Sometimes the kids don’t like a teacher.
Sometimes a teacher doesn’t like the kids.
That could be. . . awkward.
Brad was really looking forward to the test on Monday. I never liked going to that class, but wasn’t worried about the test, only about Mrs. Graedon. When we were all in our seats and the bell had rung, she picked up a large stack of papers and began handing them out, with instructions to leave them face down till she gave permission to turn them over.
When everyone had a test, she said, “All right, this is going to count for half your grade. I’m going to be watching you all from the back of the room. Anyone caught looking at someone else’s paper, or cheating in any other way, will be stopped and not allowed to continue the test, and will suffer severe consequences. You have till the end of the class to finish. Put your name on the top of your paper. You may begin.”
Everyone turned over the their test. I looked at mine, and it appeared to be pretty straightforward, more or less exactly what Brad and I had studied yesterday and previously. Good, I thought, Brad won’t have a bit of trouble with this. I started in, and was more careful than usual not to make any silly mistakes. And write neatly. Screw her, I wasn’t giving her any chance to mark me off this time.
The test was six pages of problems. It was easy to tell how you were doing in comparison to the rest of the class by when you turned a page. Most of the class would end up turning one at about the same time, give or take a few minutes. A few turned very early, a few very late. It was pretty clear where you stood. I found I was getting done quite a bit faster than any of the others, even though I was being more careful than usual. Strange how easy math is when you know exactly how to do the problems, how difficult it is when you don’t! I had no idea how Brad was doing because I sat across the room from him and I wasn’t taking any chances by looking anywhere but at my paper.
I was almost through the last page and the class time was only a little over half gone when suddenly Mrs. Graedon interrupted us. “Brad, Danny, stop right now and bring me your papers,” she blurted loudly, sounding very stern and imperious.
I stopped and turned around to look at her in confusion. She had a scowl on her face. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but knew arguing wouldn’t make any difference. I slowly stood up, turned around and walked back to her. I handed her my test. Brad did the same.
“Go back to your seats and sit down and be quiet,” was the only explanation we got. We looked at each other blankly, then did as she said.
The time passed slowly, and one by one, the other kids began finishing their tests, then going back and checking various problems. When the bell rang, some still hadn’t finished, but most had. Faces were generally looking stressed, not happy. I guessed most people had found the test difficult. Mrs. Graedon spoke to the class. “All right, bring your tests to the front, lay them face down on my desk and you are excused. Brad, Danny, remain where you are.”
Quickly the room emptied, a few of the kids looking back at Brad and me as they left, curious expressions on their faces. Mrs. Graedon stared at us without speaking for a moment. We looked just as quietly back at her. I at least felt very nervous. I had no idea what Brad was feeling.
“OK,” she said finally. She was holding our tests. She riffled through them, occasionally stopping and looking at one or two specific problems. She looked up, directly at me. “Who wants to tell me how you were able to do these so fast. Both of you. No one else in the class was more than getting started on page four when you both were half way through page 6. Danny, you were only two problems from the end. Problem number 14 on page 3 is very tricky and takes some time to get right, takes some thought, and you both just ran through it, and both of you got the right answer. It’s almost as if you both had a copy of the test beforehand.”
She glared at us. Brad looked at me and opened his mouth, but I quickly gave a very brief and small head shake and hard look, and he closed it. Neither of us said anything.
“Well, tell me. How were you able to do this so fast? Brad? I could almost, well, maybe I could believe Danny could do this, but you? No. You don’t know anything about algebra, and you’re not smart enough to learn it. You should have been on page 2. And just scanning this, I don’t see any incorrect answers. That isn’t possible for you. What’s going on?”
She kept looking back and forth at us. We were silent. This was getting uncomfortable. “Why aren’t you answering? Tell me. You’re going to sit here till someone tells me something,” she stated angrily.
Again there was silence. Finally, I spoke. “Mrs. Graedon, are you accusing me, or Brad, or both of us, of cheating? Before I say anything at all, I want to know what’s happening here.”
If Mrs. Graedon looked angry before, she became furious when I asked that. I was hoping she’d get madder, too mad in fact to stay composed. Obviously, she’d wanted a confession from us and thought she could get it through simple intimidation, but now, here she was, being put on the spot by a couple of kids she didn’t like.
“Yes, you’re both cheaters, and you’ll get kicked out of this school if you don’t tell me right now how you did it. Tell me, and maybe the punishment won’t be so bad.”
“Mrs. Graedon,” I replied evenly, “you’ve just insulted and slandered two students. We’re both going to leave now. We’re going to go talk to the principal. We’re going to have him call our parents, and they’re going to talk to him, too. I advise you not to let anything happen to those two tests you’re holding. The entire class saw you take them, saw you had them. You might look at mine for a second. I did it in ball point pen. If you try changing anything, it will be obvious. Just so you know, we studied together, all last week and over the weekend, we both know the material, and neither of us cheated. Also, I talked to my father yesterday. He told me not to even talk to you if you accused us of cheating. I’m not going to say another word to you, and neither is Brad. Other people are going to get involved in this now.”
I stood up, and Brad joined me. Mrs. Graedon stood at the front of the room, red faced and angry but uncertain what to do. She kept glaring at us. As she saw Brad smiling at me, a little hesitantly but smiling nevertheless, she suddenly got a new look on her face, one of suspicion and awakening insight. She then smiled, and it was an ugly, evil looking smile.
“You studied together over the weekend?” she asked pointedly. “I’ve noticed you two together in the last few days. Ever since detention. Brad, I see you reaching out, touching him. And always smiling. Both of you. There’s a look in both your eyes. Danny, you never smiled before. Never. Now, you see Brad and you smile. And now you’re spending the weekend with each other? Maybe the nights, too? What’s going on with you two? I think something’s funny here. Are you two boyfriends? Maybe I should tell your parents that. Hah! Are you sure you want to go see Mrs. Hodges? I think we have something else to talk about here. How many kids know you’re fags? I know a couple kids that would love to tell people about that.”
By now her nasty smile had completely erased the rage on her face. Her eyes were alive, and her thoughts seemed to be delighting her. I found it difficult to continue looking at her.
I turned my head from her and looked at Brad for a moment. “We’re going to the office now,” I said flatly, and Brad and I started for the door. She spoke louder then, and even took a step to get between us and the door. “You leave this room, you’ll never live it down. I’ll ruin you. The whole school will know about you two. You hear me?”
We stepped around her, went out into the corridor and walked to the office. The halls were empty as the next period had begun some minutes ago. Brad started to say something a couple of times and looked very nervous, but I just shushed him calmly. In the school office, I asked the secretary if we could speak with Mrs. Hodges. She said that was very irregular, we should be in class, and we needed to make an appointment to see the principal in any case.
“We just left Mrs. Graedon’s class,” I replied. “She just called us cheaters. We need to speak to Mrs. Hodges right now. Otherwise, I’m going to call my father. My father is best friends with the editor of the morning paper. If Mrs. Hodges sees anything about this in the paper and finds out we were trying to talk to her about it and you stopped us, I don’t think she’ll be very happy, do you?”
I had thought this out in advance. I knew the secretary wouldn’t have the guts to take a chance that what I said wasn’t true. She didn’t.
She blinked a couple times, looking startled, then picked up her phone. A minute later, Mrs. Hodges stepped out of her office and invited us in.
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