Third grade. I was 8 years old. I was this self-absorbed kid, mostly oblivious of my surroundings. I wouldn’t notice the people or what they were doing. I was lost in my own world and be contented with it. In retrospect, I feel like I used to walk about with an invisible bubble around me; like a bubble charm in Harry Potter, if you will.
In my school, we had exams and tests quite often. I was a pretty good student, and we’d go into “exam mode” at home, so I was always prepared quite well for them.
One exam incident stands out in my memory. It was an English exam, midterms. I liked English classes well back then as much as I do now. So needless to say, I wasn’t unprepared, or a nervous wreck. I knew I’d get through it without much ado.
A week later, the English teacher handed the graded answer sheets back to us. I don’t remember how I fared in the exam; what I do remember is what the teacher said.
“You cheated, didn’t you. You copied the answers off Katie’s** paper, in the comprehension section.”
I was shocked. The “comprehension section” was the last part of the paper, which, I remember, was a short story about a man. We had to give the story a title, and answer the questions that were based on it; basically, a test to see how much of the passage you’ve comprehended.
Katie had a seat just behind mine. I remember I’d finished the whole paper before she had. Comparing the two answer papers, we obviously had given the same answers word by word.
Being so young and unable to defend myself verbally (like I can now), all I could keep repeating was, “It wasn’t me, ma’am. I didn’t copy.” But no one listened to me. To them, it was clear that I was the one who had cheated. Katie wouldn’t.
Katie was pretty. She was popular. She participated in many extra-curricular activities and brought laurels to the school. She could sing. She could dance. As I later came to realize, her being my classmate for a total of twelve years, she could also act well. On stage and off. I’m sure all this worked in her favour.
Me? I was the ugly duckling. I participated in very few non-academic activities; none of them involved standing before a big crowd. I wasn’t as eloquent as Katie.
No one thought that I would have had a hell of a time trying to peek into her answer sheet while she was behind me. The teacher on duty would have noticed, had that happened. I didn’t even know how to cheat. The idea never occurred to me. No one noticed that I had finished writing way before she did. All they did notice were the similar answers, and obviously, the popular, pretty girl would not have been the culprit.
I’m glad the teachers didn’t mark me down because of the incident. I know that that particular teacher did not hold a grudge against me, before or after that. I didn’t get any marks reduced. I didn’t get sent to the Principal’s office. My parents weren’t called in. They handled it like it wasn’t a big deal.
But for me it was a big deal. I didn’t tell my parents about it; I don’t know now why I didn’t.
What hurt the most, though, was that another teacher, during a different hour the same day, casually said, “So, Vivienne, I heard that you copied for the English exam.” Word had gotten around in the staff room. Again, all I could sullenly repeat was, “I didn’t copy.” Of course, no one listened. No one believed me.
Today's prompt: Tell a story from your childhood