8th Grade by Cole Parker

Sometimes the kids don’t like a teacher.
Sometimes a teacher doesn’t like the kids.
That could be. . . awkward.

Chapter 8

School Friday seemed to last forever. I had brought my stuff to school in a gym bag as I’d told Brad I would. I wasn’t sure what to bring and probably packed the wrong things but I’d never done this since I was 9. Brad surely had people over all the time. I was going to look silly and not do things right. I just knew it. But, besides being nervous as a mouse in a kitten factory, I also felt excited and really good. I wanted to spend time with Brad, and he wanted to spend time with me! How could anything be better that that?

When the hours had slowly passed and it was time for math class, Brad and I stood over by the classroom windows and talked briefly before the bell. When I glanced at Mrs. Graedon, she was watching us rather intently, a bemused expression on her face. She wasn’t used to seeing me talking with anyone, and she particularly wasn’t used to seeing me smile. Maybe that’s what had her puzzled. A stab of nervousness hit me, but I ignored it and went to my desk. Mrs. Graedon told the class we were going to have a review day because of the test Monday, and she was going to call students to the board to work on some problems, and as a class we’d point out and correct the errors.

“To start off, Brad, why don’t you come up. This way the class will have a lot to get started with,” she said, looking smug.

Brad got up, shot me a glance and a half smile, and walked to the board. Mrs. Graedon read out a problem from several weeks ago and had him write it on the board. Brad did, and I watched as he worked through it quickly, confidently and without an error. When he was done, he underlined the answer, tapped the chalk on the board a couple times in emphasis, perhaps even a little cockily, smiled graciously at Mrs. Graedon and asked brightly, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Mrs. Graedon just sat looking at the board, a blank look on her face.

Brad hesitated a couple seconds, then walked back to his seat and sat down. Finally, Mrs. Graedon turned back to the class, shot a brief glare at Brad, and asked if there were any questions. I thought of a couple facetious ones, but then remembered the sleepover and decided to stay as low-key as possible.

But that was going to be a little more difficult than I would have liked. Eventually Mrs. Graedon called on me. When I came up to the front, she said, “All right, Danny, I want the class to see the problem that earned you an F on the quiz. I want you to write what you did on the board for everyone to look at and we can all see what silly mistakes they should avoid.” She had my paper—when we get F’s, we have to take the paper home, get it signed by a parent and then bring it back to her—and handed it to me and I copied it onto the board. She then proceeded to ask what I’d done wrong, and as people raised their hands to point things out, she chuckled as each mistake was announced and nodded and smiled and had a delightful time while I just stood there. I decided almost immediately I wasn’t going to get mad and let her score any points and I didn’t. I could do this, and the less emotion I showed, the less she’d have to gloat about. I just stood there with no expression on my face.

The class knew what was happening and, to my great surprise, almost everyone appeared to be on my side. They knew I was being treated badly and, perhaps being empathetic, felt the unfairness. But then I saw a problem. It was Brad. His face was red and the more Mrs. Graedon laughed and pranced around, repeating my mistakes, announcing how dumb I’d been and showing the correct way to do the work, the redder it got. Brad being Brad, I realized he wasn’t going to contain himself, and I knew if I didn’t do something fast, this could get out of hand.

“Mrs. Graedon,” I suddenly exclaimed as she finished overplaying an obvious point, “I see it, I see it! Oh, thank you, thank you, now it’s clear. I can do it! You’ve cleared it up for me. It’s wonderful!” I even hopped once, but didn’t want to become a parody, so kept my enthusiasm barely within acceptable boundaries. While I was doing this, I briefly turned my face towards the class and Brad and away from Mrs. Graedon and rolled my eyes. I saw Brad suddenly calm down.

Mrs. Graedon was stuck. She had wanted to make me mad, make me say something so she could discipline me again. It wasn’t working, the class was now looking gleeful and she knew she’d lost. She was infuriated, but couldn’t do anything. I’d won this round.

As I walked back to my seat, I looked back at her and said, “I hope you put a couple of that type on the test Monday. Man, am I ready for them now.” Nothing like turning the knife after sticking it in.

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After school, we sat and watched Brad’s teammates scrimmage the 7th grade team. Without him in the game, the 8th graders didn’t have the scoring they usually had, scoring they had grown to rely on, and the game was closer than expected. The maturity and physical superiority of the older boys was something the younger ones couldn’t cope with over the course of the game, however, and in the end Brad’s team won by 7 points. The coach called them all together, even Brad, for a brief talk and sent them to the showers. Brad came back over to me.

“Okay,” he said, “we can take off now. Let’s go see if my mom’s here yet.”

We walked out to the parking lot and found her waiting. On the drive home she asked us questions about the game and how the day had gone and Brad told her about math class. His version was really funny and he had his mother laughing, but at the end she asked me if Mrs. Graedon always was that unfair with me. I told her how we didn’t get along and why I thought that was, and she said, “You know, Danny, you have rights in that class and she can’t treat you differently from the other kids. She’s not allowed to hold grudges or try to show you up. If she keeps doing this, you need to do something. Get your parents involved. Meet with the principal. I’ve heard rumors about Mrs. Graedon, and maybe it’s time someone did something.”

That made me feel really good, having an adult that didn’t even know me being supportive. I thanked her, and then she and Brad began talking about other things and I got to take a few minutes to think about my situation with Mrs. Graedon. Maybe I’d speak to my dad about her. He knew I was having problems with her, but with an A grade so far, he didn’t think it was as bad as it was. I probably shielded him a little. Maybe it would be better if I gave him the entire story. Then, if Mrs. Graedon kept after me or if she got even more belittling than she was today, I wouldn’t be piling it all on him at once when he didn’t know any but a small part of the background. That made sense. I was glad I’d had the conversation with Brad’s mom.


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