We're five minutes into a creative writing lesson. Heads are down, pencils are scratching, and the majority of the twenty-four third-graders in my care seem to be, er, creating. I'm an optimistic teacher.
Then the miracle occurs.
Ricky appears at my desk with his notebook. He wants a word. Could this mean that he wishes to take part in the lesson?
This is the classroom equivalent of Margaret Thatcher volunteering to hawk copies of Socialist Worker to passers by from the doorstep of Number Ten.
By this point in the school year Ricky and I have reached an uneasy truce. He doesn't disrupt the class. I don't ask too much of him in terms of work. It's not going to up the achievement profile. But it's working for us.
I've no idea what this nine-year-old native American boy makes of me, the English exchange teacher. I've gained the impression that as far as he's concerned I may as well have dropped in from the moon.
But now he wants to join in. The lesson is based around a series of cartoon drawings I've prepared. They show an old-time prospector working in his mine. Check shirt, spiky beard, the works.
We've talked about the mining history of the region - we can actually see a worked-out gold mine from the classroom window. And now we're going to imagine that Spike the miner is telling us his story. Inspiring, huh?
'You need a word, Ricky?'
'Uh huh. Strukkid.'
'Yeah, strukkid.' Slight rolling up of eyes.
'Er, so what's the sentence you're trying to write?'
As if speaking to a dimwit, Ricky says: 'Spike was happy 'cos he strukkid rich.'
'Great sentence, Ricky. But actually it's two words "struck it", not "strukkid".'
A sigh. 'I want strukkid.'
Two brown eyes are focused on me. This boy probably knows every disused mine shaft within a five-mile radius, just as he knows where the local bald eagles nest, and where the Pacific salmon surge up the pebbly creek beds to spawn and die. How weird is this teacher not to know a simple word like strukkid?
I give it one last shot: 'Ricky, believe me. There's no such word. It's not "strukkid", it's "struck it". OK?'
Those eyes fix me, the so-called teacher from England, wherever that is, with a look of infinite pity, as Nicky sighs and delivers his unanswerable put-down.
'Maybe in your town....'