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When I was about twelve, my English class was given an assignment where we had to write a book recommendation and read it out to the class. We also had to read a short excerpt from the book, which the teacher specified had to be after the recommendation segment.
When my friend Sean read his paper, he stood up at the front of the class with his notes and his book, some young adult fiction. He paused for effect, and then started reading. But he wasn’t reading from his notes, he was reading dramatically and theatrically from the book! The class gasped. He was going against the rules given to us by the teacher! He was a rebel! A rogue!
At the end of the reading, we looked at the teacher, who was giving brief critiques of each student’s reports. Surely Sean would get into deep trouble for this inadherence to the rules!
“Well Sean,” he said, “I did say that the quote section had to be done after the recommendation section, but that was very good.” He looked at the class. “You can all learn from that. Sometimes rules can be broken if the effect is worth it.”
My mind raced.
The next assignment we were given was to write and read out loud a short report on a newspaper article given to us by the teacher. I was given one on oil drilling in the North Sea. Remembering what we had been told in the last assignment, I started work with fervour.
When the time came for me to read my report, the class had already been bored to tears by the other students’ papers. Full of anticipation and pride, I stood at the front of the class and introduced my talk.
“This is my report on ‘Oil or Nothing: The Cost of North Sea Drilling,” I said.
“‘Gor blimey, Aunt ‘Ilda,” I said in my best cockney accent, “could it be the parson’s run off with the milkmaid again?’
“Aunt Hilda sat bolt upright at the piano, the final note of Brahms’ Eighth ringing in the room.”
My audience was enrapt. I put on a very upperclass female accent.
“‘Oh no,’ Aunt Hilda replied, ‘I told the bishop that no good would come of that man.”
The teacher stopped me there and asked how any of this related to my newspaper article. I firmly but pleasantly reminded him of his previous advice regarding the rules, before carrying on.
“‘And young Maisie…for shame,’ Aunt Hilda continued, ‘I thought she knew better than that.”
The teacher came over and looked at my paper.
“Does any of this relate in any way to the newspaper article you were given?” he asked. I answered that of course not, I was breaking the rules like Sean did last time. The teacher told me to sit down and I got a zero for the assignment.
The next person to do their report was Sean. Instead of reading it out loud, he conveyed his paper in the form of interpretive dance. The teacher gave him an A.