Previous Challenge Entry
Topic: Breaking the Rules (08/16/04)
TITLE: Silver Linings
By Corinne Smelker
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“No Miss Lennon,” twenty clear, young voices cried in unison.
“Are you sure?” I repeated.
“Yes Miss.” Several squirming third graders empathically responded.
“Ok, then. Now that we’ve learnt the story of Adam and Eve, we’re going to divide into groups and create…”
The classroom was suddenly overtaken by a whirlwind named Christy, a fellow student-teacher, bearing a large cardboard box, adorned with packing tape. “Miss Lennon, Miss Lennon!”
“What? What’s the matter?”
“We found this near the office, and there’s a strange substance inside! I remembered your best friend’s a scientist, and I wondered whether you would ask her to analyse it.”
“Hey, wait a sec. It might be poisonous or something. Are you sure? What about the principal? What does he say?” I asked more than a little apprehensively.
“He wants you to take it.”
My students watched this interchange with glee, and I could see several of the braver ones craning their necks to see inside the box.
I sighed resignedly, “Put the box on my desk. I’ll make sure Cathie gets it.” I peeked inside to see a silvery, powdery substance, and automatically reached for it.
Christy grabbed my hand, “NO! Don’t touch! You don’t know what it is!"
“You’re right,” I replied, as she placed the box on the table, and strode out with a final admonition not to touch the silver powder.
I gave the kids their instructions, and the class quietened down to a steady hum. I sauntered casually back to the box, and stole a look inside. The silver glinted cheerfully in the bright window-filtered sun. I looked around — no one was watching — and dipped my finger in.
“Miss Lennon!” James cried out. “You weren’t meant to touch.”
Guiltily, I whisked my finger behind my back. “I barely touched it, and see, I’m fine! I don’t think this stuff is poisonous at all!” But I moved away.
“Miss, can we see it?” Charlotte’s high voice rang through the room.
“Yes Miss, oh please Miss?” several others echoed.
“Weeell, I don’t know…” I said hesitantly.
“Please, we won’t touch it!” That was mischievous Dieter and his little imps.
Impulsively, I whipped up the box, jostling the material slightly. “Ok, but be careful, all right.”
“Miss?” James again. “Your finger is all silver, won’t the stuff come off?”
I glanced down at my finger. It was now a pleasant, shiny, silver! I rubbed it against my pants to no avail.
“Nope. But I think it’ll be all right. It doesn’t tingle or anything. And don’t you think it makes my finger look pretty?”
The girls agreed with that, but the boys were undecided.
“If you want to see, come on up.” In one fell swoop I was surrounded by twenty curious eight and nine year olds, clamouring for a spot in front. And despite my reproaches, several little fingers dipped into the matter to feel its texture.
“Hey Miss, this stuff is great!” Dieter yelled, and spurred the others on. Soon silver powder wafted around the room and twenty tiny digits were covered in an indelible material.
Abruptly I was brought back to earth as I glanced at the time and realised I had just a few minutes to remove this distraction and get the kids back on task with Adam and Eve.
I wrestled the box away, and clapped my hands. “Class, sit back down quickly!”
Slowly, reluctantly, they all traipsed back to their chairs. I scanned the room, a little panicked as I realised every single one of the kids had silver hands! Oh no! Now what?
I perched myself on the edge of my desk, and made eye contact with the kids. “I want to review something here for a second. Do you remember, after we learnt the story of Adam and Eve, I asked if you would make the same mistake? What did you say?”
“We said ‘No.’ Miss.” One child responded.
“That’s right. But, I have one question to ask you. What’s so different between Adam and Eve, and what happened here with this box that you were warned not to touch? You were cautioned, and yet you disobeyed.”
“But Miss, you said it didn’t hurt…” Dieter’s voice trailed off. Gob-smacked, the kids stared at me, and each other. They realised I’d set them up.
“Gotcha!” I said with a smile.