I was a good kid. Honestly, I was. I've always been a rule-follower and my mom tells me that I was one of those toddlers that you just have to look at funny to make melt into tears when they've done something bad, so I was easy to discipline. As I grew up through my elementary and middle school years, I stayed a good kid. I didn't hang with the "wrong crowd", I got good grades...I was a Big 'Ol Nerd, basically. Not that that is a bad thing, by any means. I will, in fact, encourage my kids to be Big 'Ol Nerds because that's a good way to keep them out of trouble.
Now, all that being said, when I was in eighth grade I had a bad week about 3/4 through the year. It all began after a math quiz. I had finished my quiz and was sitting there, minding my own business, and happened to look over and make eye contact with my best friend Natalie at the same time that my teacher, Mr. Martin, looked up from his desk.
"Quit talking!" he proceeded to shout. (OK, maybe he didn't actually shout, but it sure seemed like it in a quiet room filled with test-taking eighth graders.)
We hadn't been talking at all, and it seemed completely unfair that he had "shouted" at us, so seeing that he had looked down at his desk again, I proceeded to lift my arm high into the air and proudly flip him the bird.
His eyes rose from the desk.
My arm remained frozen in the air, middle finger paralyzed, unable to move for what seemed like eons.
Polar ice caps melted.
Stars burnt out.
Finally I was able to wrench it from its incriminating position and slam it back onto the desk as he reached into his desk for the dreaded pink slip, The Slip of Doom.
The ticket to the principal's office.
I remember sitting in the principal's outer office in terror, wondering what was going to happen, wondering what my parents were going to do. I heard the principal on the phone with the teacher. The class was in a prefab building that wasn't attached to the main building, so it had a phone in it and Mr. Martin had called Mr. Collins to make his suggestion as to what he thought my fate should be.
And here's where the story really does get unfair. I was suspended for three days for flipping off my math teacher. Three days suspension. I had never been in trouble in school before.
I had never skipped class or talked back to the teacher or gotten caught smoking behind the prefabs. I'd never been sent to stand in the hall, had never gotten detention or in-house suspension, I had never even gotten KP which was cleaning up the cafeteria after kids were done eating and was the usual punishment for "lesser crimes". I had been at that school for almost 3 years, this was my first time to ever set foot in the principal's office, and I get suspended for something that I know for a fact my friend Laurel had done to the vice principal's face and all she got was KP.
I think the thing I wish I could do would be to go back and stand up for myself a little bit. Not that I don't think I should have been punished. I certainly deserved a consequence for blatant disrespect of the teacher. But I don't think that the punishment fit the crime at all, and I wish that I'd had the guts to say that to my parents. And if I'd had the guts to say that to my parents, I hope they would have had the guts to go to the principal and stand up for me because I didn't deserve a punishment that harsh.
I don't know what Mr. Martin was thinking. I'd be interested to know, though, now that I'm older and wiser. I'd like to ask him if he truly thought that was a fitting consequence for his bruised ego.