Truly Terrible

Drawing of a blackboard with "if it's too hard, give up" written on it. Caption reads: Mrs Franklin was a truly terrible teacher.

Truly Terrible children’s story by Iris Carden

Mrs Franklin was a truly terrible teacher.  Everyone in grade 3F thought so.

“What do we do when we try to do something and fail?” Mrs Franklin asked the class.

Sophie put up her hand and answered: “We try again.”

“No!” Mrs Franklin answered.  “If something’s too hard, we give up.  Don’t bother doing things that are too hard. You’ll fail.  The easiest was to avoid failing is to not try anything difficult.  For example, teaching children new things is difficult.  I personally gave up trying that ten years ago.”

That day, they read a picture book they’d already read in grade two.  They coloured a picture some of them remembered colouring in grade one.  For maths class they counted to twenty, even though they’d done some adding and subtracting in grade two.

After school, Sophie said to her mother, “I have a truly terrible teacher.”

“How truly terrible?” her mother asked.

“She’s so truly terrible she is making us do work we already did in grade one and two. She says teaching children new things is too hard and she’s not going to do it.”

“That is quite terrible,” her mother answered.  “But it’s not as truly terrible as Miss Agatha Trunchbull.”

“Who is Miss Agatha Trunchbull?”

Her mother got a book down from the bookshelf.  “Matilda was my favourite book when I was your age.  It was about a girl who had a nice teacher, but her school principal was a truly terrible teacher, and her parents were truly terrible parents.”

Sophie looked at the book.  “I wish I could read this,” she said, “but I can’t read chapter books.  The other grade three classes are reading chapter books, but Mrs Franklin said we couldn’t.”

“Well, don’t read it at school.  Read it at home,” her mother answered.

“It looks hard.”

“It might be.  But, you can read picture books, so you can read.  There might be some bigger words in the chapter book, but you know how to make the sounds of the letters to work out the word, and if there’s any you can’t work out, you can ask me.”

Sophie looked at the book.  The picture on the cover was a girl with books all around her. Sophie loved stories, and thought a book about a girl who loved stories might be good to read.

She started to read the first page.  It did have a lot of words on it.  She kept reading.  Sometimes she had to try to work out words from the sounds of the letters.  Once or twice she asked her mother for help.  Before she realised it, she’d finished reading the first chapter.  

Then she read the second chapter. It was easier to read than the first, and by then she was so interested in the story she wouldn’t even consider giving up.

She took the book with her to school the next day, to read during lunch break.  

Mrs Franklin saw the book and asked why she had it. 

Sophie told her about the story she was reading, and how exciting it was.

Mrs Franklin asked if the the book was too hard.

Sophie admitted it had been a little hard to begin with but it got easier as she kept reading.

Other children in the class asked if they could read chapter books too, but Mrs Franklin said they could not, and Sophie would not be allowed to read it in class.

At lunch time, other children in the class asked Sophie about her book, and she read them the first chapter. 

For the rest of the week, every day Sophie read a chapter of Matilda to the class at lunchtime, and every day the children asked Mrs Franklin if they would be allowed to read chapter books in class. Every day Mrs Franklin said no.

After school each day, Sophie complained to her mother about how truly terrible Mrs Franklin was, and how she wasn’t letting the class read chapter books.

Her mother agreed that was quite terrible, but still not as truly terrible as Miss Punchbull.

Then the telephone calls began. Other parents rang Sophie’s mother to talk about the children all wanting to read chapter books, even though Mrs Franklin said they couldn’t.  Sophie’s mother told them that Sophie just picked up a book to read at home, and asked for help if she needed it.

The next week all the children arrived at school with chapter books.  

Mrs Franklin asked why they all had them.  The children all said they were big kids, and they wanted to read big kid books.  Miss Franklin gave in.  She let them have chapter books in reading time.

That afternoon, after school, Sophie told her mother about it.

Her mother said that was wonderful.  Children in grade three should be able to read chapter books.  Then she said, “Do you know, grade three level maths is quite fun?  What if we got a book about it?”

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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