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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Yellow (11/12/09)

TITLE: Seven Times Seven



Too late! Ellie got smacked. I blew my whistle. “Tanner!

“Yes Miss Sanborn?” innocence dripping from Tanner’s voice.

“You’ve been warned. One more and you’re out of the game.”

It was my first year teaching elementary physical education. All my classes were going well except for two fifth graders: Ellie and Tanner.

Sweet Ellie was a special needs child. Ellie had the reading level of a first grader. In PE, she always did her best with a great big smile. For a ten year old, she was a good size girl; around five foot six and weighed one-eighty pounds.

If Ellie was a north magnet then Tanner was the south. A short and scrawny boy, I scolded him several times every class time for tormenting Ellie. A teacher can only see so much and the minute my back was turned, he’d be saying hurtful things or pinching her. I always made sure they were on opposite teams, thinking this would ease the tension.

We were playing a game called Psycho Ball. It was a wild, fast game with two-dozen yellow three inch soft rubber balls. They were flying all over the gym. The team players aimed to hit their opponents, tagging them out of the game. If Tanner got a ball, Ellie would be his target. Ellie got hit hard a few times. She’d say something to herself but go on with the game. It didn’t take long before one of the soft yellow spheres smacked her in the face.

“Ellie, are you all right?” I turned my attention to her.

“I’m ok. Miss San Born.” Ellie always said my name as if it were two names. “I want to play some more.” Ellis was smiling like nothing had happened. The spot on her cheek was cherry red.

“Are you sure? That hit you pretty hard.”

“I need to get seven times seven on Tanner.”

“Seven times seven?”

“That’s what my mom says I have to do.”

I had no idea what Ellie was talking about, and since she wanted to join the game, I let her continue.

Two seconds later, bam! Ellis got hit hard, again. I got my whistle ready, but didn't blow it. What she did next brought the whole class to a standstill. Ellie lumbered over to Tanner, pushed him down. Then she sat on him!

It shocked all of us.

“Ellie,” I hurried over to her and helped her up. Poor Tanner looked like yesterday’s pancake. I knew I needed to address this right away.

“Class, please pick up the all the nerf balls, then line up. Now!”

I focused on the two.

“Now what is going on here? I want an explanation, Ellie.”

“Miss San Born, I did it. Seven times seven. I don’t like Tanner calling me names or pinching me. Mom says to forgive seven times seven. That’s 49 times, Miss San Born. Tanner did bad things 49 times. “

“So you’re telling me you’ve been counting to 49, so you could sit on Tanner?”

“Yes, Miss San Born. I want Tanner to stop.”

I looked at Tanner. I don’t believe anyone had ever sat on him before, especially a girl.

“Well, Tanner, will we have anymore trouble out of you?”

“No Miss Sanborn.”

“Ellie, Tanner says he’s stopping. So, no more sitting on him, ok?”

“O.K. Miss San Born,” Ellie was smiling.

I released the kids to their next class. It was later that evening before I figured out Ellie’s seven times seven. She had simplified, with her sweet simple mind, the Bible verse ‘seventy times seven’.

For some reason, I didn't feel the need to tell her any different.

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This article has been read 431 times
Member Comments
Member Date
larry troxell 11/19/09
Powerful illustration of forgiveness. great writing
Shellie Bailey11/21/09
I really enjoyed reading this. It made me laugh :)
Rachel Phelps11/23/09
Precious! Loved every line!
D.A. Urnosky11/23/09
As a father of a special needs child, your story made quite an impression on me. There are too many "Tanners" in school. Thank you for instilling a quiet strength in Ellie.