I was in the seventh grade at the time, Mrs Williams’ pre-algebra class. I was usually a good student but when I wasn’t, there was always Marisela, my best friend. She sat next to me and didn’t mind showing the answers if I didn’t know them. We didn’t think of it as cheating – didn’t think of it at all.
That is, until the day we both got tests back with no grades on them – just a little note that said: “Please see me after class.” We looked at each other and knew that we were in serious trouble.
After class, Mrs Williams said that she’d noticed that Marisela’s paper and mine had very similar answers, and that we’d both made the same careless mistakes on the same questions. She asked if we had any idea how that might have happened, and we both lied. So she said: “We’ll just see, then, who really understands the material.”
She gave us both a different test on the same topic and had us sit at opposite sides of the room. I did my best, but didn’t really know what I was doing. She looked at both tests when we were done, and told Marisela she had a 90, and that she needed to be very careful of covering her tests while she was working. She then gave her a pass to her next class and sent her on her way.
“Andrea Lynn, I’m very surprised at you. And disappointed.” I stared at my shoes. “I’m disappointed that you cheated, but even more disappointed that you didn’t own up to it. Let’s go and call your mother and see what she has to say.”
“Please, ma’am, don’t call my mother. Let me stay after school or write lines. Please.” “Come, now – your mother needs to know.”
And of course, she did call my mom. And made me get on the phone and tell her why we had called. I cried but she made me stay on the line and tell my mother everything. I was given a zero on the test, three days’ detention, and had to spend the rest of the day dreading walking into my house.
When I got home, my mother said: “Upstairs, young lady.” I went up and she didn’t say a word – just took out a belt of my uncle’s and pointed to the bed. I already knew the routine, and knew not to argue with it.
I pulled up my skirt and lowered my panties down to my ankles. I leaned over the bed with my hands touching the rail on the far side and prepared for the worst. And the worst it certainly was. It was the longest beating I’d ever had, probably 30 strokes or more, and I was bawling by halfway through.
When my mother finished, she told me to stand up and stay in my room until she returned. No touching, no dressing. She was gone about 20 minutes and came back with a metal ruler from the desk downstairs.
“That was for cheating on the test,” she said, “but we haven’t dealt with your lying to a teacher, or with not preparing for the test in the first place.”
She sat on my sister’s desk chair and pulled me across her lap, a position I hadn’t experienced since graduating to the belt a year or so earlier. She then laid about 30 more strokes on to an already red, bruised and very sore bottom.
When she was done, I stood a while longer and was finally told to get dressed and do my homework.
My sister, my two younger brothers, and my uncle were all informed about my misdeeds and my punishment during dinner – it’s hard to say whether my face or my bottom was more red by that time.