Symphony 23

“Who are you?”

“I’m Dixie.”

Neil nodded and smiled. “I know your name, Dixie. Now tell me some more. What are your parents’ like? Where do you live? Do you have brothers and sisters? What do you like to do? Tell me some of those things.”


The other hands had gone down, so Neil turned to some papers on his desk and pretended to study them. In fact, he was studying the class as they “worked”, and he found that most of them didn’t work. They stared at their papers or stared out the window or chewed on their pencils. Two of the readers-by-choice sneaked their reading texts open, looking up from time to time to see if Neil was watching. Sabrina Palmer tried to get Tasmeen Kumar’s attention, but Tasmeen was one of the few who was trying hard to write. Lauren Turner and Lydia Ruiz carried on a quiet conversation. Pedro Velasquez flipped a paper wad at Brandy Runyon and she shot him a look that could have killed.

The bell rang. Neil told the students to leave their papers on his desk, and as Pedro came by he said, “Wait.” The other students trooped by, putting their papers on the pile and watching a very uncomfortable Pedro as he waited to one side. When the last one had left, Neil asked, “What did I tell you this morning?”

Pedro shrugged. Neil waited. Finally, Pedro said, “You told me to leave Brandy alone.”

“And did you?”

“Well, she’s always bugging me.”

“And I suppose you never bug her? Pedro, in my class, every student has the right to learn. It doesn’t matter if that student makes As or Ds, he or she still has the right to learn as much as she can. Do you understand?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I’m sure Brandy didn’t find it easy to write the paper I assigned today. Do you think you made it any easier by throwing paper wads at her?”

Pedro scuffed his feet and said, “No.”

“Pedro, if you bug people and keep them from working, you are going to be in big trouble with me. Do you understand?”

Pedro nodded.

“Okay, scoot.”

Pedro was gone like a shot.

Neil sorted out the papers of the students he had observed. On Lauren’s and Lydia’s he wrote in red, “You would have written more if you hadn’t spent all your time talking!” He made similar comments on half a dozen other papers, including, “I appreciate the way you ignored interruptions,” on Tasmeen’s paper.

When he actually started to read the papers, a chill went through him. Five of the sheets were completely blank. Another seven had no more than one misspelled and unpunctuated sentence. He counted the papers and checked them against his class list. Five students had sneaked out without turning in papers. Only thirteen students had actually tried to do the assignment, and their work started at very bad and ranged downward from there.

Richard Lujan had written: “My nam is Richrd Lujan    I am twelve years   I hav two brothers and a cat”

Rosa Alvarez had written: “My name is Rosa    My mother works for a bank and my Father works in the fields     I hav  two sisters younger than me and i don’t hav no brothers”

Oscar Teixeira, the boy who had made five years of  excellent scores and one year of zero on his yearly test, simply said: “I am Oscar Teixeira and I am very smart” 

Well, maybe. more Monday


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