Symphony 69

(Continuing Stephanie’s response.)

But sometimes I guess they don’t have much choice. Like if they have lost their jobs and they don’t have much money. I think it would be sad to live like that and I am glad my Daddy has a good job so we can live in a nice house and have nice things.

Your class made me see what it would be like to not have anything and to see other people get things. I wouldn’t like that, but I guess I needed to see it, so thank you Mr. McCrae for showing me.

Rosa had written:

We used to have a lot at Christmas until my daddy lost his job, but we are still luky I guess cause we have more than some other poeple have  We hav plenty to eat even if it is beans alot of the time. I like beans anyway  and if I don’t get nothing for chirismas this year thats alright because I got a lot last year.

It would be easy, Neil thought, to see Stephanie as spoiled and Rosa as some kind of angel, but that wasn’t so. They were both just sweet eleven year old girls who hadn’t had much experience in the world. Giving them some of that experience was Neil’s job.

# # #

Bill Campbell showed up for a surprise evaluation on Monday the fifth. He came in as the tardy bell was ringing and said, “I want to see the children read. If this isn’t the hour you have it scheduled, tell me and I will come back, but I want to see it today.”

Neil said, “I normally read to them for about ten minutes and then they read.”

Campbell sat down at the back of the class and waited, clipboard in hand.

Neil went ahead with the morning’s work. He read to them for ten minutes, then told them to get out their reading books. They took them and moved with no further command to separate areas of the room.

Bill Campbell sat up and frowned. He caught Neil’s eye, but Neil only shrugged.

Neil worked with each reading group in turn. Bill Campbell sat silently, making occasional notes on his clipboard, and twice he moved over to sit close beside a reading group. When the period was almost over, he left as silently as he had come.

Neil watched his departing back and sighed. Olivia said, “What’s the matter, Mr. McCrae?”

“Nothing,” he said. “Lauren, its your turn to read.”

# # #

When Neil went to the teachers’ lounge for coffee at recess, there was a note in his mailbox that said: Meet with me after school about your evaluation. He handed the note to Carmen and Pearl and said, “I’m screwed now. Bill came in unexpectedly this morning and found me teaching reading in leveled groups.”

Pearl reached over and solemnly shook his hand. She said, “It has been really nice knowing you, Neil. I’m sure you will enjoy teaching in Alaska next year, or maybe Timbuktu.”

“You told me to do it!”

With the solemnity of Colonel North testifying before Congress, she said, “I’m sorry. I don’t remember that conversation ever taking place.”

Carmen laughed. “Face up to it like a man,” she said. “I’m sure he will provide a blindfold and a last cigar.”

Bill Campbell was less amused. At their meeting he said, “I didn’t send you to that conference so you could go against everything they taught you.”

“What they taught didn’t make sense.”

“Anne Marie Chang has been teaching and researching reading for twenty-five years. She knows what she is talking about.” more tomorrow


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