A month ago, he knew no English. But he's been practicing; reciting the sentence stems, looking up phrases in Google translate, speaking up in the simple present tense that we're learning. And so, he looks intently, knowing it will be his turn when I pull up the popsicle stick with his name.
I hesitate for a moment, but I call him by name.
Simple? Not so much.
Kids beg me to spare him. They wave their hands wildly, ready to speak up in complete sentences, answering whether our the lack of privacy in the digital age make us more honest or makes us want to hide even more.
He says stumbles over his words, looking up at the air at what he has memorized in his mind. The words are far from fluent. He is still translating.
But he speaks up. Whole sentences. A paragraph.
"Thank you for your courage," I say.
The boy next to him begins to clap and I worry that he'll feel embarrassed. But then comes the fist bump and a high five and then more applause. A student stands up. More students clap. Nobody laughs. Nobody mocks. Every student in this room has experienced this moment and they are the team celebrating the achievement.
I watch, almost from a distance, then involuntarily I cry. It's been years since a class has seen me cry. I say that it's "enjoyment" that gets me here everyday, but it's more than that. It's this. It's love. It's grace, not as a religious concept, but as something spiritual, powerful, profound.