“Anna, can I talk with you for a minute?”
I looked up from my desk. My teacher was calling me over to her table. The students around me glanced up for a moment before turning their heads back to their books during our quiet reading time. I hesitantly flipped my book over on its pages to save my place and walked over to my teacher.
She was peering over a piece of paper with her thick spectacles. As I came closer, I recognized it as an assignment I had completed. We had been asked to write an essay to accompany pumpkins we modeled after any literary character we wanted. I had decorated three little pumpkins to resemble the Baudelaire siblings from A Series of Unfortunate Events. For the written assignment, I had spent hours creating a mock newspaper article (complete with artwork, headlines, and other newsprint-like decals), writing up my essay as if I were a journalist investigating the lives of the Baudelaire children. As a student, whenever I had a project I enjoyed completing, I put my all into it.
“Anna, be honest with me,” said my English teacher in her raspy voice, piercing me with a stern gaze. “Did you steal this off of the Internet?”
I was completely taken aback by the question. The idea that someone could think I copied all of my hard work shocked me and I started tearing up. Some of my classmates looked up from their books at the sound of me trying to hold back my sobs. My teacher took my crying to be an admission of guilt and took me outside of the classroom.
“Anna, did you copy this from somewhere?” she asked, while students scurried by us in the hallway. I hated myself for crying in public because I knew she would misunderstood my display of emotion and I wanted to set her right.
“No, I’m just upset,” I said weakly, fighting back another round of tears. “Upset that you would think I would do that.” At my words, the teacher silently guided me back to my classroom and never brought up the topic with me again.
To this day, I’m not sure if she believed me or if she just decided that there was no way to prove whether or not I was telling the truth.