It was a long time ago, in a galaxy not unlike this one. It was long enough ago that all the kids who go to the school where I teach weren't born yet. It was my first year teaching, and the time had come for us all to sit down and take the test. The test that would decide just how well we had all been doing our jobs: teachers, students, parents, office staff. That was a year that saw more than half of the staff replaced with fresh-faced newbies like myself. All that happy enthusiasm was tempered by the anticipation of a high-stakes standardized test designed to show once and for all the gaps in our students' education. As new teachers, we all felt the pressure.
Well, that's not completely true. I was the computer prep teacher. My principal had only begun to imagine tasks for me in that first year, and consequently when the first day of testing arrived, I was sitting in my room, puttering with one of the MacIntosh LCII's that were my responsibility to keep humming for at least another year. Across the hall, a third grade class was sitting down to the very serious business of bubbling in all their English Language Arts knowledge. Throughout the school, doors were closed and hallways were silent as we got underway. The teacher across the hall, a good friend of mine from our credential program, had finished with his scripted instructions and passed out number two pencils and waited for the first random question or request for a bathroom break. After five minutes of focused concentration, a girl in the front row stood up, snapped her pencil in half, screamed at the top of her lungs, and ran from the room.
The scream was heard all around the school, but nowhere better than my room, where the door had been left propped open. I saw her sprint past my room, and sat there, stunned. It was my first year, and all of my problem-solving teacher instincts hadn't fully developed yet. My friend across the hall was trapped with the rest of his young charges, and after I heard more stirring out in the hall, I got up to check out the scene.
It turns out that it had all been just too much for this one third grader. After weeks of preparation and expectation, when the moment finally came to show her stuff, she did just that: she fled. Who could blame her? Over the past fourteen years, that seemed to be the most correct response I could possibly imagine. I'm only surprised that more teachers, parents, students and office staff don't follow her example.