply to that? Asking him to stop and ignoring him hasn't worked, but what do you say back to that? It's not a word, it's just a noise.
Just at the end of school, as he's packing up his things to go, he suddenly gets an idea. He pretends to need the bathroom, and when he gets back to the classroom everyone else has gone. He goes to the craft drawer and pulls out a big tub of PVA glue, opens Ben's desk, and thoroughly coats the underside of the lid with the glue around where it sits on the bottom half of the desk. Then he carefully puts the lid down, making a rather satisfying 'squish' noise, grabs a paintbrush, and seals any gaps with glue.
He washes the brush, quickly replaces the glue, and runs out to the playground before anyone can catch him.