Photography by Lakyn Barton
“Think of five excuses you would use for incomplete homework” The teacher boomed. “Then write it down”
Apparently this was supposed to be a fun assignment, but it wasn’t. It was as boring as it was pointless. But I was a kid, I didn’t really think of why we were told to do it, I didn’t see the point to anything we did; I had learned to just do it.
“And be creative” he continued “no ‘my dog ate it’, think of something unique.”
So it was a creative assignment. I could do that, it was right up my alley. So what excuses could I come up with for not doing homework…I started thinking.
It can’t be a dog, what about some other pet, a cat could scratch it up, a rat could run away with it. What about a horse trampling it, or a bird making a nest out of it? But those are still pet things; I could do better than that. My little brother flushed it down the toilet; that was a good one. There was a tornado, and it sucked my homework up, and left everything else the same.
I could just picture a tornado coming and taking my homework, its soul purpose being to annihilate all matter of unpleasant things. That was definitely a good tornado.
“Young lady!” the teacher barked, “what are you doing?”
Thinking, that’s what you told us to do.
I thought what I didn’t say. Outwardly, I just shrugged. Apparently when he said “think of five excuses” he was talking about some other kind of thinking I wasn’t aware of, one that you could clearly see someone doing.
“Get to work” He growled, and walked off.
But I didn’t have anything yet, nothing I wanted to write down. He was going to read it, and my ideas were stupid, they were something anyone could come up with. I had to think of something better, something no one else had. But he told me to write. I didn’t want to write, I wanted to think. I didn’t want to write my stupid ideas, because then he would read them and tell me they weren’t good enough. I had to think of something good enough, but he didn’t want me to think, he just wanted me to write. I had to think quickly of something to write before he got mad. What was the best idea I had? I had quickly forgotten what I had been conjuring up in my mind. I tried to get back into the flow of thought I had before, the ideas were getting better, they were building and he interrupted me. I stared at the blank paper and thought, but now it was hard to get back my train of thought. I had to write something, but what did I want to write?
“Young lady, you’re trying my patience!”
Why did he keep doing that? Why didn’t he just let me think? Did it really matter if I got this done now or not? He wasn’t taking it until tomorrow; I could do it at home. Why did it matter if I did it in the classroom or not as long as it was ready to hand in the next day?
“Do you want to stay in at recess and finish it?”
Apparently that was supposed to be a threat, but not to me it wasn’t. Sitting alone in a classroom was preferable to being in a crowded field full of annoying kids and bossy supervisors that didn’t let you do anything fun.
“Fine, you can sit there until it’s done. You’re not getting out of that desk until you finish.”
I imagined staying here all night and still having nothing in the morning. It wouldn’t be that bad, at least it would be quiet here late at night and I would be alone, it was preferable to the company of teachers, or classmates, or anyone for that matter. They all had something to tell me about how I was bad, stupid, or not good enough. Even when I tried to listen they got mad at me. They always thought I was trying to be difficult on purpose, but I just wanted them to tell me what to do, then leave me alone to do it. I didn’t want them looking over my shoulder and watching everything I did, because apparently I always went about it wrong.
I looked around at everyone else. They were all writing, they all had ideas that were probably better than mine. I wanted to know how they just started writing without thinking, and why I had such a hard time doing that. I just wasn’t as smart as them that’s all, I couldn’t think as fast, I was stupid.
I hesitantly started writing my ideas. I wrote lightly, so the ideas wouldn’t feel as permanent, so it was easy to erase and hard to read.
Hesitation when I get up with the finished piece of crap makes me the last one to give it to the teacher. I hold it out slightly, but keep it close to my body, fighting the urge to pull it away and tear it up. Now there was a good excuse for not having you homework done, I didn’t want anyone to read it. I did it and it sucked, and I decided I might as well get a zero without anyone reading my stuff, instead of getting the same thing with someone reading it and confirming my belief in my own incompetence.
But he takes it. It’s out of my hands now, if it was ever in my hands to begin with. Now that it’s taken, I try to forget about it. I hurry out of the classroom and don’t think about the fact that he will read it. I will get it back, get my bad mark, and then I can shove it somewhere out of sight and out of mind.
If only I could do the same thing to myself.