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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Every Dark Cloud has a Silver Lining" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (02/28/08)

TITLE: Of Arithmetic, Reading and Baseball
By Deborah Engle


“Six weeks of arithmetic-that’s child cruelty!”

“But that’s not as bad as six weeks of re-mee-dial reading.”

Slowly trudging up the steps, ten-year-old Justin and Josiah sympathized with each other, just as they had their entire lives. Their mirror images both reflected the tragedy of their circumstances. They were condemned--to Summer School. Even worse—Summer School in separate rooms.

Day after day brought them back to the hated classrooms. Justin stared out the window, dreaming of the pitching position that might have been his. Down the hall, Josiah suited up to catch, but only in his mind.

Two weeks into the session a Summer School picnic was scheduled. That meant a day off from classes, and a baseball game, too! Josiah and Justin would team up the way they always did, as pitcher and catcher. Both boys were eager to go to school on that day, and what a surprise they had.

“Do you see what I see?” Justin asked.

“I do if you see Mr. Campbell on third base and Mr. Quentin at shortstop,” Josiah responded. “Can teachers play baseball?”

“I guess we’ll find out.”

The teams were well matched and it was a hard-fought game. For the first time all summer, the boys came to life as they worked with their team to win the bragging rights to the SSC-the Summer School Championship.

Walking home, Justin couldn’t say enough about his teacher. “Did you see that line drive that Mr. Quentin caught? That saved the game for us!”

“That was great.” Josiah agreed, but he was just as excited about his own teacher’s performance. “Mr. Campbell snagged three grounders that would’ve scored runs.”

“Josiah, did you ever think that maybe teachers are just like real people?”

After that day, Summer School was a lot easier to tolerate. More than once, Mr. Quentin excitedly narrated to the whole class, pitch-by-pitch, the inning in which Justin struck out the side. Josiah found that he had to be constantly on the alert lest Mr. Campbell catch him by surprise. At least once a day, and to the delight of the class, he would ball up a sheet of paper and fire it without warning, just to see if he could get anything past Josiah.

Without realizing it, Justin was soon paying close attention to every word his teacher had to say--whether it was baseball or arithmetic didn’t matter. He even began to quote Mr. Quentin around the house. As Justin’s spirit began to open, Mr. Quentin gave Justin new challenges. His favorite was keeping track of the baseball stats and standings for the American League teams. By the end of the summer, fractions and decimals had stopped bouncing around in Justin’s head and were finally making sense to him.

As for Josiah, he had begun to hurry his brother in the mornings, anxious to get to school. His class had recently started reading a biography of Johnny Bench, and Josiah was convinced it had to be the best book ever written. He carried it back and forth from school, reading ahead each night. Mr. Campbell assigned daily homework too, but he made it worthwhile. The prize for the student who turned in the most exercises was a Cal Ripken Jr. biography. Josiah worked hard to assure he would win the book because he planned to read that next.

“Summer School’s over,” Josiah said. The boys were slowly making their way home after the last day of class.

“I think I’m gonna miss it,” Justin answered.

Josiah’s steps slowed as he looked at his brother and agreed. “I guess readin’s not so bad. I found out a lot o’ stuff about catchin’ and baseball when I read that book.” Looking down at the Cal Ripken Jr. book in his hands, he continued, “If I learn stuff every time I read a book, maybe I can do somethin’ important some day. That would be cool.”

“Yeah. Mr. Quentin said if we don’t learn arithmetic now, it’s like startin’ out in life with two strikes against you. That’s no good. I want every chance I can get.”


Happily bounding up the steps, ten-year-old Justin and Josiah celebrated with each other, just as they had their entire lives. School was starting up again. Their mirror images both reflected the elation of their circumstances. They were overjoyed—their Summer School teachers turned out to be their Regular School teachers that year. What better proof that life was good?

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This article has been read 625 times
Member Comments
Member Date
LauraLee Shaw03/06/08
I enjoyed this tale of two boys. This line was a chuckler:
“Josiah, did you ever think that maybe teachers are just like real people?” Great piece!
Shirley McClay 03/07/08
Love the bookends you wrote into your story! Very wise teacher :-)
Sara Harricharan 03/07/08
Cute! Your title caught my eye and I had to read it. I liked the line with 'teachers being real people' and especially how the teachers were able to keep them interested and participating in class. I lovted the bit with throwing out a ball of paper to see if it would get past Josiah. That made it even more real. The contrast at the end was even better. Good job! ^_^
Seema Bagai 03/09/08
Great story.
c clemons03/11/08
Enjoyed the story, especially how the teachers found something that interested the boys which help with their learning.(The sign of a good teacher). There were a few unnecessary dashes and commas but overall a good job.
Lynda Lee Schab 03/12/08
Nicely written! I also laughed at the "teachers are real people" line. Too funny and such a real "kid thought." :-)
I enjoyed your story. Great job!
Karen Wilber03/12/08
Count me in as liking the "teachers are real people" line. Great characters. This would make a good chapter book for kids.
Celeste Ammirata03/12/08
Great story. Very well written and right on topic. What wonderful teachers they had. You made the boys real to me. Very nicely done.
Glynis Becker03/12/08
What a fun piece! The dialogue is real, the setting is great and it hit the topic perfectly. Great story!
Jan Ackerson 03/12/08
Great title, and you know I'm going to love a piece that looks at teachers in a favorable light!