The next morning’s lessons were unusually drab: a spelling test, an hour calculating the area of triangles, and then a science lesson that raised hopes by mentioning sharks and turtles before revealing itself to be a sermon on reducing plastic pollution in oceans. Miss Harvey, who usually coloured her lessons with rhymes, artistic activities and unashamedly bad jokes, this morning seemed to have lost her spark. Her rhymes were lacklustre, her activities recycled, and her jokes absent. After morning tea, there was an English lesson focusing on adjectives. Miss Harvey wrote sentences on the board, and then the students suggested adjectives to enhance each sentence. Holly’s hand was raised nearly the whole lesson—she couldn’t stretch it any higher—but Miss Harvey never called on her. Holly endured the snub with patience (remarkable patience, she thought, considering the top-shelf adjectives that were springing to her mind), but the final sentence pushed her limits. The elephant balanced on the ball. To describe the elephant, Holly thought of: gargantuan, masterful and humiliated. Despite frantically waving her hand in the air, her adjectives remained unrequested. Miss Harvey instead took suggestions from seven other students. Holly was unable to restrain a frustrated “Seriously?” from escaping under her breath as Miss Harvey read the final edit of the sentence on the board: The extraordinary, enormous elephant balanced on the big blue ball.
If that was not enough, Miss Harvey skipped the regular creative writing part of the lesson when Sensei Donaldson arrived early to give the weekly Japanese lesson. Holly watched Miss Harvey. Usually she took the opportunity to mark papers or prepare the afternoon lessons, but today she just sat staring at her desk.
The bell finally rang. The students bid Sensei Donaldson a robotic “Sayonara”, and Miss Harvey dismissed them for lunch. As they rushed for the door, Miss Harvey reminded them without her typical enthusiasm to take their hats. Holly passed her desk. “Holly,” said Miss Harvey, pulling a three-quarter size plastic chair beside her desk. “Would you wait a moment?”
Holly sat down.
Miss Harvey opened her handbag, took out Holly’s notebook and set it on the desk. She cleared her throat. “I read your story,” she began, without looking at her. “In fact, I took it home to re-read.”
No teacher had ever taken Holly’s writing home with them to read. Maybe the dragon story was even better than she thought. Miss Harvey opened the top drawer of her desk. Award stickers, no doubt. Holly had received plenty in her time. She wondered what Miss Harvey’s stickers would look like. Plain gold stars? Probably not—she had flair. Maybe a red square with Good Work in gold letters, or a big yellow star with YOU’RE A STAR! in capital letters. Or—she dared to dream—a smiley face wearing sunglasses. Holly had seen that sticker on a winning science project once, and had wanted one ever since.
Miss Harvey withdrew her hand from the drawer. Holly’s eyes widened; her lips moved but no words sounded. In Miss Harvey’s fingers was not a roll of stickers, but a red pen. A red pen! She was going to correct Holly’s work? Really? Sure, Holly made spelling mistakes, but what writer didn’t? Creative writing was for creativity. Right? It was supposed to be about the story. Unless… Holly suddenly felt sick. Maybe her mistake was the story. In her mad rush to finish in one sitting, had she missed a glaring plot hole? Did she go overboard with the description and detract from the boy’s relationship with the dragon? Miss Harvey put the pen on the desk. Holly’s hands were clammy.
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