Jessi isn't exactly loving her new Short Takes class, which is computer programming. The material that's being covered isn't exactly up her alley, and the teacher, Mr. Trout, is....interesting. He's kind of dorky, and he almost seems afraid of the kids. Most of the kids in Jessi's class are constantly causing trouble for him, and he never disciplines anyone. At first, it's just stuff like spitballs and a lack of volunteering to demonstrate what they're supposed to be learning. Then, the pranks get worse. First, the entire class decides to simultaneously drop all their books on the floor. Jessi doesn't really want to go along with it, but she does so rather than let her classmates down. That's followed by the Great Balding of Mr. Trout; some of his students were convinced that his odd hair was a toupee, and they prove it by rigging up a little device using a fish hook, the hanging map at the front of the classroom, and a wooden pole. The whole class, including Jessi, is in stitches, watching Mr. Trout jumping up and down while he tries to recapture his hair.
While all this is going on, SMS is preparing for its "Sixth Grade Follies" show. It's basically a variety show where the students imitate and make fun of their teachers, and features song and dance as well as acting. Jessi is cast in the show, and she's apparently got such amazing comedic timing that she's asked to take on a special role in the show: Mr. Trout. At first, Jessi doesn't want to do it. Even though she thinks that most of the pranks played on Mr. Trout were funny, she also thinks they're mean. She's just not sure that Mr. Trout is the type to enjoy seeing himself lampooned in that way. Jessi's desire to fit in with her fellow students wins out over her desire to protect Mr. Trout's feelings, and she agrees to take the part.
The "Follies" show is a big hit; everyone in the audience seems to love it. Everyone, that is, except Mr. Trout. Jessi had seen him arrive before the show, and was again hit with doubt as to whether or not she should be playing him. She looks for him after the show, since most of the other teachers who were imitated in the show were there, congratulating the kids on a job well done. She doesn't see him, and when she gets to school Monday and learns that Mr. Trout has apparently flown the coop without warning, she feels awful. Jessi even goes to the principal and tells him how at fault she feels, but she assures her that it's not her fault. Mr. Trout just wasn't cut out for teaching. Other teachers confirm that bit of info; Mr. Trout was always off in a world of his own, no matter how hard they tried to be friendly and include him. Jessi still feels bad, so she tries to start a petition to get him back at SMS. That doesn't work, since no one except the BSC members sign it. Finally, Jessi writes Mr. Trout a letter, apologizing for her role in chasing him away, and asking him back. She gets a reply; Mr. Trout doesn't want to come back, and will be attending graduate school instead.
Also, some of the club's sitting charges put on their own version of the Follies.
Thoughts and Things
- The fish picture on page 8 is pretty funny. I wonder who drew it?
- Jessi has a friend in her Short Takes class named Sanjita, who's supposed to be Puerto Rican. Doesn't Sanjta sound a little more Indian than Puerto Rican?
- Jessi makes lots of references to her experience auditioning for Peter Pan as she's getting ready to audition for the Follies. Kudos to her for recognizing that she isn't the fabulous singer she thought she was back then, and that she's not necessarily guaranteed to be the star just because she can dance!
- I've noticed that the Lerangis-written Jessi books tend to be a little more heavily oriented towards race issues. That's especially true of the later ones.
- Jessi's entire class fails a quiz because Mr. Trout was so ineffective in getting the material across. The same thing happened to me in high school Spanish. Our regular teacher left to have a baby, and the sub did nothing but sing songs to us in Spanish and play games. It made class fun, but we were still tested on grammar and vocabulary as if we'd been studying it all along.