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Lunch Break

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Sergio seemed a bit out of it yesterday and today. He looked tired, sad...just out of it. I think I asked him about twenty times if he was okay. About twenty times he said he was fine.

Today he showed up the same way. "I'm just tired”, he said.

Sergio is one of my favorite kids. He is usually well-behaved, but he is a 13-year-old boy, so you can't expect perfection. He seems to be sort of an enigma...he's not one of the top students, he's not one of the bottom. He simply doesn't fit in any of the boxes we put kids into. He doesn't seem to fit in any of the cliques. He's not shunned by anyone...he just doesn't seem to be closely connected to anyone either.

One thing that sets him apart is his wonderful vocabulary. He loves words and loves learning new ones, the bigger the better. I love watching him play with the words that roll from his tongue. I love tossing new ones his way to see what he will do with them.

Seeing his head on his desk in homeroom, I asked him if he was okay. Of course, he denied having any problems. I let him be and continued with my teaching.

At lunch time, Sergio approached me. "Can I eat lunch with you?" 

"Sure.  Are you okay?" I asked.

"Yes, I told you I was."

"I know. But you're a kid. You might just be saying that to get me off your back."

He smiled. "I'm okay. Can I eat lunch with you?"

"Sure," I replied. "I have to get everyone through the line and then go heat up my food. Get your tray and meet me by the teacher lounge in a few minutes."

Soon we were walking back to my classroom. 

"Where is your tray?" I asked.

"I'm not hungry. The food here is nasty."

"You want some of mine?" I asked.

"No, it's nasty."

"Thanks. I picked it out myself. What's bothering you?"

"I'm okay," he insisted.

We picked up his laptop from his math classroom and then went to my room. He opened up his writing assignment and asked if I would help him. I told him I would, but it would be between bites.

"Are you hungry?"


"You getting enough to eat at home?"


"Your mom doing okay?"


"Your dad doing okay?"

"Yes. I told you, I don't live with my dad."

"I know. You tell me that every day. I just wanted to know if he is okay."

Sigh. "Yes."

"How about your sister?"

"She's fine."

"Your grandparents?"

"I only have one grandmother. Everyone else is dead."

"I'm sorry. I bet they'd be really proud of you. Is she doing okay."


"You know, you're one of my favorite kids. Your vocabulary is fantastic...except when you use it against me."

"Thanks," he said smiling and typing away on his laptop.

"I just want to make sure you are okay."

"I said I was."

"I know. But it just seems like something is bothering you."

"I'm fine."

"Did you have a good Christmas break?" I remembered him telling me prior to leaving two weeks ago that he wasn't getting anything except for one video game.


"Are you safe? No one bothering you?"

"I'm good. I'm just tired."

"Okay. Anything keeping you from sleeping.”

“No, well, yeah.  Fortnite, maybe.”

“Maybe you should take a break from it and just sleep.”

“Maybe.  Yeah…no.”

“You sure you don’t want anything off my tray?”

“No.  Nasty.”

“You sure you’re doing okay?”


“Would you tell me if there was?”


I stared at him.

He let out a small laugh.  “Yeah, I’d tell you.”

“That’s good.  You know the door is always open.  And you’re always welcome to come in.”

“Thanks.”  He paused a minute and then said, “I got my work done.  That wasn’t so hard.”

“Let’s go, Sergio.  I’ve got to go get my kids from lunch.  You take care of yourself.”

I still don’t know what is bothering the kid, but I hope he knows that he has someone in his corner if he needs help. 

THIS is what teaching is all about.

Copyright, Tim Ramsey, 2019.

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Tim Ramsey has been an educator since 1983.  He taught middle school and high school for 15 years and served as a school administrator for 15 years before retiring in 2013.  He returned to the classroom where he now teaches writing to seventh graders by day and reading to college freshmen by night.  Tim is an avid writer and has been featured in six Chicken Soup for the Soul compilations.  In addition he has received several first place honors from the Arizona English Teachers Association for its annual “Teachers as Writers Contest.”

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Guest Thursday, 25 April 2019