The High Road

By
Jenna Freeman sits in her seventh grade language arts class as her teacher, Mrs. Dole, passes out grade sheets to each of the students. When Jenna receives hers, she immediately scans the list of assignments for the narrative essay they had all had to write a week ago. Mrs. Dole had never told them what they got, and Jenna is dying to find out…

She can feel her face light up as she sees her grade for the narrative. Fifty out of fifty points! Jenna has a secret dream—to be a famous author one day. She wants to be the person behind all the books and stories that she loves reading; she wants to be able to inspire and entertain people in a way that only an author can. Jenna worked so hard on that essay and is elated that her efforts have paid off. She feels like she is one step closer to achieving her dream.

“What did you get on the narrative essay?” Becca Miller asks, leaning over to see Jenna’s grade.

“Fifty out of fifty,” Jenna replies proudly.

Becca smiles. “Me too!”

Jenna is a bit puzzled; Becca usually is not the best student, but as Jenna scrutinizes Becca’s grade sheet, she sees that the other girl did, indeed, receive a fifty out of fifty on the essay. Before she can say anything else, though, Mrs. Dole calls the class to attention.

“I just thought I should let you all know,” Mrs. Dole announces, “that I gave everyone a fifty out of fifty on the narrative essays.”

“Huh?” Ryan Banks calls out. “Why?”

“Because,” says Mrs. Dole, a patronizing look in her eyes, “none of your essays were good enough to even deserve a C. So I thought I’d be kind and give you all one hundred percent.”

The class heaves a sigh of relief, but Jenna feels confusion building up inside her. Then her confusion is inundated with anger as Jenna realizes that Mrs. Dole regards the essay she worked so hard on as not “good enough to even deserve a C.” And now Mrs. Dole is going to be “kind” and give them all A+s?

Jenna’s anger simmers inside her, and she feels like shouting, “That is the most patronizing and unsupportive thing a teacher could ever do!” She opens her mouth and is about to speak, but she catches her voice in her throat.

She had never liked her teacher very much; Mrs. Dole was saccharine and pretended to be nice when Jenna suspected that she, in fact, hated children and her job as a teacher. Jenna suddenly feels that saying what she had wanted to say a moment before would be sinking to Mrs. Dole’s level.

Taking a deep breath, Jenna closes her mouth and sinks back in her seat. She doesn’t know what she’s going to do about this, but she knows she has to do something.

***

Thirteen years later, twenty-five-year-old Jenna Freeman wrote her first #1 New York Times best selling novel. She never confided to anyone that her dream was to be a writer until she finished high school and headed for Yale University.

After graduating from Yale, she worked for two years on her debut novel. When it was finally published, Jenna didn’t expect much from it, but she was thrilled when she found out that it hit #1 on the New York Times bestsellers’ list. She knew how prestigious an honor this was. Her book is praised as “eye-opening” and heralded as “inspiring and insightful,” and Jenna knew that it was widely read among both adults and children.

It is a warm summer day when Jenna goes to an interview with a magazine reporter. The first question the reporter asks her is, “What inspired you to write your book?”

Jenna is sitting in a comfortable chair and had been handed a glass of lemonade. She crosses her legs and sips her drink before smiling and looking the reporter in the eye.

“My book is about a girl who followed her dream even when people told her she couldn’t reach it,” Jenna says. “It’s partly autobiographical; I got the idea for it from my seventh grade language arts teacher. She let me know that no matter what people tell you, you can still succeed. And she taught me that, although it may be easy to let discouragement get you down; although it may be easy to lash out and seek revenge, it’s always better to take the high road.”





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