Tennyson Street School: justice

Justice: (n) fairness, equity, objectivity, righteousness, honesty, disinterestedness
(n) a judge or magistrate, particularly a judge of the Supreme Court of a state or country

Javier sat fidgeting in the brown papasan chair, stalling, dangling legs kicking randomly, clearly not ready to begin reading. Since he was my only student so far, I had the luxuries of time and attention to offer him. I waited while he wiggled.

“Do you have a family?” he finally asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

“A husband?”


“A boyfriend.”

“Nooo. But I do have kids.”

“How many?”


“Five kids?!”

“Yup. They’re all grown people now.”

“Your kids are grown ups?”

“Yeah, some of them even have kids of their own now.”

“Do they all live in Denver?”

“No, they live in different places – Fort Collins, Cheyenne, Boston, and in New Mexico.”

“So they don’t live with you?”

“I live with two of my sons in Fort Collins – one is 30, and one is finishing his last year of high school, before he goes to college.”

“What does the one who’s 30 do?”

“He’s getting ready to go to law school.”

“So you live with your sons?”

“Sometimes. Sometimes, I live with my daughter and her husband and her two kids. We like living all together, in our big family.”

“I live with my mom and dad, and my brother, my grandma and my uncle.” Javier looked at his shoes. “We’re Mexican.”

“Cool – we’re Danish.” Javier looked back up. “You know, you remind me of my son who’s 30. Your teacher told me you’re a fairness and justice guy – yeah?”

“Maybe,” Javier eyed me.

“Yeah, my son is too. When he was a kid, he’d get frustrated when things weren’t right, weren’t fair. That’s why he’s going to law school – he wants to help people when things aren’t right, using the laws that say everyone is equal. He’ll be a lawyer.”

I looked at Javier. “You could be a lawyer, too. We need more fairness and justice guys.”

“What does he look like?”

“My son? He’s 6’3”, tall and strong, has smart eyes and a warrior ponytail.”

Javier nodded in approval. He opened the book he’d brought. We read a chapter called “La Bamba” together. He helped me with the Spanish words one of the characters used from time to time, a boy named Manuel.

Javier hadn’t understood the name at first. “Man-ial?”

“Man-yuu-el, in English. But it’s Mahn-whale,” I explained, giving him a knowing raised eyebrow and hand gesture suggesting the obviousness of how we really pronounce this name. The familiar name rolled off his tongue naturally as we read the rest of the chapter.

Javier had never seen this Spanish first name written in any of his books. I wondered how many times this had happened before, he’d mispronounced a name from his own first language simply because they were underrepresented in children’s books, and none of us in the teacher’s chair had the time or attention to hear him and support a role model who looked and sounded like him.

As we walked back down the hall to his classroom, he casually asked, “So – does a lawyer make a lot of money?”

I hid my smile. “They can,” I nodded seriously. “They can make a lot of money.”