Marty threw his pencil down and sunk further in his seat. "I can't do this. I'm just dumb."
Tammy looked over to her co-teacher, who nodded. She walked over to Marty, putting a hand on his shoulder. "You're not dumb, Marty."
"Yeah? Well these achievement tests say I am."
Tammy sighed. "Marty, these achievement tests don't mean anything. Not really."
"Yeah, but someone told me schools are graded by these tests, and that teachers can get in trouble too. Mrs. Bennett, why do you even try to help me? I'm just going to make you lose your job, because I'm so dumb."
"Look at me, Marty. No. Look at me. Do I look like I'm wringing my hands, worried about how you're going to do on this stupid test?"
"No. But you're not supposed to.... Wait a second. You just called this test stupid. You're a teacher."
Mrs. Bennett chuckled. "Yep. I'm a teacher and I think these achievement tests are stupid. Lock me up and throw me in jail. I'm guilty."
Marty smirked. "Why?"
"They don't measure real achievement."
Tammy looked around the room, and leaned closer, whispering. "I don't know about you, but I'm kind of tired of this whole thing. What do you say we break out of here and take a walk outside?"
Marty looked at Mrs. Bennett, stunned. "But... but..." he stammered. He motioned to his test, then to the other teacher.
"She won't care. In fact, I think she'll come with us." She winked at Marty then stood up fully, and spoke loudly enough to be overhead. "I'm sure Mrs. Hogan would like to get out of this stuffy classroom for a bit too, wouldn't she?"
Tammy looked over at her co-teacher, who chuckled as she stood. As she walked past, Tammy spoke under her breath. "I owe you, and I'll owe you even more, if you agree to hang back just enough to let me talk to him, but not look suspicious."
Marty walked out, squinting at the bright sunlight. "Mrs. Bennett, what did you mean when you said those tests don't measure real achievement? Everyone else seems to think they do. They just make me feel dumb."
"Marty, I'm not technically supposed to say this, since it's a public school, but I know you and your family, so I'm going to say it. It come from some videos you may have watched as a kid. 'God made you special, and He loves you very much.'"
Marty chucked. "Oh yeah. He made me 'special' all right. I'm in 'special' education. I'm a 'special' student. I'm in those 'special' classes. I'm just so 'special.'"
Tammy put her hands on Marty's shoulders and turned him around. "Joshua Martin Everts, that is not what I meant, and you know it."
"Okay. So then what's this real achievement you're talking about? You still haven't answered my question."
"Remember when this school year started? When you first started middle school?"
"What kinds of grades were you getting?"
"F's. D's if I was lucky."
"And what grades are you getting now?"
"C's and B's.... but they're still 'special' classes."
"But it's improvement. And how would you have reacted at the beginning of the year, if you couldn't answer a test question?"
"I probably would have thrown the pencil across the room, cussed you out, pushed my book off of my desk, and kicked over the chair."
"Yep. Sounds like the Marty I used to know. How often did you get detentions at the beginning of the year?"
"Once a day. At least."
"And when is the last time you got a detention?"
"Uh... Oh. Wow. I don't even know. November? October?"
"Sounds about right to me. Now, Marty, can you look me in the eyes and honestly tell me you haven't had any achievements?"
Marty offered a half smile, as he hung his head in mock shame. "Nope. When you put it that way, I guess I have made improvements."
Tammy looked at her watch. "We've got about twenty minutes left before the bell rings. What do you say we get back in that classroom, and I help you out by reading the questions to you? You think you can do that for me?"
For the first time that day, Marty broke into a genuine smile. "Yeah, I think I can."
Now that's an achievement, Tammy thought, as she followed Marty back to the classroom.
Fictional, but based on reality
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