Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: INDEFATIGABLE (02/11/16)
- TITLE: Sister Marie's Smile
By LeslieJean Anderson
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She never smiled. Educating children was serious work in her opinion. She often said that children were born with rebellious spirits that must be tamed if they were to be of any use to God. Over-protective parents were her biggest pet peeve. She wanted learners for the Lord, not babies. Woe to any parent who tried to complain that poor Johnny had too much homework.
Sister Marie herself never knew her parents. Left on the steps of a church as a baby, she was raised in a Catholic orphanage. With twelve children to each caretaker, the staff had no choice but to demand compliance to keep order and to meet the basic needs of their charges. Obedient children were rewarded with educational opportunities, and Sister Marie pursued learning every chance she got. She excelled, and it had given her a vocation and a future.
As an adult, Sister Marie regarded teaching as her life’s mission. She knew every student’s background and family life. She never missed a day of work. The principal never needed a substitute. She was the first one at the school in the morning and the last one to leave at night.
Shutting the eighth grade classroom door with a solid thud, she rapped the ruler on her desk. Her spine ramrod-straight, she faced her young students, speaking quickly and clearly.
“Get out your practice tablets. Open your vocabulary books, page 89. Veronica, what is the first vocabulary word for today? At the top of the page.”
Veronica made a sound.
“Don’t mumble, child. Loud and clear. Again.”
Sister Marie handed a boy a piece of chalk. “Write it on the board, James. Capital letters. Write big – so Veronica can see it. I-N-D-E-F-A-T-I-G-A-B-L-E. Everyone else, get your tablets and pencils ready because we are going to write this word fifteen times.”
While James wrote at the board, Sister Veronica moved around the room spotting the usual students without pencils, providing them with the stubs she collected and had hidden in the folds of her voluminous gray skirts. No excuses, she always said. All the while she continued to talk, nodding to each student as she called their names.
“Angela. What part of speech is this word? Yes. Adjective. So it does what in a sentence, Robert? Think. THINK! It has a job. Maria. What is its job? Yes. Describes a noun. Thank you James. You may be seated.”
Going to the board, she drew a line through the syllables. “Now Veronica. Try again. S-l-o-w-l-y this time.”
As the girl struggled through the six syllables, the teacher moved between two girls, snatching a note from under a book and stuffing it in her pocket.
“Good. You are getting the hang of it, Veronica.”
Turning to the note-passers she said, “Alice and Sarah, tell us – what is the definition? Alice, you first. Uh-huh. Capable of working a very long time without tiring. Write it at the board. Sarah – what is a synonym for indefatigable? Relentless. Good. Charlie, another one. Determined? Excellent.”
Motioning Alice back to her seat, she continued, “The rest of you begin writing indefatigable on your tablets. Number each line 1-15. Write quickly but neatly. You have seven minutes. Then at the bottom of the page, use the word in an original sentence. No talking. It wastes time. We have three more words to get through today. The test is in two days.”
While the students were bent over their tablets, Sister Marie moved towards a boy with his head on his arms. Pulling a small notebook out of her pocket she quickly wrote, “Nurse Fields, please give Horace a glass of orange juice and a cookie. No lunch again. Then send him right back to class.” Folding it up, she tapped him on the shoulder and slipped the note into his hand. He flashed her a weak smile and quietly left.
Sister Marie gave this lesson three more times that day, ending with a study hall and tutoring. When all the children were finally on their way home, she remembered the note and pulled it out of her pocket.
Unfolding it she read, “Sister Marie is INDEFATIGABLE!”
She leaned back in her chair, her face transformed by a happy smile of satisfaction.
748 words This is a work of fiction.
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