Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Clarify (10/15/15)
By Pat Small
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I’ve heard them griping about history. “Who cares?” “Today is what counts.” “I’m more interested in the turkey on our table than what the Pilgrims ate on their first Thanksgiving.
“Me too. All those wars confuse me too. Revolutionary War, Civil War, Korean blah, blah, blah.”
I understood these kids. I used to be one. I had hated history too until Mr. Allen made it come alive for me. So I accepted the challenge. Our youth have always needed to know their heritage and be proud of it.
What I didn’t like, however, was grading papers. Most of the handwriting was atrocious, and the spelling would make you weep. Our teachers would have skinned us alive if we passed in some of the papers that came across my desk.
The other evening I had a stack of exams to grade. I couldn’t put it off any longer. After I cleaned up the dishes, I put on my flannel pajamas, shoved my feet into fuzzy slippers, and made myself comfortable on the couch. Darren was watching a Packers game, but I don’t like football so it wasn’t too distracting, except when he started yelling at the referee.
So, there I was with Rachel’s paper in front of me. Question 1: Write a short paragraph about Plymouth Rock. I read and reread her answer. I knew I was being ridiculous. I knew what I had just read. So why was I adjusting the lampshade for better light, and thinking about putting in a stronger bulb? Even though her handwriting was tiny and precise, I was not blind. It said what I thought it said. What was going on?
“Hey, Darren,” I called. “Come take a look at this paper. You won’t believe it. Please tell me I’m not losing my mind,” I pleaded.
“Just a sec. It’s almost half-time.”
“Plymouth Rock was the first boy band to come over from England to the United States,” was as far as he got before he doubled over laughing.
“It’s not funny,” I fumed. “Okay, it is kind of funny, but not hardly what I was looking for.” Darren got himself under control, and started reading again. “ They played at the first Thanksgiving dance. The Pilgrims danced all night. I think that’s when Miles Standish met Pocahontas and fell in love with her venison stew.”
“Unbelievable. Is she that bad a student, or are you that bad a teacher?” he joked.
“I don’t know. She’s usually a pretty good student,” I said.“ “I wonder if she’s on drugs or something. How in the world do you grade a paper like that, honey?” I asked with a desperate look.
“I’d put a big fat zero on it if I were the teacher,” Darren advised snickering, as he headed back to the game which had resumed.
“Yeah, and have Mommy and Daddy in my schoolroom tomorrow. Maybe I’ll have her stay after class and ask her about it, I mused. Possibly there’s a good explanation though I sure can’t imagine what it could be,” I decided.
Reluctantly I picked up the offending paper I had temporarily laid aside. Nothing else was weird. Most of her other answers were correct. I didn't notice anything strange. I was more puzzled than ever, scratching my head, and chewing on my red pencil.
And then, there at the very end, I read the following: “Mrs. Pratt, please forgive my little joke. I don’t know what got into me. I couldn’t resist. The correct answer is”… and she proceeded to explain the Pilgrims’ landing at Plymouth Rock. She even knew that the reason for the meal was to celebrate their first harvest in the new land, and that Miles Standish and Pocahontas weren’t a couple.
The riddle had been solved. It was all cleared up. Now I was grinning. I felt vindicated. I did teach something after all.
“Hey. Darren, wait until you hear this.”
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