Blog Archive

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cranium Challenge

A few nights ago, the three boys from across the street came over for some chili and a game of Cranium. They had never played it before, but they were game to give it a go. Our contestants were:

Junior: now in 6th grade, a sweetie pie of a kid who had some kind of health problem as a young child and is in special education. He's made a lot of progress in math in the last year--I remember him strugging with his times tables and addition/subtraction facts, but now he's doing simple long division problems pretty successfully.

Omar: Junior's little brother, who was in kindergarten when I met him, which means he's in second grade now. He is one of those kids who will say or ask you whatever pops in their heads, which can be funny, and he has more of a temper than his big brother does.

Martin: now in 7th grade. He's very smart--we read most of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime together when I first moved here. He shot up like a weed over the summer and has a hint of a mustache. He and Junior are good buddies, which I find charming.

If you've ever played Cranium, you know that its pop culture references are not likely to register with the under 18 set. I tried to sing like Barbara Steisand, but since they didn't know the song "People," it was to no effect. "She's an old white lady--even older than me!" I told them. Tina Turner was no better, and the only songs of hers I could remember were "Proud Mary" and "Private Dancer." Not wanting to sing the latter for a bunch of preteen boys, I took off my glasses and shook my hair frantically while singing "Proud Mary keep on burning...Rolling..Rolling...Rolling on the river!" This made them laugh but they thought maybe she was related to Timmy Turner of The Fairly Odd Parents, which I had never seen.

Junior had better luck than Martin when trying to spell the word "Bazooka" backwards. Martin got him to guess Radiohead by drawing a radio and a head faster than Omar could draw them for me (and his head looked like a flower with eyes, so I was pretty confused.)

I suspect playing this game might be good for their standardized test scores. This is a big year for Martin, because his test scores this spring will decide whether he's eligible to take the selective enrollment exam. "I wanted to go to Whitney Young, but then I found out their mascot is a dolphin," he informed me. "Aren't there any high schools around here I could go to?"

"Stick with Whitney Young," I advised him. "Don't sweat the mascot, and no, there aren't any high schools around here I want you to go to."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Julian Gets Lucky/Big Picture Goes to Church

Well, it looks like Julian got off easy last night. The cops let him go without giving him a court date since they couldn't find any prior record on him. Thank God.

I saw him this morning as I was going to church. He said hi to me, but the walls felt pretty high up.

"Hi, Julian, how are you?" I said. I wasn't clicking into the events of last night. Then it clicked and I said, "You OK?"

He paused for a minute, like he wasn't going to answer, then said, "Yeah."

"All right," I said, with a strong overtone of "we'll talk more later."

The Big Picture gang went to Holy Cross today to elicit community support for the school and get a meeting with Fr. Bruce. It was a busy day at the Holy Cross 10--Willie Cochran, who is challenging indicted Ald. Arenda Troutman for her seat, introduced himself and his family at the end of Mass. But they did give time for a rep from Big Picture to let people know there would be a letter of support for people to sign in the back. Plus, our intrepid voter registrars were out back for the last day of registration before the elections.

After Mass, there was food in the hall, so everybody went over there. I saw Oscar sitting down to a bowl of pozole. He asked about the NHS meeting last week and told me he's pretty free tomorrow, so I'll call him and hopefully we can go talk to Julian's parents.

So I got a lot of food for the Big Picture strategy session for nothing, since most people had eaten in the church hall. But the meeting was very good, and the number in attendance was up I think--from eight last week to 12 this week. They are meeting with Fr. Bruce on Wednesday, we planned some more key people to target and who was going to do what. Watch for stories about the school coming pretty soon in the Chicago Reader and the Tribune.

At the end of the meeting, one of the teachers told me she was very excited that Julian's exhibition last week was a marked improvement over the one before. Hurray!
I went over to their house for a while this evening. He was in the kitchen and I called out, "Hey, Julian, I heard your exhibition last week was really good."

"It was better," he said, "but it was still too short. I'm going to do better this quarter."

I hope so. We're going to talk about electricity this week.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Busy Saturday Night

Lots of people stopped by this evening. Junior and Oscar and their mom, which was nice. We haven't seen each other in too long.

Yup-yup, trying to sell me stuff, which wasn't so nice. I thought I had locked the gate. Maybe I had. I need to ask the people next door to lock theirs, too.

Worst of all, the Chicago Police Department, looking for Julian. He told them he lives here. Ouch. I was afraid there was more to it than that, but apparently he was 'looking suspicious'--out without a coat between here and his buddy's house on the next block up. The cops wanted to know what was up with him and he got scared and cut through my back yard to go home. That got them interested. Now they're waiting out in the alley for his folks to get home. They were going to a baby shower. I called his sister and they are coming back. I told them to call me if they wanted me to come over.

I called the neighborhood youth intervention specialist. Maybe Julian is too small potatoes for him, but I worry that the potato is getting bigger and I don't know how to stop it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Won a Skirmish in Graffiti Wars

The viaduct at 49th and Marshfield has about three or four layers of paint, thanks to a recent round of graffiti warfare between the Disciples and the Latin Souls. I learned the secret to getting the graffiti removal people out here quickly--always get a reference number. I got one yesterday because the 311 operator inquired if I wanted one, and the graffiti was gone tonight.

Big Picture Goes to Clark Street

Sadly, I was not able to go with them. However, I heard today that two students spoke and that Board of Education officials were pretty vague in their responses. The official word at the meeting, I hear, is that a final decision will not be made for another one to two months.

I hear differently under the table, but will leave it at the official word in hopes that gives everyone some room to maneuver.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Big Picture in the Press

Here's an article generated by Thursday night's event. The Daily Southtown quotes two of my other favorite students, besides Dawn.

There was a small group of parents, students and staff eating chocolate chip cookies and drinking coffee in my kitchen this afternoon while planning the revolution. Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Big Picture, Test Scores, and Life after High School

Someone posted an excellent set of questions and observations about Big Picture and inner-city students recently. It seemed to me worth pulling out of the comment section and putting front and center for discussion. So here is most of what the latest anonymous poster wrote:

But, how do the Big Picture schools explain the very mediocre Explore-PLAN-ACT scores their schools have put up? Doesn't it matter? Are colleges going to welcome the kids with a 13 or 14 without putting them on probation or making them take all those 095 type classes that don't count towards graduation? Over the years I've heard story after story from young people who couldn't make it or got discouraged because of these things making them feel like they weren't good enough.

Despite some of their fierce exteriors, many inner city children are extremely sensitive to intellectual criticism. Many have been told they aren't good enough somewhere else and when they don't make it in college or into college, they're done. They don't want to keep failing and being told they aren't good enough.

Until almost every college and university does away with their current entrance requirements, and figures out how to more fairly gauge student achievement, students everywhere will have to get a decent score on standardized tests. Like it or not.

Let me try to address the first question with the caveat that I am not a Big Picture teacher, administrator or consultant, so my answer is only that of an observer. I don't know how the schools would explain them, but I would explain them by saying that like most inner-city students, these students did not receive the background knowledge as very young children and elementary school students that would make them "good testers." It's hard to make up for that in two to three years of high school.

I can say with authority that Big Picture schools are not the only CPS schools with this problem. Yes, some high schools (a very small handful) are making impressive gains. I think Chicago Academy is one. Many others are not.

Second question: doesn't it matter? Yes, it matters, but is it everything? Is it more important than the difference between earning a high school diploma because you trusted the place enough to stay there and not earning a high school diploma because you didn't? I frankly do not think an ACT score is more important than the million-dollar difference in lifetime earnings between having a high school diploma and not having a high school diploma. In a city where about half the kids don't finish high school, I believe we all have to start with diploma completion when we talk about goals for our kids. (Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I see no sense talking about college without a recognition that completing high school is the necessary prerequisite and an important goal in itself.)

Here is my question back to you, anonymous poster: is closing the school the answer for low ACT scores? Should we should close a school where kids average a 14 and something like 90 percent are on-track to graduate, but leave open a school with an average ACT of 15 but only half the students graduate within five years of entry? That's Big Picture and Richards. If we close them both down, where do the kids go?

Now, to your questions as to whether these students can be admitted to college and if so, won't they be put in remedial courses? Another poster to this site has pointed out that many seniors, some juniors and even a few of the Back of the Yards sophomores are currently enrolled in one or more college courses. I spoke with a senior earlier this week who is taking a regular college course and getting a C at National-Louis. Would I rather he was getting an A? Sure. But he's getting that C now and says he's learning what he needs to do to get a better grade in his next course. That could spare him a lot of heartache freshman year. No, I don't know what his ACT score is, but I assume it is far from off the charts.

As to admissions, most Chicago Public Schools students don't meet the ACT score requirements for most colleges and universities. The CPS average (I think) is still 17.1 or something like that. Roosevelt sets 20 as its benchmark; UIC's average freshman ACT is a 23. So the average kid in CPS is in trouble, not just the Big Picture kids. But some Chicago Public Schools students go despite their scores, sometimes through programs that recruit minority students or students with promise who fall outside the usual admissions guidelines. And what makes the difference between the students who succeed in college and those who fail, as best I can tell, is the successful ones developed habits of persistence and seeking help from others. Those are habits that Big Picture explicitly cultivates in ways most high schools do not. So I think Big Picture students have no worse chance at college success than other kids in the district, and because of the habits of work and mind they are developing, likely better.

I am aware of two charter schools where average ACT scores are low but average rates of college entrance are high: North Lawndale College Prep and Young Women's Leadership Charter School. Both schools put intense effort into the college process and both have developed supports for graduates to stick it out in college through financial and academic difficulties. I don't know how their college completion results are beginning to turn out, but I have hopes for them. I think Big Picture kids deserve the same hopes, which would require keeping the school open and devoting some school resources to postgraduate supports.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Open House Draws a Crowd

There were some interesting outsiders in attendance at tonight's Big Picture Open House: Univision, WBEZ, Catalyst Chicago, Marvin Garcia from Alternative Schools Network, Mike and Susan Klonsky from the Small Schools Workshop, Emilio Carrasquillo, new director of Neighborhood Housing Services for Back of the Yards/Garfield Boulevard, and Jesse Iniguez, candidate for 12th Ward Alderman. Overall, I'd guess between 80 and 100 people showed up.

More importantly, this time parents and teachers were circulating petitions and letters asking CPS to keep the school open. There will be a group going to Wednesday's school board meeting at 125 S. Clark Street. That's not all that lies ahead. It's time to pressure the aldermen, the state reps and every other power point that can be tapped.

I'm worried that now, when people are really ready to try, it may already be too late. But here we go.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Big Picture Open House Jan 18, Part II

At long last, Big Picture Back of the Yards is taking its struggle to survive public and enlisting community support. The open house is intended to show the community what Big Picture students have been doing for the last three and a half years. I'm told there will be a "Take Action" table where people can sign letters to Arne Duncan expressing support for the school.

I'll be there. You interested? Come on out and see for yourself.

Thursday January 18
6 - 8 p.m.
4946 S. Paulina
for more information: 773-535-9219

Student comments from the flyer:
"[At Big Picture] you learn more by doing it, rather than watching and reading a book." --Edgar Tobar

"I do feel like I have more goals now and a future...I just feel like I would end up in a gang if I still went to my old school. I am much better here." --Omar Aguirre

And a quick vignette--Dawn came over this afternoon to work on a report while I was having some people over, including her social studies teacher. Then Julian came looking for her and told me he wants to bring over his essay draft for me to look at tomorrow.

"Don't you want to come in and say hi?" I asked.

Julian looked sheepish. "No, I'm straight," he said. "But tell her I said hi."

Meanwhile, Dawn got cracking and knocked out one essay and started a second one. She was working so hard I sent her back to her house for my spare keys and told her to keep on working while I went out to dinner.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Open House at Big Picture Jan 18

So, I went by Big Picture this afternoon. The teachers were all in a meeting but there were flyers posted on the door and a table of loose ones at the entrance. They are holding an informational open house from 6 to 8 p.m. next Thursday. I wonder who will go? Does this mean they will be able to accept freshmen? Stay tuned.

The San Miguel Visit

Yes, dear readers, after a year of talking this up, I finally got Joey and his mom to go see San Miguel School. The whole project was classic. I went over about 10 to 1 and Joey and two buds of his I didn't know opened the door.

"Is your mom almost ready to go?" I asked. I could hear her in the back with the baby.

"Mommy!" Joey yelled and went back. Rapid Spanish ensued. He came back and told me she needed another 15 minutes.

Mom herself came out of the kitchen and said,"Hola, Maureen. Ahorita." (Hi, Maureen. In a little while.)

"Sure, no problem," I told her.

I came back in half an hour. Joey opened the door again, ran back, and came to the door with the car keys. "She said to warm it up."

"Are you coming?"


"You sure you don't want to see it?"

"No, it's OK."

I hate wasting gas like that. When I started the car, the gas tank empty light came on. I kept warming up the car because I figured there was probably something I didn't know about why it needed a long warmup time, and I know she likes the car warm (roasting?)for the baby.

Then Mom, baby, Joey and the buddies all piled in. Really, I was glad. I'd rather have more than less of them see the place. We drove over and there was no immediate place to park, so I dropped them all off and found a spot. I only did one bad thing to the minivan when they weren't looking--hit the bottom of the front on the street on the way out a steep driveway.

When I came back, a young graduate who is back doing some service hours and helping out led me up the stairs. Mom and the kids were almost at the top of the third floor.

"Mucho ejersicio," I said. Lots of exercise.

"Doble," she said, referring to carrying the baby. We grinned at each other.

San Miguel only occupies the third floor of the building. Hedges uses the second floor for overflow space. There's a library right next to the office--I think the three boys took a peek in it. There's a lot of religious art--a big mural of Guadalupe on the wall along the stairwell and a little shrine with a statue of St. Francis at the top of the landing. It's bright and airy, even on a cloudy day like today.

The clerk talked to Joey's mom at length. I didn't listen to it carefully, but I was pretty sure it was about money and how to apply. I did hear the clerk explain that how much you pay is based on how much money you have and how large your family is. "No te preocupes," she said kindly. "Don't worry." I wanted her to hear that for herself. I hope it helped.

I held the baby while they talked. A couple of teachers came through and waved and played with him.

Afterwards we took a minute to look at the airplane hanging overhead in the hallway. It's a miniature biplane and it looks like the kids made it. You could see the gas cans strapped to the bottom. The boys were pretty taken with it.

At the end, the director, Mike Anderer, came out and said hi to me. He couldn't place me but then remembered from the Being Peacemakers in Back of the Yards group we had going for the last year or so. He said hi to Joey & company. "Bienvenido. Nos vemos." (Welcome. See you again.)

It turns out applications probably won't be available until March or April. I'm just glad we went.

The funniest part came at the end. When we were leaving the house, I suggested we get gas. Joey's mom was going to go back and get her debit card when I said no, I've got money, let's just go. Then we got to the gas station and I realized I had left my wallet in the house. We both laughed.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bring your A Game, Arenda

Here's the link to video of a press conference conducted today by Troutman's lawyer. Amazing. "Bring your A game," he warned her challengers, "because Alderman Troutman is back!"

"You're not talking about the Christmas when she brought baskets to the seniors," advised Mary Ellen Barry. (Wow, how old school is that?)

And yes, Arenda speaks for herself a bit. On how she helped Ms. Barry reduce her property taxes. "I have been an upstanding alderman for 17 years," she assures us."The affordable housing legislation that has made this mayor the affordable housing of this nation, I have championed. That legislation is still in play." Please, Arenda. If this is your A Game, you better get back to practice.,1,3302018.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Yup-Yup latest

This guy has been ringing my bell so much I have resorted to locking my front gate as soon as I get home at night, just not to be bothered with him. But since my next door neighbors haven't put a doorknob that locks in their gate, nor have they replaced the fence between their yard and mine, Yup-yup can come in through their yard.

He did so just as I was sitting down to dinner. "Miss Maritza, what can I do for you?" he said cheerfully, waving a wooden salad fork and some contraption to dry polished nails, I think.

"How many times do I have to tell you I'm between jobs and I haven't been paid since November!"

"This isn't about money," he said sweetly. "I just want to know what I can do for you." (Yep, he's a pimp, all right. But I am not his ho. Jesus.)

"When I lock the front gate, it means I do not want to be disturbed," I said sternly.

"Oh, I didn't know that," he said, turning to leave immediately. I swear I'm going to start answering the door with the phone in my hand. If it's him I'm just going to call 911. I've had it.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Troutman in Handcuffs!

Well, today's news is full of our neighboring alderman, Arenda Troutman, and her alleged misadventures in bribe-taking. Here's what the state's attorney, Gary Shapiro, had to say about doing business in the 20th Ward:

"You want the alderman's support, you pay your alderman. You pay Arenda Troutman," Shapiro said at a news conference following her initial court appearance at the Dirksen Building Courthouse. (From the Chicago Tribune)

Apparently, the FBI ran a sting operation in which someone posed as a developer asking for her support of a zoning change. Court documents say she agreed to support the proposal in exchange for $5000 cash, a promise of another ten grand, and a $5000 political contribution.

Her campaign billboard down the street reads: "Let the progress begin." That's quite a definition of progress, eh?

This also confirms something I heard months ago from someone who used to work in affordable housing here, but left the neighborhood. "On the near west side, it was tough working with aldermen, but I've never seen anything like this here," my friend told me. I'm paraphrasing the rest of the point, which was basically that aldermen in this neighborhood are much more direct in asking what is in it for them to support a deal. I wondered which aldermen in particular were in this person's mind. Maybe now I know. But I bet Troutman is not alone.

Graffiti Wars Rage On

This morning I was walking up toward the railroad viaduct at 49th and saw new graffiti on top of the fresh white paint that had covered the last round. It appears the GDs and the Latin Souls are conducting graffiti wars on the viaduct, the Atotonilco tortilla factory next to it, and on the building on the northwest corner of Ashland and 50th. I was calling in the viaduct graffiti to 311 when I spotted Fr. Ed Shea walking down the street in his brown Franciscan robes, with one of the steady attenders at the 7:30 a.m. daily Mass. We waved. I've been going to Mass at Holy Cross for months--I felt guilty for not putting in some face time at St. Joe's.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

An Open Letter to Arne Duncan

Dear Arne:

Now that the Tribune is reporting your office will decide the fate of Big Picture High School within the month, I feel the need to speak out about the school as a neighbor and a friend of its students and their families. Yes, Big Picture is expensive. Yes, it's an open question how good a job the school is doing getting kids to score high on the almighty PSAE. More importantly, whether students are learning the math they need for college is a very open question. But it is doing something our other neighborhood high school is not doing—getting kids to go to school and keeping those kids in school. The school's annual dropout rate was 6 percent in year one and 5 percent in year two. The annual dropout of its nearest neighbor, Richards High School, was about twice as high in the same period. In 2005 Big Picture had a 93 percent attendance rate, a very strong showing among city high schools. Richards' attendance was 87 percent, one point above the city average but substantially lower than its neighbor.

When Big Picture opened, elementary school counselors here rushed to send them students they feared would not make it in regular high school. As a result, I would bet you dollars to donuts that well over half of the 75 or so students in that school right now would be dropouts today had they started at Richards or any other neighborhood high school. How do you weigh that in a decision to close a school? And while Don Pittman is crying about the expense, the district is happy to run Second Chance alternative high school here in the neighborhood, which serves even fewer kids. Having been an alternative high school teacher I know we need schools like Second Chance, but wouldn't you rather spend that kind of money before the students drop out?

There are plenty more kids growing up here who will need a high school like Big Picture. They will need a place where they know and trust their teachers and classmates, a place where their interests are valued and shape their schoolwork. Despite the best efforts of some people in CPS to destroy what Big Picture schools do to bring student choice into the classroom and build strong relationships between teachers and students, Big Picture at Back of the Yards has done both of those things for most of its students. I know this because I see them on my block and I talk to them, because I work with them on their college essays, because they come over to my house to prepare and rehearse their quarterly exhibitions. With all the weaknesses this school has, it is still a wonderful opportunity for young people who don't get many opportunities handed to them. I hope you will find a way to keep the school open and to give it a real chance to operate as it was designed.

Joey's First El Ride & An Experiment

First thing this morning, Joey and I were going to the zoo today with my friend Ida and her new adopted daughter, but Ida called at the last minute to cancel. Poor Joey had to get out of bed at 8 a.m. for no reason--if it had been up to me we would have left a lot later, and I would have cleaned the house this morning!

However, I still had to run some errands, and Joey still needed a book from the library. So we decided just to go downtown and get the book and come back.

"What time will we be home?" Joey asked me.

"What time do you want to be home?"

"About one."

"Why?" I asked him, expecting to hear he was going to play with his friends.

"I want to work on my report."

Just when I was getting all excited over this amazing display of initiative, he said, "I want my game back." He got a new Nintendo game for Christmas and his mom has taken it away until he gets all his vacation homework done. Go Mom!

So off we went to the library. We got off the bus at the shopping center by Ashland and the river so I could drop off some dry cleaning and get money at the Dominick's. "What is dry cleaning?" Joey asked me.

"It's a cleaning process that uses a lot of chemicals," I told him. "Some kinds of fancy clothes can't be washed in plain water, so they are cleaned this way."

When I walked us to Archer and made to cross the street rather than wait at the bus stop, Joey looked surprised. "Are we taking the train?"

"We sure are," I said.

"I never took the train before." (He's been on the bus, but mostly he rides around in his folks' minivan.)

"Well, we'll go in the first car so you can look out the way the driver does. It's fun."

It was fun. Another train came the opposite way between Ashland and Halsted. "What if it hit us?" Joey asked.

"I don't think they've had too many head-on crashes," I said.

He liked looking at the police headquarters building. We got off at the Library stop and I took us to the post office and Radio Shack before we went to Harold Washington. As we were leaving the post office, going south on Dearborn, Joey noticed a statue on a skyscraper that I'd never seen before. It was a stature that looked like Mary with the infant Jesus on a building I think on Jackson west of Clark. Anybody know what that is?

Joey didn't have any written instructions about this report--whether because he wasn't given any or because he lost them, I don't know. At first I thought it could be any book, so we were trying to track down something on the Great Wall of China, but then he looked up and said:

"I think my teacher said something about it had to be fiction. That's when it's not true, right?"

Yes, indeed, that's when it's not true. So we crossed to the opposite set of stacks in the Thomas Hughes Children's Library, and found the Goosebumps section. Joey picked out one with some scary zombie-like monsters on the cover, dripping mud and snarling.

Then we went to the McDonald's on State Street and he had a Big Mac because yesterday when I thought we were going to the zoo I had said yes he could go to McDonald's for lunch. So I kept my word, even though it was only 11. "I'm full," he said afterwards.

"I'll bet," I said. His mom had made him bacon and pancakes for breakfast, he told me.

When we came home I tried an experiment. I read him the first few chapters and asked a few comprehension questions as we went along. He got most of them and he was cheerfully predicting away--R.L. Stine puts little cliffhangers at the end of every chapter, making it very easy to ask, "What do you think will happen next?"

Then I let him read on his own. "Can I read like this?" he asked, indicating reading aloud under his breath.

"Yes," I said. I don't know what expert opinion is on this, but he clearly needs to do something to help himself decode.

"My dad doesn't let me do that," Joey said. (Dad may be on to something, but I just don't know.)

I went and got myself lunch--I just had some fries and Coke at McDonald's, since I'm in the New Year's phase of trying to whittle my waist and fatten my wallet.

About 20 minutes later, when I came back, Joey had read less than two pages. "So what happened in the story?" I asked him.

He told me the kids were going to do something about making a face to scare the girl they didn't like. (This was inaccurate--they were arguing about putting a rubber snake in her lunch. He seemed to have no clue about the snake.) We talked a little more, and it was clear he had stuck on a phrase where one of the kids had made a face and turned that into a bigger deal than it was.

So I made an executive decision and read him half of the book today. Shoot me, but there was no way in hell he was going to read that book and understand it. His attention was fine--he held up for about two and half hours with just a few short diversions and one bathroom break. I told him to go home and write down what he remembers about the story so far and to draw pictures of some of the main characters. (I don't know what he has to do for this report, but that ought to help him get started.) And I called San Miguel the minute he left. We can go over and visit anytime, they said.

During one of our short conversational diversions, we talked about school. I pointed out the difference between how much he understood when I read to him and how much he was struggling to read the book on his own. "Somebody has to teach you how to read, and I don't know how to do it," I said.

"They can teach me at Chavez," he said stoutly.

(They haven't so far, kid, and you're ten years old, I thought to myself.) "Joey, how many students are in your class?"


"At San Miguel they have 15 students for each teacher, so that teacher is going to have twice as much time for you," I said.

I'm going over now to talk to his mom about visiting on Friday.

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