In the Margin

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I was confused when I saw “85%” scrawled in red ink on my eighth-grade algebra worksheet despite all of the answers being correct. Underlined at the top of the page were the words "No Doodling!" and a large arrow pointed to a cluster of flowers in the bottom margin. I felt cheated. I had drawn the cartoonish flowers with glittery pink gel pen while trying to make sense of the numbers and variables in the word problems, but my teacher did not approve. The score she gave me suggested doodling was somehow hurting my ability to learn.

In third grade, classes became less about having fun and more about learning specific subjects. During math class, the hands of the clock seemed to slow down. My mind wandered from topic to topic, apathetic to the words of my teacher. My enthusiasm for learning began to dwindle. To cope, I opened books beneath my desk and lost myself in detective mysteries and fantasy adventures. The numbers and equations written the board seemed far less important than the stories I read in secret, but my teacher quickly caught on to my scheme and took away my books.

As time went on, a rift appeared in my grades. In subjects that allowed my creativity to flourish, my grades reflected an engaged student. In math,...

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