C lambering onto the big yellow school bus, Dovid looked up and down the rows for a good seat. To his disappointment, the only empty seat left was beside Shmuly. He stifled a sigh and slid in beside him.

“Allo, Dovid.” Shmuly’s grin showed a mouthful of white teeth.

“Hi,” Dovid answered, wishing he were one row up next to Chaim or Avi or almost anyone else. Why, oh, why did he have to get stuck next to Shmuly?

Shmuly was from Mexico and had joined their class last year. Struggling to learn both English and Hebrew, he was always getting pulled out by tutors to help him catch up. Since he didn’t understand their language well, it was hard to keep up a conversation. So Dovid and the other guys usually took the easy way out and simply avoided him.

Dovid stifled a sigh. It’s just one bus ride, he told himself.

“Welcome, boys,” Rabbi Davids greeted them when they filed into their classroom. “I hope all of you had a great summer. We have a lot of material to cover this year, so let’s dive in.”

With a rustle of opening Chumashim and notebooks, the school year officially began.

One week later, before shiur began, Rabbi Davids turned to Dovid.

“Dovid, would you please bring this note to the office?”

Jumping up from his seat, Dovid took the note and dashed off down the hall. Passing the teacher’s room, he heard some raised voices coming from inside. Curious, he took a quick peek in all directions. The coast was clear, suiting him perfectly. Leaning against the wall beside the slightly open door, he paused to listen.

“The problem with pulling him out during class is that he will miss so much classroom material,” Rabbi Cohen, the principal, was saying. “And then you have a struggling student falling even further behind. He’s already in fifth grade and needs to be present.”

“Yes, but because of his issue, he’s missing a great deal of material anyway,” Mr. Rosenberg, one of the school tutors, piped up.

A thoughtful silence ensued, and Dovid caught his breath. Who in his class were they discussing?

“How about arranging the tutoring during lunch and recess?” Mr. Rosenberg suggested.

Dovid heard a rustling of papers. “Look, Rabbi. He did poorly on the most recent science and math assignments, and failed a Mishnah quiz. He’s just barely scraping by and really does need the help.”

Yikes! Dovid felt the blood drain from his cheeks, and his breath came in short gasps. They’re talking about me in there! Gosh, I know I didn’t study enough for those tests, but I didn’t realize I did that badly! Dovid felt his ears turned red, and he gulped, hard. I can’t believe it! They think I have a learning problem?! That I need a tutor? But who says I agree to miss lunch and recess? That will ruin my whole life this year! (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 675)