Wednesday, September 26, 2012


            “Mrs. Jones, could these four fine students sit in your room to finish their test?”

            Mr. Ableman, a 6th grade English teacher, stood in my doorway with four students huddled behind him. 

            “They had to get their vision checked during class and now they need some extra time to finish their test.  I’ve got a meeting I’m supposed to be at.  Would it be OK if they finished in your room?”

            It was my planning period, and I knew it would be quiet.  “Sure.  Send them in.”

            The kids spread out at different desks, sat down, and immediately bent their heads over their tests.  After about ten minutes, three of them brought their completed tests to my desk and left.  Across the room Jeffery slumped forward, staring at the bulletin board in front of him.

            “Everything OK Jeffery?” I called.

            Jeffery inhaled deeply, let it out, and then moaned weakly, “Yeeeaaah.”

            I went back to my work, but soon felt someone staring at me and looked up.  Jeffery was standing in front of my desk.

            He held up his test and pointed to the heading.  “This test is over Chapters 17 to 24.  I haven’t read them.”

            “Why not?” 

            “I was at the dentist last week.”

            “You were only gone one class period, and you’ve had almost a week to read the chapters.  You could have read them over the weekend.”

            “I was really busy this weekend.  And I couldn’t read them anyway.”

            “Why not?”

            “I lost my book.”


            “I don’t know.  A couple weeks ago.”

            “Well, how have you been reading the novel in class if you lost your book?”

            “Abby let’s me look on her book when we’re reading in class.”

            I gave Jeffery a sad, sympathetic look and said, “You’re just going to have to do the best you can.”

            “But I don’t know the answers,” Jeffery moaned.

            I leaned forward, smiling, and whispered, “Do you want me to give you the answers?”

            His eyes widened.  “Will you do that?”

            I widened my eyes and leaned in closer.  “Do you have any money?”

            Jeffery’s mouth dropped open, and he froze for a minute.  Then he began to grin.  “You’re kidding me aren’t you Mrs. Jones?”

            “Yes, I am.  Now Jeffery, you’re just going to have to do the best you can.  You can bring me your test when you’re done.”

            He turned around, and schlumped back to his desk.  I went back to my work, but after a few minutes, I felt like someone was watching me again.  It was Jeffery.  He was still sitting at his desk, but he had turned sideways in his chair so that his whole body faced me.  He was staring at me.  Waiting.

            When he saw me finally look up at him, he held both arms out in front, palms up.  In a low, chesty voice punctuating his words with downward pumps of his arms he said, “I JUST.  don’t KNOW.  the ANswers!”

Thursday, September 20, 2012


            “My stomach hurts.”

            I turned to look at Ramon.  His nose was scrunched up, and his head tilted as he held his stomach.

            “Were you sick this morning?”

            “No . . . Yeah . . . I don’t know.”

            “Did you take your meds this morning with the school nurse?”

            “Yes.  I always do.”

            No, I thought.  You usually forget and the nurse has to call you in.  Ramon took medication for Attention Deficit Disorder.  He took his meds at school because no one at home could remember to give it to him. 

            “Did you eat breakfast?”  I asked.  “You know your meds make you not want to eat.  And if you take your meds on an empty stomach, it makes you feel sick.”

            “I had breakfast.  I had sausage and biscuits.”  Ramon was smiling now and licking his lips.  “It was really good.”

            “Well, I’m sure you’ll feel better soon.”  It was 9:30 in the morning, and Ramon was one of two sixth grade boys in my room working.  “How are you coming on your math worksheet?”


            Ramon looked around the room searching for another diversion.  His eyes finally settled on David sitting across the table from him.  David’s head was bent over the worksheet in front of him.  Ramon stared at David for several seconds, studying him. 

            “Mrs. Jones, do David and I take the same medicine to help us focus?”

            Medications are the school nurse’s turf, so I always try to play dumb. 

            “I don’t know Ramon.”

            Ramon continued watching David.  David continued working.  Ramon continued searching for his diversion.

            “David.  What’s the name of your pills?” Ramon asked.

            David lifted his head up and stared at Ramon.

            “I don’t know.  What are you taking?”

            Ramon looked up at the ceiling, holding his chin in his hand.

            “I think I’m taking Viagra.”

            David stared thoughtfully at Ramon and then began to slowly nod his head up and down.

            “Yeah,” David said.  “I think that’s what I’m taking too.”


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Eyes to See

“Mommy, I want to help.”
            My niece, Jenni, turned and watched as her three-year old daughter came running through the door into the nursery.  Below on the changing table in front of Jenni was her one-month old infant.      

            “Wait Mommy.  I want to see.”

            Her three-year old daughter pushed a little step stool over to the end of the table and pulled herself up.  Her head came up just high enough for her eyes to clear the top of the table.  She watched her mother unsnapped the onesie on the infant and then undo the diaper.

            “I like watching you change baby Charley,” the little girl said.  “Yellow is my favorite color.” 

            Not many moms think of changing a diaper as an opportunity to gaze at their favorite color, but a three-year old little girl still has eyes to see beauty all around her.

            I love the story of world-renowned violinist, Joshua Bell, playing on a $3.5 million Stradivari violin for 45 minutes in a subway station in Washington D.C. as thousands of people passed by barely noticing him.  One of the few individuals who did stop and listen was a three-year old child.  Sadly after just a few minutes the child’s mother scooted him along.

            Gene Weingarten’s article, “Pearls Before Breakfast” detailed the incident in the Washington Post on April 8, 2007.  His article won a Pulitzer Prize.  The plaintive question the article posed was, “Do you have time for beauty?”

            Have I seen beauty recently?  Two sweet-faced sixth grade boys stood at attention in front of my desk.

            “What do we do now?  We finished our worksheet.”  There was still five minutes of class left.  It was 7th period, and it was Friday.

            “You can just draw on the whiteboard if you want.”

            Getting a free pass from the teacher to draw on the whiteboard is like winning the million-dollar lottery for a sixth grader.  The boys couldn’t even move for several seconds.  They just stood there grinning at me.  As I looked at their happy faces, I was transported back 20 years and saw my own sons grinning in total delight over a simple unexpected pleasure.  If I had kept my eyes on the computer screen checking my email, I would have completely missed it.

            What beautiful color, or music, or memory did you miss today?