03 December 2009

Third grade

The room was very quiet. Even the class on the other side of the temporary wall was practically silent; all I could hear were squeaky chairs and every once in a while someone would sigh. My page was half-full of writing, which is what it was supposed to be. I glanced up at my teacher, who was seated at her desk, looking down at something.

I blinked and looked down. Without moving my head, I looked to either side. No one else seemed to be looking around, which was good. They weren't supposed to. My half-full page seemed to be looking at me with an eyebrow raised, waiting. I sniffed at it and closed my eyes, trying to remember what I'd forgotten. The verse was there, splayed on my page in gray scratches.

My eyes opened again, and I hunched in my seat a little. The teacher was still at her desk, but she was looking out the window. I reached into my desk, into the tiny cubby that was resting just above my knees, and pulled out the book. It wasn't too heavy, and oh-so-quietly I drew it out to rest on my lap with its top few inches still laying in the desk. Flipping pages seems so much louder when the only nearby sound is breathing.

I checked what I found in the book against what I had written at the very top of the page. The overall section was right, but some numbers...well, they had to be changed. Mistakes weren't allowed. I lifted my pencil again, this time with the pink end down, and rubbed at the numbers, smooshing them into oblivion. I glanced up. The teacher was just looking around the room, but not at me. There was no need to look at me. My pencil was flipped over and the numbers were rewritten; and even though it was only the slightest change I felt instantly relieved.

Sitting back in my chair, I surveyed the classroom. Other people were still writing, or pounding their foreheads with their fists.

"Michelle," my teacher said, sounding as though she hadn't wanted to say my name at all, "I need to talk to you a minute. Something loud started thumping in my chest, and my throat closed up.

"Ok," I said. I followed her outside the classroom and into the hallway by the glass doors.

"Did you have your Bible verse memorized today?"


"So what was that book in your lap?" I breathed as quietly as I could, widening my eyes. Quickly my options danced in my mind and I smiled a little.

"My Bible," I said honestly.

"Why did you need your Bible if you had your verse memorized?"

"I was checking the verse numbers."

"The reference?"

"Yes. I didn't want to get it wrong," I said.

"You know that's cheating, don't you, Michelle?"

"I...But I only checked it!" My teacher pressed her lips together and crossed her arms.

"Even so. You need to understand that you can't do that. I'm going to need you to stay here for recess."

"Oh." It seemed like the best thing to say at the moment. She turned and opened the door to the room again, letting me enter before her. I held my head low and almost didn't look up on my way back to my chair.

"Ok, everybody. Pencils down and flip your papers over," she said. Several people groaned as they flipped over their notebook pages and lifted them to our teacher's waiting hands as she walked by. When she got to me she raised her eyebrows a little and took my paper, and my stomach curled a little bit into itself. "If I have your paper, you may go," the teacher said. Chairs were thrown backwards as everybody shoved their things back in their desks and made for the door.

I put my head on my crossed arms, thinking about nothing.

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