Ten-year-old Aloysius Hunter sat cross-legged on the ground chewing on a piece of straw and waited for the bell to ring announcing the start of school. He hated school. All he got was grief for not being prepared or not knowing his lessons correctly and he ended up feeling stupid. The teacher, Mr. Jacobs, made it even worse by picking on Aloysius' slow nature and bringing his shortcomings out for all to see. The man seemed to love calling on young Hunter for spelling and giving him the hardest words. At least they were the hardest to Aloysius. The teacher went so far as to allow a few of the other students to tease Aloysius and laugh. To him that just didn't seem right for a teacher to do.
The bell rang, intruding on Aloysius' thoughts. Slowly he gathered his books and stood, staring glumly at the schoolhouse. With a sigh of resignation, he trudged towards the building and the impending doom he felt.
"Oh you stupid boy," Mr. Jacobs spat. "How can you mispronounce that word when you just read it correctly two sentences previously?" The man strode to the front of the room where Aloysius stood beside his desk trembling. Terrified he was going to be hit with the strap, the boy cringed. Instead, Mr. Jacobs smacked the book out of Aloysius' hands. "Pick that up! You are incorrigible. We do not treat books that way."
Desperately wanting to remind Mr. Jacobs that he was after all the one who hit the book, Aloysius chose the safer path and kept his lips pressed tightly together and retrieved the book. The snickers from some of the older boys were painful to hear. His face burned and he knew he was beet red. He looked at Mr. Jacobs, hoping the teacher would relent and dismiss him. But that wasn't Mr. Jacobs' way. Sometimes he'd keep a student up front all morning until he or she got the lesson right. Unfortunately, that student all too often was Aloysius.
"Now, begin again." A chilling smile was pasted on Mr. Jacobs's face as he returned to his perch on the desk. Tall and thin, Mr. Jacob's seemed to be all bones and angles. His chin and nose were pointy, and his mouth was a slit cut across his face, with no discernable lips. They seemed to blend into his pasty white complexion, which appeared even paler next to his straight black hair. Rarely was there a true expression of happiness on his face and his only real joy, Aloysius felt, was to torment children.
Aloysius' arms were aching. He'd been standing up holding the huge history book for almost an hour trying to get through his part of the Declaration of Independence. He was just supposed to read a few of the lines but the words seemed to jump all over the page. Taking a deep breath, Aloysius tried again.
"For bro…brotecting th - "
"Protecting," Mr. Jacobs snapped. "You read that word correctly last time. Pay attention." He heaved an unnecessarily heavy sigh and waved his hand for the boy to continue.
"Protecting them by mock trail form bun -"
"Oh our Founding Fathers would cringe to hear you," Mr. Jacobs moaned. He stared at Aloysius for a moment, perhaps trying to decide what to do with his student. Suddenly, he pushed himself off the desk towards Aloysius. This time the boy received the swat he'd previously expected, luckily it was against his leg and not across his knuckles as usual. Mr. Jacobs grabbed the book from Aloysius' hands and ordered, "Get your slate and we'll see if you can spell today."
Dejectedly, he picked up his slate and waited for more humiliation. Time dragged by as Mr. Jacobs slowly walked towards his large desk.
"Let's see… what word should we try today?" Mr. Jacobs mused, a small titter escaping as he hugged the large tome to his chest. "Perhaps we'll try something really easy. Please spell 'beautiful'. As in 'Miss Annabelle James is beautiful.'" From the corner of his eye, he saw Mr. Jacobs smirk. Aloysius swallowed and put chalk to his board.
His brain refused to work at first and he hesitated. Finally he drew a line then moved his chalk to form a circle to the right of the line. Wait. Was it the right or left? He bit his lip and moved the chalk to the left. There was a 'u' next, he thought, so he made an upside down horseshoe shape. Staring at the letters, they seemed to dance across the slate. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Once he felt somewhat relaxed he opened his eyes to continue. Next to the 'u' he dragged the chalk down to form another line he crossed it with a dash. Then he added another line, this one shorter, with a dot on top. But didn't the word have an 'e' in it? The sound of a thud startled Aloysius from his concentration and without looking he knew Mr. Jacobs had dropped the heavy book onto the teacher's desk. Refusing to give Mr. Jacobs the satisfaction of tears, Aloysius swallowed the sob that threatened.
"Really, what is taking you so long?" Aloysius looked up to see Mr. Jacobs grin towards the group of boys; this brought forth the laughter the man wanted. "He is taking a long time isn't he?"
With 'ful' Aloysius finished the word and stared at the ground. He couldn't meet Mr. Jacobs' eyes. The man's footsteps caused Aloysius to hazard a glance. The teacher had walked to the back of the class. The boy knew Mr. Jacobs had done it deliberately so everyone could share in Aloysius Hunter's shame.
"Well, show your work," the teacher sang out.
He held the slate up. Immediately Mr. Jacobs began laughing and the boys around him joined in. A few other children blurted forth nervous sounding giggles but Aloysius was sure it was only for the relief that they weren't in his shoes.
"Though I can't be too sure, your handwriting is atrocious, I think that says 'dutiful,'" Mr. Jacobs said, strolling towards the front and snapping his small strap against his hand. "Look at that awful penmanship. Really. You started the word practically in the middle of the slate." He snapped his strap against the board, narrowly missing Aloysius' fingers. "See how bunched up the letters are. It truly is pitiful. I do feel for you." Mr. Jacobs sighed, a false melancholy sound. "Oh well, so let's assume it does say 'dutiful.' I suppose you could say Miss Annabelle is dutiful…." He bestowed a toothy smile on the fifteen-year-old young lady in question who blushed prettily. "But I don't believe that's the word I gave you." The genial smile he'd worn for Miss James faded and was replaced by an expression far more sinister. Aloysius swallowed hard. The strap snapped against Mr. Jacobs hand once more as he stood in front of Aloysius. "Slate down and hands out."
The color drained from Aloysius' face but he didn't make a sound. Placing his slate on his desk, he extended his hands, palms down. Raising the strap over his head, Mr. Jacobs brought the strap down hard. The thwack echoed in the small room, accompanied by the laughter from the older boys.
As he nibbled on the pieced of straw in his mouth, he looked up to see Winnie Garver standing in front of him. Her eyes were a deep green that reminded him of the moss that grew on the side of the trees by his favorite pond. The blonde locks that fluttered in the breeze normally brushed her shoulders and he thought they were the color of cream. Beside her, Esther Mead, Winnie's best friend, stood quietly. She was a solemn girl who barely spoke. The round wire glasses she wore magnified her pale blue eyes. Squinting at the two girls, he grumbled, "What?"
"We need help with a math pro-"
"What're ya' askin' him for? He's the dumbest person here!"
Aloysius' jaw clenched down so hard he bit the straw in two. The whiney, grating voice came from Willie Garver, Winnie's older brother and Aloysius' biggest foe. Staring through beady, piggy eyes, the older boy wrinkled his bulbous nose and sneered, showing yellowing teeth. The boy disliked hygiene as a whole and anyone within feet of him could tell. All Willie Garver wanted to do was bully younger children. Though Willie was three years older than Aloysius, he wasn't much past him in reading or arithmetic. However that didn't stop him from teasing those that had problems - Aloysius being his favorite.
"He don't know nothin'," Willie said snidely. "Mr. Jacob's posted another spelling test yesterday to prove it!" His three cohorts chortled in encouragement as the other children turned from their playtime to listen. This was all Willie wanted, attention on him. "Bet he does just as bad if not badder on the one today!"
"Be quiet Willie or I'll tell Pa!" Winnie threatened. The only thing that could scare Willie was anything to do with his and Winnie's pa. Mr. Garver, the livery owner, was roughly six foot and broad shouldered. He had a thick head of silvery gray hair and matching eyes. A very strict but fair man, it was unfortunate for Willie that he was always getting in trouble, because Mr. Garver solved that with a switch.
"Aww, look," Willie taunted, "ol' Aloywishy-washy needs my little sister to stick up for him. Ain't that sweet?"
That being the final straw, Aloysius was up and had Willie on the ground before the belligerent boy could blink. Faster than any of the other boys, especially Willie who weighed about the same as a buffalo calf with nowhere near the speed, Aloysius was able to overpower Willie with a few well-aimed punches. The tears streaming down Willie's face brought Aloysius a feeling of great satisfaction. It quickly came to an end when a hand clamped down on his shoulder and a stern voice bellowed his name.
He looked back and saw Reverend Mead standing there, a disappointed expression on his normally serene face. The reverend was a small man, with mostly a nondescript average face except for the large pale blue eyes that matched his daughter's. And save for the brown wreath of hair that circled his head the man was bald. Behind him were two other men. The first one Aloysius saw was Mr. Peabody, the owner of the main store, one of the most important men in town. A short, pudgy man, his flat face dominated by a beaky nose, he stood there, lips pursed, staring down at the boys. But that wasn't the worst part and he wasn't who made Aloysius' eyes widen in fear. The second man was Mr. Garver.
As Willie pushed Aloysius off him, he whined, "Pa he was punchin' me for no reason."
"Willie, please be quiet," Mr. Garver said calmly. Mr. Garver's eyebrows beetled in concern and his dark gray eyes were on Aloysius, pinning him to the spot. The boy squirmed under the man's direct gaze. "What is this all about?"
"Mr. Garver, I think we should -"
"I beg your pardon Mr. Peabody but I think before we make our announcement, we should solve this problem. Now…." Mr. Garver waited for Aloysius to explain what had happened but the young boy kept quiet, his eyes directed at the ground. "Winnie?"
"It's Willie's fault," the little girl stated quickly, arcs of blonde hair waving to and fro as she shook her head. "He was picking on Aloysius and it wasn't nice." She glared at her brother whose jaw jutted out sullenly.
"I see," Mr. Garver said softly. "Aloysius as your punishment for taking part in this, you will come do chores for me for a month; fair enough?"
Stunned, Aloysius stared at Mr. Garver. He'd expected to be punished severely for what he'd done. Instead he was getting to work at the livery, one of his favorite places. Dumbly, he nodded not knowing what to say.
"Willie I'll speak to you later at home," the man said, not bothering to even look at the boy. "Now that that's settled… Reverend Mead?"
"Um yes," the reverend said, and cleared his throat. "School is canceled for the -"
The students cheered and received disapproving looks from the men, though Aloysius saw one corner of Mr. Garver's mouth twitch upwards. The children obediently quieted down but all still wore gleeful expressions.
"As I was saying before being rudely interrupted," Reverend Mead said, eyeing his daughter and Winnie, though Aloysius saw a hint of a smile on the reverend's face as well. "Mr. Jacobs was married yesterday by me so he will not be returning as teacher."
The shocking news of anyone marrying Mr. Jacobs outweighed Aloysius' desire to jump up and down and shout at the top of his lungs. He looked over at Winnie and saw Esther whispering to her. Winnie's eyes were as wide as saucers and staring straight at Aloysius. Covertly, she crooked a come-here finger and Aloysius nodded.
"So," the reverend was saying, "we need for everyone to go home and wait until we can get a new teacher."
The collective moans elicited laughter from the three men, who were busy collecting their children. Before Mr. Garver could scoop Winnie away, Aloysius hurried over to her.
"What?" he whispered anxiously. He wasn't at all thrilled to know that they were going to actually get another teacher. Reverend Mead took Esther's hand and guided her away from Winnie and Aloysius. Esther turned to look at her friends one last time and waved. They waved to her and Aloysius nudged Winnie to finish. Mr. Garver was talking quietly to Willie but at any minute would be over to get Winnie.
"Mr. Jacobs and Annabelle James got married," Winnie whispered hurriedly. "Esther said she saw 'em and that Mr. James was really mad and Mrs. James was crying." Bewildered, Aloysius just shook his head, not knowing what to say to that news.
"Time to go Winnie," Mr. Garver said from behind her. He looked over and smiled at Aloysius. "And I'll see you first thing tomorrow. You can work every other day until a teacher is hired, then it'll be after school 'til the month is up." Taking Winnie's hand, Mr. Garver nodded to Aloysius. Behind his father's back, Willie stuck his tongue out. "That's not earning you any good will Willie." The older boy's eyes registered the horror of his father knowing what he'd done. His plump bottom lip protruded in a very childish pout and Aloysius put his hand over his mouth to cover his laughter.
No school, no Mr. Jacobs, and work at the livery. What could be better?
A little over a month had passed and Aloysius was having the time of his life. He would spend all day in the livery helping with anything Mr. Garver needed. In just a few short days, he'd picked up everything so quickly that Mr. Garver had commented how impressed he was. After Aloysius had mastered the specific tasks, he'd also started helping the blacksmith. The day before had been the last day of Aloysius' punishment but Mr. Garver had offered the boy a job. Life was good. Until that sunny morning, when Aloysius came to work and Mr. Garver was talking to Mr. Peabody.
"Well good morning, Aloysius," Mr. Garver said. As always, the livery owner slapped the boy on the back. It meant a lot to Aloysius. "Mr. Peabody here has brought good news."
Aloysius grinned up at Mr. Peabody. "Yes, my boy," the store owner said, "seems our new teacher arrives today." The corners of Aloysius' mouth plummeted into a deep frown and the two men laughed.
"It won't be that bad," Mr. Garver said encouragingly. "Her name is Miss Mitchell and she comes all the way from Boston."
If this news was supposed to impress Aloysius, it didn't. The frown remained and he just mumbled something to excuse himself so he could get to work. His first chore of the day was to clean out the stalls. Normally not his most favorite thing to do, today it was a blessing because it kept him from having to talk to anyone.
"A new teacher?" he grumbled softly. "We don't need another teacher. Ain't no need to learn any of this stuff. Ain't gonna use it none. Pa doesn't want me goin' anymore anyway. Says it's a waste a' time." Methodically raking up the old hay, he let his mind wander.
Winnie and a few of the better students had kept their studies up with reading and doing arithmetic problems that Mr. Peabody had given them. The only time Aloysius had looked at any of the work was when Winnie had asked him to help her and Esther with the math. Not that it had ever mattered to Mr. Jacobs but the boy knew numbers.
"I won't go," he stated emphatically to Chester, an elderly horse that loved Aloysius. The carrots that he brought to Chester probably helped but Aloysius was very gentle with all the animals. He was guiding Chester into the clean stall when Aloysius announced, "I ain't gonna have another teacher burn my face that way. I just won't!" The loud snort informed him of how annoyed Chester was with not only the raised voice but that Aloysius had smacked the horse's side.
"Sorry boy," he said softly as he rubbed his hand gently across the horse's neck. "Here ya' go." From his pocket, he withdrew a half a carrot and Chester gobbled it up. The feel of the horse's soft lips tickled his hand and he sighed happily. He didn't want to leave this for school.
The remainder of the day was spent keeping busy and trying hard not to think of how horrible the next day would be.
It had been two weeks since Miss Abigail Mitchell had arrived. Tall for a woman, she stood just a few inches shorter than Mr. Garver. Her wheat-colored hair was twisted into a bun, but not as severe as the one the Reverend Mead's wife wore. Her face was long and delicate, her thin nose curved at the end and her mouth full-lipped. People probably wouldn't say she was pretty but definitely handsome. What stood out the most were her bright, blue-green eyes. There was a great deal of intelligence and kindness in them. Even if some people weren't so sure.
At first the majority of each school day she spent actually getting to know the students. Those days they had school, she would bring a child up to her desk and quietly talk to them and continue that with four or five more students until it was time to go home. At first the students had been nervous since they'd never encountered this before. But after a few had talked to their new teacher and reported that it was really fine, everyone relaxed.
Everyone but Aloysius, who vowed not to talk, even if his friends who had talked to her said she was really nice. He knew it was all an act. Mr. Jacobs had been nice the first few months he'd been there, when Aloysius was just six, but once he settled in, the man's true nature came out. No, Aloysius wasn't going to fall for it, he'd stay quiet. But when his time finally came, he was so nervous he wasn't sure he could talk even if he wanted to.
"Aloysius Hunter, correct?" Her voice was pleasant, almost melodic, as she sat behind her desk with the roster of students. The only response he gave was a curt nod. His eyes darted around refusing to look at her and he fidgeted in his seat as if it were on fire. "I understand that you've been working with Mr. Garver in the livery?"
Surprised he looked at her, his lips slightly parted. The soft giggle made him smile despite his previous resolve. "Do you enjoy that?" Again he just nodded but his eyes remained on her. "It's a talent to work with horses. Do you have any favorites?" This time he knew he couldn't just nod, she wanted names.
"There's one named Chester," he mumbled, staring at his hands folded in his lap.
"That's the older grayish horse?" His head shot up and he saw that she seemed truly interested in the conversation.
"Um, dun," he said softly, his expression brightening a bit more.
"Done? Done what?" she asked, slightly confused.
He couldn't stop the laugh that burst forth but he quickly covered his mouth, his eyes wide with panic. Aloysius sat very still, aware of the stares of the students practically boring a hole through his head. Whatever he was expecting he was surprised when Miss Mitchell laughed. "I believe you were talking about the color of the horse, correct?"
"Yes ma'am," he said, placing his hands in his lap. With kind eyes, she nodded for him to continue. He cleared his throat. "He's a dun. Doesn't do much but when he was younger, he was a strong horse. He worked on a farm not far outta town. But the owner got too old and so did Chester so's the man sold him to Mr. Garver and he's kept Chester mainly for short rides outta town if someone happens to want a horse for that. Another one, Sweetie, she was named by Winnie." He thumbed over his shoulder to where his friend was sitting. "She just foaled not long ago. Um, Sweetie not Winnie. Just before you came."
Unafraid, Aloysius continued talking about his work in the livery and Miss Mitchell listened intently, asking questions every so often. They talked until it was time to go home.
"Class," Miss Mitchell stood by her desk, "today we're going to have a spelling test where I'll give each of you a word to spell for the class. Now, I want everyone to…" Her voice faded as Willie and the older boys started laughing. "Willie? Is there something you want to share with the rest of the class?"
"You'll find out yerself when Aloywishy-washy spells," Willie snickered.
It had all been an act. Arms crossed on top of his desk, Aloysius rested his head on top. This new teacher wasn't nice at all; she was just as horrible as Mr. Jacobs. It had been another two weeks since his conversation with her and all she'd done was talk about different topics, like the Declaration of Independence. She'd then ask each student questions, which he'd been able to answer fine, with just a few tests handed in. Not once had she made them stand up and read or write.
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Garver," Miss Mitchell was saying, her voice low and even. "I don't believe that is Mr. Hunter's name, is it?"
Curiosity caused Aloysius to lift his head slightly. He saw that all the children were staring at him wearing stunned expressions. Raising his head even more, he glanced back and saw that Willie was a sickly white. Not quite ready to believe Miss Mitchell was nice, he figured she just didn't want Willie to upset her class. No, she hadn't done this for him.
"Um, no ma'am," Willie was mumbling.
"Thank you, Willie," she said. "Now please get your slates ready and when I call on you, I will give you a word and I want you to write it. Understand?"
The children answered "yes ma'am" in unison.
The first student to be called was Winnie and naturally she got her word correct. She was followed by Jamie (one of Willie's friends), and he was given the word 'beautiful.' When Jamie wrote 'beeutifull' Aloysius had wanted to laugh, and even though most of the other children did, he refused to be a part of any of this. Three more children were called on and all spelled their words correctly. Then the moment he dreaded.
"Aloysius?" The murmurs sounded like flies buzzing in his ears but he wouldn't give any of them the satisfaction of acknowledging them. "Are you ready?"
"Yes ma'am," he muttered. A burst of sound came out of Willie's mouth that sounded something like a laugh. He'd probably been trying to hold it in so he wouldn't get in trouble. Miss Mitchell ignored him and read Aloysius his word.
Staring at his slate, he did his best. He drew the straight line and this time put the circle on the right. The 'u' was easy, and he was sure an 'i' was next. Another straight line and then he stopped. Saying the word in his mind, he wasn't sure how to finish it. He glanced over at Miss Mitchell whose smile seemed so sincere. All he could do was his best, so he drew a straight line and put a dash through it.
As soon as he held up his slate, he realized he was wrong by the laughter that burst out of Willie and his friends.
"Willie will you please…" she said, stiffly. "That's a very good try. 'Built' is the past tense of 'build.'"
"See I tol' y'all," Willie said, "he ain't got the brains to fill a teaspoon!" Jaime and the other two boys laughed along with Willie.
"I wasn't finished," Miss Mitchell said, staring straight at Willie. The beatific smile she gave him was almost scary. "But, perhaps you misheard me Aloysius and thought I said 'built.'" Her eyebrows pulled together in thought. "Since the word you spelled is a part of that word's family and you more than likely misheard me, my voice being so soft, I will give you a point."
"What?" Willie whined. "He don't deserve no point. He got it wrong!"
"Willie," her voice was so low the other students had to lean forward to hear her, "what is six multiplied by six?"
"That ain't spellin' that's numbers," Willie said meekly.
"I'm the teacher and I want to change to arithmetic. Well?"
"Uh, what was the question?"
"What is six multiplied by six?" Her arms crossed over her chest, she stood over him, tapping her foot. "Well?"
"I'm thinkin'," he whined.
"Thirty-six," he responded automatically. His eyes popped opened and he looked over at Miss Mitchell. Where had that come from?
"Thank you. Willie, what is nine multiplied by three?"
"We ain't gotten to the nines yet." His voice was no more than a whimper.
"According to Mr. Jacobs' notes, your age group has," she stated. "Aloysius?"
"Twenty-seven." A sudden jolt of pride rolled through him. He turned in his seat to face Willie's desk and Miss Mitchell. The impressed murmurs of the children grew louder.
"Seven multiplied by twelve." Miss Mitchell leaned towards Willie causing the boy to lean back in his chair. The bottom lip jutted out again in a pout. "Aloysius?"
"Um," he paused just a moment and then, "eighty-four."
"That ain't fair," Willie said his voice slightly stronger. "You're lettin' him think about it."
"Fine," she said sweetly. She walked over to Aloysius desk, smiled down at him, though this time her smile looked almost triumphant to the boy. "What is four multiplied by eight?"
"Forty-five divided by five."
"One hundred forty-four divided by twelve."
"One hundred seventeen plus thirty-six?"
The change almost flustered him but he felt such a surge of power he continued without missing a beat. "One hundred fifty-three."
"Name three of the signers of the Declaration of Independence."
"John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison."
A broad smile stretched across her face. "Well, I don't know about anyone else but when I want a teaspoon of sugar in my coffee, I put in a heaping amount," Miss Mitchell said, cheerfully. "It seems to me, teaspoons come in all sizes." With a quick wink for Aloysius, she walked over to her desk. "Children, I believe recess has already started. I will still give you the thirty minutes to eat and play. You are dismissed." As if it was a normal end to lessons, she sat down and began going through the paperwork on her desk.
As they retrieved their lunches from beside the wall, almost every student walked by and either patted Aloysius on the shoulder or smiled at him. He hadn't felt this good in school in a very long time. Questions about what had just happened drifted around in his mind so he lingered behind, slowly walking over to retrieve his lunch. Once he was alone with Miss Mitchell he approached her desk.
"Yes Aloysius?" She kept her focus on her papers.
"I just was wonderin'…," he murmured, "um, how'd you know?"
Pencil hovering over the paper she was grading, she sighed softly. Placing it down, she looked up at Aloysius and smiled. Her expression appeared sad even with the smile. "I've heard about Mr. Jacobs and how he treated all of you children." She paused, her gaze fixed on the boy. "He kept impeccable notes, which is truly the only nice thing I have to say about the man. The reason I was lecturing and asking for answers instead of having each of you write them is, well, to find out if what he'd written about each of you was true." The teacher absentmindedly played with her pencil as she watched him. Unsure of whether she wanted a response, Aloysius stood there and didn't reply. "Would you like to know what I discovered?"
She'd wanted him to ask if what Mr. Jacobs wrote was true but Aloysius knew it wasn't. "That he wasn't a good teacher," he said honestly. Her jaw dropped slightly but then she laughed. He'd caught her by surprise.
"Yes, that and the fact that many of the students he dismissed as lacking capability merely learned in a different manner." Perhaps he wasn't the smartest person in the school but Aloysius did know that Mr. Jacobs hadn't written "lacking capability," the man had written "stupid." Something Miss Mitchell said intrigued Aloysius.
"What do you mean 'a different manner'?"
Pushing back her chair, she stood, circled her desk, and perched on the bench in front of him. "I'm going to be honest with you Aloysius because I believe you deserve to know the truth." Her voice sounded serious so the boy nodded. She took his hands in hers and continued, "You are a very smart little boy. When you are told something you remember it. That is how you learn. I read in Mr. Jacobs' notes…" She closed her eyes for a second and opened them again, as if willing herself to continued. He wasn't sure he wanted to know anymore but didn't have the nerve to pull away. "That you had problems with reading aloud and writing, and his conclusion was you weren't capable of handling anything in your grade level much less going beyond that. But after talking to you, I realized that I disagreed strongly with Mr. Jacobs' deductions. So to test this, I decided instead of having everything written I would use oral testing as well. Did you notice that you retained far more in our discussion regarding the Declaration of Independence than any of the other students in your grade, including some of the older children?"
His brain was swimming with what she was saying. She disagreed with Mr. Jacobs. Realizing she was waiting for his answer, he shook his head.
"You did. Not to mention your arithmetic skills surpass almost all of the other students. So you see, it's all in a matter of how we learn. Some can read and absorb what they read while others need to hear and discuss information to understand and remember. In fact, your good friend Winnie does better reading than listening." Miss Mitchell ruffled his hair and grinned. "And she is a very good friend. I hope I'm not talking out of turn but she was rather protective of you when she and I spoke."
As if on cue, there was a hesitant knock from behind Miss Mitchell and Aloysius looked up to see Winnie standing there. Shyly she smiled and said, "Teaspoon, do you want to walk home with us?"
A confused frown furrowed his brow. "What did you call me?"
"We just thought that like Miss Mitchell said you're the biggest teaspoon we've ever seen," she said, her voice sounding hopeful. "And we thought that… if you don't want us to, we'll stop, we just thought that…."
A quick look at Miss Mitchell's face, her chin crinkled in amusement, and Aloysius looked up. "I suppose that ain't… isn't so bad. Teaspoon, huh?" One corner of his mouth curled up cutting a deep groove into his check. "I'll be right there." Winnie's whole face glowed with happiness as she gave him a nod and quickly turned, running down the steps her blonde hair flying behind her. This had been the best day of his life. And it had happened at school. A small, contented sigh escaped the woman in front of him.
"You go play," she said, giving his hands a final squeeze. She stood and placed her hand on his shoulder. "You are a smart boy, Mr. Hunter. I know you're going to do very well."
A modest shrug was all he could muster, his voice caught in his throat. Gently pushing him towards the door, Miss Mitchell waved him off to play. He hesitated for just a second before turning to the woman and wrapping his arms around her waist. "Thank you, Miss Mitchell," he mumbled into her shirt. And quickly rushed outside to play.
"You're going to do very well, Teaspoon Hunter," Miss Mitchell whispered as she watched him catch up with his friends. "Very well indeed."