Perhaps you, too, had one: the teacher for whom you could do no right. The teacher whose goal in life was to find one thing about everyone and publicly shame them.

As the school year progresses, it becomes clearer how others will respond. Anxious and impulsive, I do the opposite of what I am supposed to. For other children, there are sudden trips to the bathroom, hands raised, of course. And then, there is Smart Boy. He seems to supernaturally know everything. One day, though, during history lesson, Smart Boy is revealed.

As the teacher explains a chapter, it’s clear from Smart Boy’s remarks that he has been reading ahead. His smack is swift, stinging. Robert, our teachers barks, you are not to read ahead. You are to stay even with everyone else.

So that’s his secret . . . For a moment, I wonder if I can learn to read ahead, too, and be a smarter boy. Then, I see the mist settle over Smart Boy’s eyes.

harsh light
another child’s star