Not Long Tales … August 27th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4149)

3.

The Assignment

Miss Tamara Taylor was thirteen days into her sixth year of teaching third grade at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Shimmering Pines, Virginia.

She was a single woman—not by design. She did favor the attention of a male admirer. Matter of fact, in her twenty-six years of being “the great American girl,” she had encountered three lovers, one actually a suitable suitor. He had been willing to share her bed and consider “wed,” until all at once, he got frightened by the specter of a never-ending future, and bought himself a one-way ticket to oblivion. He hadn’t been heard of since.

Tamara had not given up on possibilities but had learned the charm of dinner for one. She told her closest friend that she “didn’t mind dealing with children at work but did not want to come home to one.”

After six years of teaching, she found it beneficial to develop a philosophy. Some of her fellow educators were intent on the program, the knowledge, the books or the discipline. Tamara’s thoughts were much simpler. She decided the best way to teach young children was: don’t harm them and awaken something. She permitted her students call her “Miss T.” She didn’t mind at all, and being part of the present generation, they were absolutely enthralled with the abbreviation.

After thirteen days of cafeteria lunches, her class was gradually getting used to seating assignments and her style of conveying information. So Miss T decided to offer an assignment. She phrased it this way: Write two hundred words on ‘If You Had to Decide Today What or Who You Would Want to Be When You Are Old Like Me.”

The whole class giggled when they heard the title, which was her intent. It didn’t stop them from grumbling over the notion of having to put together a paragraph or two, but the subject matter certainly stirred their brains in the direction their hearts were already mounting a desire.

The papers were turned in yesterday, and she spent the night reading them. She found that the choices her students made fell into categories. When it came to the matter of who or what they wanted to be, king or queen were quite popular. Of course, President made an appearance. Ballerina and rock star were favored—one girl dreaming of being a ballerina by day and a pop diva by night.

There were a couple of firemen, a doctor, a nurse. Money was brought up quite often. Several wanted to be a mommy and a couple, a daddy. And for some reason, one student wanted to manufacture ukuleles.

Then she came to Andrew. He was a quiet, shy, frightened, bullied, smiling lad. Andrew was thoughtful. Andrew refused to follow the color scheme of the common playground. Andrew noticed bugs on the sidewalk. Andrew was the only one who observed that Miss T had changed her hair.

So Andrew’s essay was as different as his choices. It was entitled, “Not Sour.” It read:

My dad likes grapefruit. It is sour. One day he asked me to eat some. He had that smile on his face that told me it was a trick. I took a bite. My mouth puckered. He laughed as I tried to spit the bad taste out. He said, “Grapefruit is sour.”

Dad told me that people can be that way, too. He said that grapefruit needs something to make it sweet. Sugar, honey, that pink stuff, or the blue. Is there one that’s yellow? Or maybe green? Anyway, every sour needs a sweet. The Chinese people figured that out.

My Dad said it’s our job to make our grapefruit taste good. But remember, sweet isn’t good all by itself. It needs a job. It needs to sweeten something.

I don’t want to be sad about the sour in life. I want to sprinkle. I looked that word up. I want to be a sweetener. Maybe I can just go out and join the mess but make things sweeter. I hope that’s not too weird. I don’t think I want to live in a sour world, but I don’t think it will get sweet by itself. So I guess if I have to grow up and do something, I want to be a sweetener. Yeah, I think that’s it.

But maybe driving a limousine, too.

Miss T finished reading the essay and sat back, engulfed in smiling tears. It was so beautiful that she knew all the teachers and grown-ups would want to hang it up, print it or ask young Andrew to read it at some sort of assembly. This was a problem. He was already battling being different and bullied. What would the rest of the kids do if they found out that he wanted to be a sweetener? Clever is a wonderful thing, unless you live around people who are dull.

Miss T wanted to reward his beautiful thoughts.

Miss T wanted to stimulate his budding creative energy.

Miss T desired to have the essay read and understood by everyone at John F. Kennedy Elementary School.

Miss T even knew that the citizens of Shimmering Pines, Virginia, could profit from listening to little Andrew’s ideas.

But Miss T also knew that what was a solution for others could be a huge problem for Andrew.

She took a solid hour considering what to do. Finally, on his paper she wrote A+ Good Work, and tucked it away in her folder.

She needed time to think about it.

 

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