Expressive 1010 Honorable Mention
Professor: Joy Sterrantino
I heard the bundle of keys on the end of the lanyard she wore around her neck every day jingle as she walked up behind me in her shirt covered in ruffles, long denim skirt, and hideous brown sandals. I felt her dark brown eyes looking over my shoulder glaring at my computer screen. It's a wonder how she could see anything past that mustache she never did anything about. I felt the weight of her hands pushing into the back of my chair. I knew she wasn't going to be leaving anytime soon. My fingers froze on the keys, and I tilted my head up to look at her. Her short, brown hair was especially spikey that day and her perfume (the kind that seems to stick in your nose for hours after the encounter) was especially potent. She didn't make any eye contact, just kept scanning through the words I had written on the open document.
"You need to redo this." She finally broke the silence after what felt like hours of staring at her thin lips pressed into a hard line across her face. She peeled her eyes from the screen and looked at me over her old librarian style glasses. Me being a small fifth grader that would never even dream of talking back to a teacher, I found myself in quite the predicament. I bit my lower lip, searching my head for a response. "But didn't you say to write about our favorite vacation?" I was done for. I just crossed the beast lady.
"Sharon, (she never got my name right) what does that even mean?" She was pushing the tip of her crooked index finger, covered in dark purple nail polish, up against the screen where the title of my page was big and bold, "Adam-ondi-Ahman". "That's were Adam and Eve first lived on the earth." I tried to explain in my simple 10-year-old logic. "That was my favorite part of my family's road trip to Nauvoo, Illinois so I made it the title." Being a part of the LDS (Latter Day Saint) religion, my family went to Illinois my fourth grade year to go see the new LDS temple that was built in Nauvoo. It was an amazing time for my family and I to learn about and be in historical places that are a part of the LDS religion. Being naïve to others having different backgrounds than me, I didn't consider the possibility of my teacher not sharing my enthusiasm on this subject.
Biting my lower lip again, I saw the wheels beginning to turn in her head. Still death-gripping the back of my chair with one hand and the arm of the chair with the other as she now had swung around to the side of me, both of her knees popped as she crouched down to my eye level. I felt my face go flush and swallowed so hard I'm sure all of my classmates in the computer lab must have heard.
With an unbreakable gaze that made my heart feel like it was about to beat out of my chest, she proceeded to tell me that I needed to pick a different vacation to write about, because this one included my religion. I pulled my eyes away from hers, holding back my tears. I looked at the document on my screen, eyebrows all scrunched up and my head trying to sort out what she was telling me. "I already have a full page done." I couldn't wrap my head around the thought of starting over, when coming up with how to start a paper is my biggest struggle in the first place. "Well you're going to have to write about something different," was her only response as she got up and walked around the room to glance at other screens.
After a couple minutes of just staring at my computer screen in unbelief, I hit the save button. I refused to delete all of the work and writing that I had done. I opened a new blank page, typed my name at the top then took my hands off the keyboard. I folded them across my chest in defiance and slouched down in my chair. There I sat for the remainder of the time, which was about the longest 20 minutes of my life. She walked by me and my computer a couple times and out of the corner of my eye I would see her shake her head, no doubt wondering what had happened to the sweet little girl that had never before spoken up for herself or given the teacher any attitude.
After the remainder of the school day, and me being a grouch in class, the bell finally rang to go home. All of us children grabbed our backpacks off the hooks in the corner of the room and headed out the door to search for our rides in the long line of vehicles parked all along the curb. I quickly picked out my mom in her usual place in line, waving at me from inside our new shiny Bonneville. I threw my backpack in, jumped in the front seat and clipped on my seatbelt. "How was your day?!" rang my mom's voice, sounding so sweet after such a day as that. I gave the usual answer, but lacked the usual enthusiasm, "It was ok."
We arrived home a short five minutes later. I dumped all of my stuff on the forest green loveseat in the living room and sat myself on the floor using the couch as my backrest. My mom sat on the couch across from me. It didn't take long at all before I was spilling my guts to her about the events of school that day and asking her question after question to try and understand. "Am I not allowed to write what I feel? Was I not doing what she had asked for the assignment? If religion makes up a lot of who I am does that limit me to not being able to write about most of my life experiences?"
The number one question that was ringing in my ears that day still crosses my mind. Even now as a college student, each time I go to write I ask myself, "Is what I'm wanting to write going to be what the teacher wants to hear, or will I have to erase those feelings and start over in order to receive an acceptable grade?" That experience as a fifth grader made me hesitant with my writing. I now am nervous about putting my thoughts down on paper where they're vulnerable for others to pick apart. However, I do love that certain creativity that comes out when I'm writing. It's amazing to create something and feel good about it. I hope to someday get past my hesitation so that I can learn to express myself better through writing.