Probably all of them had; a third of them remembered it well enough to raise their hands.
“Who can tell me what their previous teacher told them at evaluation time?”
Tony Caraveli thought he could remember. Neil distrusted the devilish look in his eye, but told him to go ahead.
“Make me look good!” Tony said.
The children all laughed, but it had a nervous and restrained sound. Bill Campbell did not react, which made them more nervous. Neil said, “Whoever told you that was probably joking. Who else can tell me?”
Sabrina said, “Ms. Thompson told us to just be ourselves and act like there wasn’t anyone in the room.”
“Good. That is just what I want you to do. Ignore Mr. Campbell; it won’t hurt his feelings.”
This time the children’s laughter was more relaxed, and Bill acknowledged it with a wave of his hand.
Neil read to his class for twenty minutes from The House Without a Christmas Tree. He led a discussion about the story, and from that drew the children into talking about how their families celebrated the season. Neil made notes from their discussion on the chalkboard, then told them to write a paper on Christmas in their homes.
Bill left at the end of the hour. The instant he was gone, Greg Ellis’ hand shot up. “Mr. McCrae,” he demanded in honest concern, “how can you stand that?”
Neil had to grin. “Greg, I stand that for exactly the same reason you take math tests. Because I have to. But, believe me, it’s no fun!”
When he checked his mailbox at noon, there was a neatly hand written summary of Bill Campbell’s evaluation. At the bottom, he had written, “Generally a good lesson. Next time, I want to hear the children read!”
Neil thought, You just think you do!
# # #
Neil’s lesson plan had been worthwhile but unexceptional. He had not intended for it to be earth shaking, but when he sat at home that night reading the papers, he found that he had cut close to the bone.
Casey Kruger wrote:
We don’t hav Christmas at our house. My parents say that it is a peagan rittul. Jesus was born in a stabul and din’t have any presents, so we don’t have any present either. I wish we did.
I would really like to have a real Christmas this year.
Lauren Turner wrote:
Every year we go to my granmas house for christmas. she has a great big living room where we all put our presents. I get presents from my mom and dad but nobody else gives them to me. I mean I get presents, but my brother always gets twice as many and they are always neater than mine and i don’t think its fair ! ! ! !
Oscar Teixeira wrote:
My Dad gets me chemistry sets and sport shirts and ties and last year he got me a calculator. What I really want is a baseball mitt and a football.
Stephanie Hagstrom’s paper was well written, in beautiful handwriting, and decorated with candy canes in all four corners. She detailed what presents she got last year, told how happy she was to have Christmas with her parents, and told what she expected to get this year.
Rosa Alvarez’s paper was not so well written, although it showed great progress for her. It said:
This year I don’t think we will have much of a Chirstmas because my Daddy has lost his job and Mommy’s job at the bank doesn’t give us much money. My Oldest brother has gone back to Mexico, but Daddy said that what money we have will go to buy toys for the little kids. That’s OK, I don’t mind.