“I am now going to write the problem on the board for one of you to come up and solve.” Mrs. Reynolds desperately tries to write the equation on the whiteboard which results in the echoing of squeaks from her dying dry-erase marker.
As I look at the problem displayed in front of me my mind immediately starts trying to solve it, and without even moving my hands to write or looking at my scratch paper I know the answer, but there’s no way in hell that I am going up to solve it. Instead, I just let my eyes wander the classroom to study the expressions and actions of my peers as the gears in their head churn.
“Any volunteers?” she says as she searches for any hands in the sea of scratching paper and nodding off heads.
“No? Well, that’s unfortunate. It looks like I might just have to call on someone then.”
Oh no. I take my eyes off of my peers and Mrs. Reynolds and stare at the problem on the board pretending that I’m still working on the problem while glancing back down at my blank scratch paper to pretend I’m writing something. If she thinks that I’m still working out the problem then there is a good chance she’ll ignore me and target someone who is either slacking off or seems like they actually know the answer.
A few kids start mumbling behind me and – given how quiet the class is – I make out every word they’re saying.
“Why don’t we make the ‘Psycho’ do it?” A male voice whispers.
I flinch at the word “Psycho”. They’re talking about me… I internally groan.
“Good Idea, but how?” A slightly higher pitched voice replies
“Give me a piece of paper and I’ll show you.” I hear a paper tear and I tense my muscles in preparation for their plan.
The paper is being crumpled and… Thud. Hits me right above my shoulder blades and I try my best not to show any signs that I acknowledge the paper ball that just my back, but then the teacher’s eyes lock with mine and I freeze.
“Jaiden, come on down to the front of the room and show your classmates how you solved this problem. You did solve the problem, right?” she questions in response to my obvious nervousness.
I feel my heart slam against its fleshy prison in hopes of escape. Sorry little guy, if I can’t escape neither can you. I rise from my seat and cotton balls fill my ears as I try to cancel out the people whose eyes are focused on me.
Breathe, you are only solving a simple math problem. You do this everyday in your head, all you have to do is write out the steps.
My legs and hands tremble as I approach the board and when I pick up the marker my mind goes blank and my movements revert to a mechanical state and before I know it I have finished the equation and have closed the marker.
“Correct, thank you Jaiden you may head back to your seat.” she praises.
I was already making my way back to my seat anyway, so her words are redundant.
And so she goes on to ask the class to explain the step that I went through to get the answer, my mind replays the scenario over and over again in my head and I think of all the ways that I’ve messed up. Like when I want to erase a miswritten number with my finger instead of the eraser next to me or how all of my work is slanted across the board. A coldness spreads throughout my body as I go limp and my nails start to dig into my skin as my mistakes continue to play in my head.
Eventually I stop thinking and revert back to mechanical motion until it is time to head home.