She is, however, absent today, and a substitute is trying to maintain order.
Three girls sit at one table. Paola Marquez confesses that she didn't actually read the essay; she skimmed it for answers. Lorena did read it, although not with any evident enthusiasm.
Paola reads question No. 4: "What were the contributions of early motion pictures?"
Lorena: "Do you like Jessica Simpson?"
Paola: "Yeah, I like Jessica Simpson." They high-five.
Paola goes back to the work sheet -- for about five seconds.
"Oh, did you guys see 'Pulp Fiction'?" she asks. The other girls have never heard of the movie, which came out when they were toddlers, but Tyler, hunched over his paper at another table, somehow hears them and responds, in his basso profundo: "Yeah! Quentin Tarantino! They shot parts of it right here in Hawthorne. Do your work."
Unlike Paola and Lorena, the third girl, Maria Olmedo, is in her first year at the school, having transferred from Lynwood High.
"Compared to my other school -- they just gave you books and said, 'Do this,' " she says. "What they would teach me for a year, I learned here in a week."
Asked what she's learned, she is momentarily nonplused. "Like, I had to do --what do you call those letters? Oh, a persuasive letter," she says, finally. "And a PowerPoint." She also is part of a group of Algebra 2 students who work with a math tutor.
"Right here, they show that they care," she says. "At a regular school, I ask a question and the teachers look at me like I'm dumb."
Ms. Munro, she says, never does that.
I'm going to start off by asking you a question.
The question is: Why?
Why do you use me as a king in a checkers game
That cannot die? . . .
You put me on this board game
To win and not give up.