Role reversals

It is hard to believe that the two boys I met at school this week were the same Igey and Bill I had met at their home a few days ago.

[Today's blog is by Monitor correspondent Lee Lawrence, who will be handling this project until Mary returns Sept. 15. ]

 It is hard to believe that the two boys I met at school this week were the same Igey and Bill I had met at their home a few days ago. When I slipped into Michael Sanders' first-grade classroom, the children were sitting in an informal semi-circle on the rug. On a large flipboard, the teacher had written sentences about going to SeaWorld and riding on roller coasters, and he was now asking the students to correct the mistakes in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.

 

Little bodies squirmed. Hands shot up. Voices called out, reedy and excited. But not Igey's. At the perimeter of the circle - back rounded, legs curled to one side - Igey sat, one hand loosely clutching his calf. He never raised his hand. He never offered an answer. The boy who claimed center stage at home was not only quiet; with a backward glance at my camera, he crept to the other side of the circle, out of range of its lens.

By then the teacher had begun to read the children a story, and each time I glimpsed Igey he was listening, rapt. Was he annoyed at being watched? Or maybe here in the classroom the camera was a distraction he didn't want.

If anything, I had expected that kind of reaction from his brother, Bill. But the Bill Clinton Hadam I met in Francie Wallace's ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) class was nothing like the shy boy who had melted into the shadows of the apartment. This one did not mind being front and center. He grinned at the antics of his classmates, and every time the teacher asked a question, he whipped his hand up with the eagerness of Hermione in "Harry Potter."

At one point, his classmates were trying to figure out just exactly who I was. One thought I might be a daughter of the teacher; another asked whether I was the one getting married. "No," Bill piped up, loud and strong, "that's Mary's friend!"

Most of the time, though, Bill spoke softly. Keen as he was to raise his hand, he then hesitated. When the words struggled out, his voice barely rose above a whisper. Then he would give an embarrassed smile.

But he never shied away from the camera.

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