The Girl Who Hated (almost) Everything


She doesn’t look like a total crosspatch, does she? Don’t be fooled.

I raised my hand. “I hate writing.”

Mrs. McMullen came to my desk. “Do it anyway.”

“I’ve been to the zoo once. In Kindergarten.” I scowled at my worksheet.

“Write about that trip, then.”

“I got lost.”

“I’m sure you’ll think of something, Jessie.”

I wrote, “At the zoo, we saw the monkeys. They were very very very very very funny.” I made the ‘very’s’ huge so I wouldn’t have to cover the whole page.

Mrs. McMullen returned it. “Do over.” She kept me in from recess.

I wrote, “I hate the zoo. I got lost. It was NOT fun, and I missed lunch. Mom was worried. I guess I saw some animals. The end.” Mrs. McMullen gave me a 100.

Two weeks after that, she started the third grade reading project. “I hate reading.”

“Yes, you’ve told me that. Several times.”

“None of the other third grade classes have to read three novels.”

“And all of them have to use the reading book. The one you called boring.”

I loathe horses.”

My advanced vocabulary did not intimidate my teacher. She had assigned King of the Wind, Misty of Chincoteague, and Black Beauty to be read over the course of three months, in any order. When I refused to pick, She handed me Misty and kept me in from recess for a week.

I ate that book whole. From the wreck of the Spanish galleon, through the Phantom’s capture and Misty’s birth, I devoured Marguerite Henry’s words. But before I could move on to King of the Wind, I had to compose a book report. I wrote, “I hate the horses that live in our pasture. They get out all the time, and they aren’t ours. When I was four, I used to love them. I tried to ride one bareback with my friend Amanda. But it was in heat. The stallion kept trying to mount her, and she nearly bucked us off. Mom was furious. The end.”

Mrs. McMullen kept me in from recess. “I know you read the book.”


“Did you like it even a little?”

“I loved it.”

“Why won’t you write about it?”

“Marguerite Henry already wrote that story.”

“Ah.” She looked at my paper.

“I don’t want to write her stories.”

“I don’t think that’s going to be your problem, Jessie.  Will you at least tell me the plot?”

I rolled my eyes and recited the book’s basic facts.

Mrs. McMullen nodded. She wrote 100 on my paper. “Go play,” she said.

“I’m going to study math.” She shrugged. I got out my textbook  and a fresh sheet of paper. But I didn’t do multiplication. I wrote, “I hate math. It’s my least favorite subject.” I didn’t try to cover my work when Mrs. McMullen came to  check.

She said, “Sooner or later, you’re going to have to write about something you like.”

“Not today. We’ve got another times test this afternoon don’t we? And I can’t stand those things.”

Yesterday was National Teacher Appreciation Day, and this post honors one of the most amazing teachers I ever had. I have no idea why she liked me so much, because the thing I really hated that year was school.

About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


The Girl Who Hated (almost) Everything — 44 Comments

    • She was awesome. What she really saw was a miserable smart girl in a school that didn’t support smart girls. She saw a bullied kid who was really good at making things worse for herself by egging the bullies on. And she protected me when I was all prickles and spines.

  1. I never wanted to read the stuff they assigned in school. I don’t even think I realized what i was doing in my spare time and what they were assigning both came under the category of “reading.”

    I could have used a Mrs. McMullen or two or three…

    (Fun post!)
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  2. Great post! You conveyed your young self perfectly. I love that your teacher was totally able to see through your bullshit, and that she just kept redirecting you and encouraging you.

  3. Now that teacher had insights and recognized a young girl’s talent. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Jessie, every single thing I learn about you makes me like you a smidge more.

    I loved school..and hated it equally. I was always scared of not being smart enough or liked enough or being nice to everyone so it took some of the joy from subjects I loved like English, social studies and back then.. Religion. I always hated math.. Still do. 😉

    You were quite a cutie my friend. Love the picture.
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  5. I don’t think I had to read a book for school until grade 7. And I will forever love THAT teacher who helped me find the right book just for me. Her name was Miss Cherry. The book was called “Fattypuffs and Thinnifers” – it was such a cute book and I can’t help but smile as I remember her comments on my book report “But suspense should be interesting” when I wrote I was glad it didn’t have any since it was a boring thing.

    p.s. you were such a cute little thing!
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    • Hers was the only class that did this, and we never had anything like it. I think it was an experiment – one she ran every single year – but one that the other teachers didn’t attempt.

  6. Oh, Jessie, I think I love that little girl you. My favorite students are always the challenging ones — they help me grow, too.

    And, clearly you got over your hating of writing and reading…
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    • Yes – I can trace my desire to become a writer to her class. It didn’t really bloom until I was ten, but that year was when it first took hold.

  7. How wonderful that teachers can see right through us and find a way to reach us. I’ve got a couple of teachers I should really look up so I can send them thank-you notes.
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  8. You had the most amazing teacher without a doubt. She understood the process of learning and valued how much you really learnt and not how many assignments you turned in even though those who did might not have any understanding of the book whatsoever. And you knew the word ‘loathe’ in third grade!! You were bound to be a good writer. I absolutely loved your post! 🙂
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    • Extraordinary woman .I can’t say enough good things about her. I would not do well with those stupid AR tests kids have to take these days, because, though I would read the book, I would call the questions stupid and refuse to answer correctly.

  9. Oh, I love this post. I’m willing to bet the reason she liked you so much was because she knew you were a bright kid who needed someone to push you past all the things you hated.
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    • Quite possibly so. I think, too, that she started every year fresh. She refused to read our records coming in and let us develop in her class. She had the potential to love ALL of us that much, which was what made her so amazing.

  10. I love that you were sassy enough to be stubborn about your schoolwork. I was always such a good girl and never questioned teachers out loud. Probably because my dad was a principal (but not mine). I wish all teachers were like this one!
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    • Oh God, it never occurred to me NOT to question the teachers. I always got away with it, which was another source of friction between me and the other kids.