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“Mr. Kleen,” Katherine demanded as she marched from the lavatory to the classroom where she attended second grade, “why didn’t you wait for me!? You know I’m the line-leader!”

“Katherine,” Joe responded with a smile, “time waits for no man, and the class cannot wait for slow girls. And are you familiar with the cliché about flies and honey?”

“What’s a cliché?”

“A platitude? Banality? Maxim? Truism? Something that is oft repeated and rather obvious. In this case it means people get what they want more often by being nice than they do by being rude.”

“Did you just call me rude!?”

“I did not, but if the shoe fits, eat it; to mix metaphors. Go sit, we need to do our math.”

Once Katherine was headed back to her seat he said, “I hope art went well for everyone. Yes, Katherine?” Joe added, responding to the girl’s raised and waving hand.

“Mrs. Weaver said that we got green.”

“Green,” Joe stated. “As opposed to chartreuse?”

“What’s that!?”

“It is a very bright shade of green.”

“Oh. No. We got green. We didn’t get yellow or red.”

“Fantastic. Can someone please tell me what that means?”

“It means-” Katherine started to reply but Joe cut her off.

“Katherine, you did a great job of raising your hand back there but ‘someone’ is not a synonym for Katherine. And FYI, when you raise your hand you do not need to wave it frantically, I can hear it nearly as well when it is still as when it’s moving.

“Craig,” Joe said, calling on the young man. “Your hand is raised and beautifully stoic and motionless. Please explain the red, green, yellow. I assume we’re not lacking the other four colors of the rainbow because we are discriminating against them.”

Craig looked at Joe for a second, apparently pondering the rainbow joke but when comprehension did not come he merely answered, “Green means we did good. Yellow is so-so and red is bad. Mrs. Feldt keeps track on the chart behind you,” he added, pointing to a calendar chart that was dotted with the three afore mentioned categories.

“I see. Thanks, Craig. And you did well; Superman does good. Just for curiosity’s sake can someone please tell me what Mrs. Feldt does with these red, yellow, green behavior notifications?”

Katherine blurted, “When we get enough-”

“Really, sweetie? Really? Is it your thought that I’ll just give up and let you run ramshackle over the class or do you want to go back to the back of the room again?

“Let’s see, who has her hand up?” After checking his seating chart Joe said, “Katie, our wonderfully quiet and courteous line leader from last week, what becomes of our greens?”

“We earn extra recess when we have twenty more greens than we do reds.”

“Fascinating. And what becomes of the yellows, MS O’Murra?”

“Nothing. They don’t count.”

“Got it. Good to know. Now, if we are done wasting time on this I will make a green mark right here on November third under art and we can go on to math and estimating; a very useful but sometimes confusing subject. By the way, did you know that apes can count to five but after that they get confused? It’s true; look it up in the encyclopedia.”

“We are going to do things just a little bit differently today,” he declared to the class. Looking at his eating chart he chose the four children whose desks sat in the first two positions of the first and second rows and stated, “Tony, Marla, Craig and J.R., please stand up!”

Joe then took the four chairs from the two rows and placed them together so that there was a cluster of four chairs rather than neat rows and columns. “We will be using think, pair and what?”

Over a dozen students thrust their hands into the air while half a dozen shouted, “Share!”

“Rubin Carter with his hand in the air, please tell me what comes after think and pair.”

Rubin nodded, replied, “Share,” and looked around at his fellow classmates shaking his head.

“Right you are, Mr. Kotter. Or should I call you Hurricane?”

“That’s who I’m name after. My uncle use to spar with him.”

“Nice. Your people from New Jersey?”


“I used to go to the New Jersey shore when I was little. Starting about your age, but we went way further south than Paterson. Down near Cape May in Sea Isle. Why were you shaking your head Mr. Hurricane?”

Rubin smiled at the name Hurricane but said, “Because these folks don’t learn. They just keep calling out.”

“Some of them, some of them raise their hands. Patience, just like your namesake. You know they let him out of prison, right? Just about this time last year.”

“Yeah. My uncle told me.”

“Patience. Okay, Mrs. Feldt’s room, we are arranging our desks in groups of four and we are working on not blurting but instead?”

Three students said, “Raising our hands!” while the vast majority of others raised their hands.

“Better,” Joe intoned shaking his head, “but not perfect. When I call your names take your four desks and arrange them as we have done for Tony, Marla, Craig and J.R.”

Arranging the desks took time and was noisy so Joe shut the classroom door until he had the room better structured for group learning. With thirty students the room could not be divided evenly by four and he opted for six clusters of four desks and two of three for his excursion in group learning. “Okay, class, math books out! We are going to do some estimation!”