Science and the New Boy
by channelD written for the NFA School Challenge
Words: Approx. 1750
Author’s Plea for Forgiveness: Yes, I took my usual amount of liberties with Tim’s childhood and parents. I’ll continue to do so in hopes of magically making the show’s writers establish some canon for us.
- - - - - From the teacher journal of Etta (Mrs. Hank) Jorgensen, grade 5, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, Forgotten Creek, Oklahoma, 198- October 14They’re quiet, for once; my 5th graders, because I have them reading. That new boy, Tim McGee, is staring out the window. With anyone else I would have laid down a firm hand at the edge of his or her desk, but Tim McGee, I knew by now, was not reading, simply because he was done. I think he’s read the whole book, in fact. Maybe this will give me the impetus to create a separate “reading club” for the top readers. I can’t have them getting bored. There’s no doubt that this youngster, Tim, is bright. He’s been at this school here since kindergarten, but this year, just a week ago, he’d been advanced from the fourth grade to the fifth. That meant that he was by far the youngest in the class: most of the students were already ten; Tim won’t turn nine for another four weeks. In his favor is his height—he will be a tall one when fully grown, and right now he holds his own there with the other boys in the class. But he is shy and not a social flower. He will be in for heartache if he can’t find a way to fit in. - - - - - November 24Tim continues to be shy and left out. I see him looking longingly at the other clusters of students, but they have their long-established friendships and no room for “McGee Mouse”, as they’ve taken to calling him. In most of the free periods, he sits and reads novels brought from home, or else taps on the classroom Apple Macintosh computer. I’ve been barely able to stay a step ahead of him on knowledge of that. He says his parents have just bought him one. I expect I’ll soon be learning from him. It’s unfortunate that he’s become so interested in this thing; I can’t imagine that there will ever be much demand for a computer in the home. - - - - - December 9Parent-teacher conference with Cleo and Kale McGee. It went mostly well. I had not met them before; we move in different circles and they go to a different church. They are among the brightest people I have ever met; both are scientists. She is one of those “tornado chasers” out of the University. I find this a disturbing vocation for a mother of a young child—two young children in her case—but of course I don’t say that. That is for them to deal with. Kale, the father, is of a quieter, mellower temperament than his wife (although she is not unduly hotheaded). He is also in meteorology but I was not able to follow what it is that he does. I was just impressed that he took time off from his job to come. I expect the mothers to show up; it’s always a nice surprise when the fathers do. Both are deeply concerned about Tim, and their love for him is readily apparent. Mrs. McGee (both parents have PhDs but calling them “Mr.” and “Mrs.” helps me keep them separate in this journal) is pleased to hear that he gets top marks; Mr. McGee asks about Tim’s problem in taking tests. He says Tim has been freezing up ever since he started kindergarten, even though he always gets the answers right. They are looking for a therapist who understands this odd problem. They are sad that Tim has had trouble making friends, though this is not news to them, as he is forthcoming with them on his school life. Even when in a class with students his own age, they say, he was the quiet, shy one. He did have a few friends there, though; two bright boys (and one girl), and was miserable about leaving them. At least the four of them get together on weekends. What can we do to help you to help him, they ask me. It’s so refreshing to hear that from parents. I assure them that his study habits are excellent and his school work couldn’t be better, and I will continue to look for ways to challenge him. I already have an idea in mind. I can’t force the children to like him, but the school year is still young, and who knows what interests may grab Tim? Our class loved the first of the 5th grade’s quarterly day trips to the forest preserve; Tim was out sick that day, but the next one comes up in early January. Tim might find he enjoys that, I say, but his parents are doubtful. The family never even goes camping! Strange for meteorologists, I think, but what do I know? I’m just a teacher with almost 40 years experience. I will see that Tim spends plenty of time doing healthy crawling about in the brush in our May session. Tim has a baby sister at home; he loves her, mostly, and does not seem to be jealous of the attention she gets. He spends up to half an hour a day reading to her. Some of this is from MAD Magazine; hardly a good picture book, but little Sarah is said to enjoy the attention. Mrs. McGee does not entirely approve of the MADs—this is something she and Mr. McGee disagree on. Apparently he is an old aficionado of them, and claimed that he himself learned to read with them when he was four. I assure them that the magazines are largely harmless; many of my students over the years have read them. Of course I do not allow them to be brought into the classroom any more than I would allow comic books. Mrs. McGee is not convinced; I am not sure what her objection is, but she has threatened to burn the MADs. I hope she doesn’t do it. Children love the subversive humor, and it lets their imaginations take off. I’ve never believed that anyone should have to live solely on classic literature. Tim was reading when he was three. When he was five, his parents bought a set of children’s encyclopedia. He didn’t wait to use them as needed as reference material, though. He read the volumes cover to cover, as if they were novels. The McGees present this as an interesting, amusing fact. Tim will probably be a trivia champion when he is older, the way that some people are with sports or movies trivia. They are good people, these McGees, I think. As they leave I remember I have seen reports that they have each published several papers, and that their (separate) research may shortlist them for Nobel nominations someday. They are still fairly young. I would assume that a career in science might be in Tim’s future. Right now, his parents say, he has a number of interests, including writing. I wonder, though, if he does not develop more social experiences, could he successfully write fiction. I don’t believe so. - - - - - December 16I announced to the class that the 4th-5th-6th grade science fair had been revived, now that we have an energetic new science teacher in the form of Mr. Abbot. I saw Tim’s eyes light up, and I could almost see the gears turning in his head. He’s forming ideas. - - - - - December 17Tim suddenly has “friends”, as some of the class want to ride on his science fair coattails. I’m not going to get involved unless it appears that he’s really going to get hurt. He could learn a lot from this. - - - - - December 19Tim has asked me a question, which I will have to present to Mr. Abbot, Ms. Venuti (the 4th grade teacher), and the principal. Since the 4th grade is also included in the fair, Tim wants to know if he can work with his old friends. I can’t think of any good reason why this should not be so. But this is the last day of class before Christmas break. He’ll have to wait until January for his answer. - - - - - December 27Tim showed up at my house today! He bore a basket of cookies that he and Mrs. McGee had made, with a gift certificate from a school supplies store. Very thoughtful of his parents. Mr. McGee drove Tim over; he stood there, smiling; I understand now that Tim delights and amuses him in the best possible way. I invited them in for hot chocolate and some of my own home-made cookies; glad for the company now that the girls and their families have returned home from their Christmas visit. My house is big and lonely with my dear Hank gone. Tim was bursting to know if there’s an answer to his science fair question. I told him yes, he can work with his old friends. He jumped up and down at the good news. The children will start work on their project tomorrow! At my unspoken question, Mr. McGee said that yes, Tim will also get time in sledding on the holiday break, too. That’s good; a healthy body must go along with a healthy mind. - - - - - February 28Science Fair Day! My class had some great ideas for projects (along with the predictable volcanoes). But it was Tim’s and his friends’ project that was the star of the show. It dealt with precipitation and urban effects on surrounding crop fields in winter. Mr. Abbot said it was at least 10th grade level, and after interviewing each of the students, was convinced that they did indeed do it without adult help. They will represent our school at the county science fair next month. Best of all, Tim seems to have gained some measure of respect from his classmates. No more McGee Mouse; they now call him “Professor”. - - - - - May 13It turns out having Tim crawling about in the grasses at the quarterly forest preserve trip wasn’t one of my better ideas. Mrs. McGee is threatening to send me the doctor’s bill for Tim’s treatment for a severe poison ivy reaction. - END-
5th-grader Tim McGee is the youngest in his class, and is having a hard time making friends. What can bring him out of his shell?
Challenges: School Challenge
Challenges: School Challenge
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