Once there was a tree….and she loved a little boy. And everyday the boy would comeand he would gather her leavesand make them into crownsand play king of the forest.
The principal read to the boys with a soft dignity, showing them the drawings and pausing dramaticallyhere and there. The boys were fidgety and began making whispered comments when the fictional boyaccepts the tree’s offer to sell its wood:“Now we’re talkin’… give it up, girl,” said one.“That guy’s cold,” another chimed in.And from Eduardo: “Way to kill the tree, man.”At last, the tree is only a stump upon which the now aged boy can rest; the story ends: “And the tree washappy.”“That boy was a taker!” Anel called out.“Why do you say that?” the principal asked.“He didn’t give nothin’ back to that tree for sure,” Anel replied.“And sometimes givin’ so much just makes you a fool, then people steal from you because you got somuch,” Estevan said.“Hey, the tree’s a sap, get it? A sap, right? What’s that called Mrs. R—you know that thing we learned in litclass?” The question came from Eduardo, and the connection startled me. Eduardo was a small Hispanicboy with an amazingly expressive face who either mumbled at me or squealed excitedly from time to time.Eduardo was born in the U.S. and spoke English with just a trace of an accent. He was one of the boyswho was read to as a child and who read independently now, according to the survey. I didn’t haveEduardo in Language Arts, but I knew he was failing it.I answered, “Way to go, Eduardo, that’s definitely a pun. Y’all hear that? How Eduardo played with theword sap about the tree? So, why do you think the tree was a sap?”“Because she just kept givin’ her junk away,” Eduardo replied, enjoying the laugh he got, “and that’s themetaphor thing, right?”“Exactly,” I said, shaking my head at how we sometimes arrived at these understandings, and wonderingagain why this boy was failing.