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  • In fifth grade, my teacher, (we'll call her Ms. B.), did something that drove me crazy. She misspelled everything. And she did so while writing on the board, explaining words and history and mathematics to us.

    It wasn't her fault, was it? No one should have given her the responsibility of teaching a classroom of eleven year olds without being able to spell "government". But she couldn't. And somehow there she was, in front of the class with us paying dutiful mind to her, the most ambitious students with number two pencils in hands, writing down the words she wrote on the board. Incorrectly.

    I would correct her. I felt an injustice was being done. In my mind, this was a learning institution, where knowledge was the ultimate rule. I thought that if I could contribute to sharing knowledge, it was my duty to do so.

    In retrospect, I realize how traumatic this must have been for her, this thirtysomething woman having to suffer through one of her prepubescent students calling her out for poor spelling in front of a classroom of children. It's difficult enough to be a teacher. But, this?

    Ms. B. called my mother in for a conference. I sat in, but Mom told me not to talk. Ms. B. told her all about how intelligent I was, and that it was all well and good for me to express my intelligence in the classroom, but there was an appropriate way to do so and a disruptive way to do so, see?

    After that meeting, I kept quiet in class, even though I caught errors every day.

    I would sit there, biting my tongue, knowing that Connecticut had that extra "c," Wanting to tap my classmates on the shoulder and pass a note with the correct spelling. Not because I wanted to be right. Because I didn't want them to go out into the world with these ideas of things that were not true.

    That was around the same time that Madonna released Like a Virgin, and all the cool kids were asking everyone whether they were virgins. I didn't know what the question meant; curiously, my Catholic upbringing denied me that knowledge. Whenever I got asked the question, I just stared at the ground awkwardly and kicked tan bark.
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