In the eyes of a six year old, my first grade teacher was scary. Her name was Mrs. Weisinger, and she was the oldest person I had ever seen. For a grown-up, Mrs. Weisinger was very small. She was wrinkled all over, right down to the folds in her arms. A load of stringy, white hair covered her pink scalp, and her voice crackled like it was almost all used up.
My first grade classroom had desks that were lined up in three, horizontal rows. There was a whole row of kids in front of me, and my desk was in the middle of the second row. In the corner, next to the classroom door was a small, brown child sized chair. It faced away from everyone. Mrs. Weisinger told us the was “the thinking chair.” If you misbehaved, you would be banished to that chair to think about what you had done.
I knew I would never spend a minute in that chair. I was the kind of student who carefully followed directions. Receiving excellent grades was my goal and I loved learning. Mostly, I wanted my teacher to like me. I was not a troublemaker and I tried to become friends with other kids who behaved.
One morning, upon completing a reading lesson, Mrs, Weisinger said, “Okay, class…I need everyone to be perfectly silent for just a few minutes.” Immediately, Robby, the boy sitting in front of me, turned around to talk. Clenching my jaw, I whispered, “Shh!” The teacher heard that tiny sound and angrily crossed her arms while staring right at me. I felt shaky inside, as she spoke. “Now, suppose you march right over to the thinking chair”, she commanded. Devastated, I opened my mouth to explain the truth, but her hand snapped up and pointed, harshly, to the corner. Fighting tears, I walked over to it and sat on the dreaded chair.
A few minutes passed and right next to where I was sitting, the classroom door opened. My heart sank. There, seeming to fill the entire doorway, was the principal, making his morning rounds. Looking at me, he shook his head in disappointment. I tried to whisper that I didn’t belong in the thinking chair, but he put a finger to his lips, telling me to be quiet. There was nothing I could do to prove myself, and even though I hadn’t done anything wrong, I felt miserably and totally, ashamed.
I was very quiet and sad until I got home, that afternoon. When I told my parents about the awful event, they explained that unfair things happen to people all the time, and that this was just my first experience with it. It helped when they said they believed that I had not tried to ignore my teacher’s directions. My mother offered to call the school in the morning to straighten it out, but some time and passed and the sting of injustice had dulled. She smiled when I said that I didn’t want her to make that call. Looking back, I know that by not letting my mother fix it, I was taking an important step toward growing up.