Peer Review by Victoria Martin (Canada)

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Car Rides With Ms.C

By: Saadia

You know that feeling when you wake up from a dream but you can't remember what happened? You wake up to find a dark room encompassing you, you sit straight up, and you really try to remember what just happened. But you only get fragments. Maybe you remember there was a dog, or a stranger you swear you had met before. Or maybe your crush finally asked you to prom, but you don't know what happened once you arrived? Well this is how much of my life has been, except I seemed to have awoken from a nightmare. I have flashes of what happened-or maybe what I think happened. Either way, it's all a blur, only pieces of my life that I have reworked over and over again to try to piece together.  To create some type of structure to my short, but crazy life. To give me some perspective. But it's a lot harder than it sounds. 

I don't remember the first time I saw my parents fight. And not just argue, but physically beat each other. I don't remember the first time my mom got drunk in the morning and stayed in her stupor the rest of the day. I don't remember the day after my baby brother died. I don't remember the weeks after I was finally separated from my family and thrown into a foster home. The list of things I don't remember continues on into infinity. The worst part is, I don't have any order to how these events happened, so in my mind its a bunch of half-memories that are all mixed into one category: life before I was adopted. But this isn't a story about how my early life was tragic. I'm not looking for another person to tell me that I should be on Oprah or that I should make my life into a TV show. I don't need to hear how sad it is that my dad was in prison or that my parents abused me. I've already heard all of that, and more than once for the matter. No, this isn't that story. This is the story about how one person brought a little bit of light into my life that was practically pitch black. How a person I had never personally met, would take me under her wing and fly me to and from school every day for a whole year. 

When I was told that I was going from my small charter school where I knew almost everyone, to a big public school where there were three teachers for each grade level, my heart sunk into my stomach. The only place that had been normal in my life, my school, was going to be torn from my small chubby hands. But that was before Ms. Carters. 

Ms. Carters was the fourth grade teacher at my school. She was known as the mean teacher who was always yelling at her students. So to hear that she offered to drive me to and from school every day seemed like a mistake. The day that I met her and hopped into her car, I was nervous. What if she was going to yell at me. What if I spill my water in her car. What if, what if, what if?

But to my surprise I was met with, "Hi! I'm Ms. Carters. I'm so escited for you to be in my class!" And that's how I learned that the woman wasn't yelling at her students, she simply yelled everything. She was a loud woman. And I learned this repeatedly over the course of the year. 

"Okay, everyone quiet," she said one day in the car. We all listened for the man's predictable radio host voice to fill the silence. 
"Today's question of the day is..." there was a long pause, "how many tiles does an average piano have." I waited for Ms. C to answer first, as I always did. Some may call this cheating but I called it my strategy. I hear Ms. C's son shout out an answer from the back of the van. 

"Once we're at school, let's count the keys on the piano in the music room." I agreed with Ms. C that this was a good idea. The rest of the car ride consisted of me hounding Ms. C with my usual questions. "Can I help grade the papers once we're to school? Or choose the books for the book display? Can I write the announcements on the whiteboard? I desperately believed I was suppose to be a teacher, so anything that Ms. C needed help with, I did. Even if that meant being called a teacher's pet all year. 

Another time when I once again forgot my lunch box (at some point this became a part of my routine), Ms. C took me to the store and bought me lunch. Although I could have gotten free hot lunch since I was a foster kid, Ms. C made an entire trip out of it. She let me pick a Lunchable (one of the cool once's too with a CapriSun), trail mix, pretzels, and a Slim Jim. Throughout the store she kept asking me, "Is that enough? Just pick out something else." She didn't know that this was already way better than any lunch I had packed myself before. And being me, I felt forever indebted to her, so my answer was always a, "I'm okay!" 

On the very last day of school that year Ms. C took me and her son to get donuts. As a bit into my chocolate covered, cream filled donut, I couldn't help but think how this was coming to an end.  I didn't know if her offer to drive me would be on the table next year. The days of waking up at 5:00 am so that she could pick me up,  listening to the question of the day on the radio, grading papers with her, and everything else, would be gone for at least three months. Maybe forever. 

These are some of the only memories that aren't in fragments, I can actually remember them. I learned so much from Ms. C that year, but what she really taught me is that all it takes is once stranger. One person to say, "I'll take this kid since everyone else has forgotten her." To say, in one way or another, I care about you. I didn't have anyone else in my life that I truly felt connected to, but for a couple of hours each day, during those car rides with Ms. C , everything changed. I wasn't a pitied foster child. I wasn't even just a student.

I was just a kid having fun with my teacher. 

Message to Readers

Any help on editing this is appreciated. I now I am over the word count so let me know anything that you think isn't central to the story and could be taken out.

Peer Review

I love this piece, I just love it so much. I love your introduction and description of your relationship with Ms.C. . There are so many elements in this story that I understand and I love how you presented the events and connection within the piece.

I related most to your experience with your teacher. Having that one person who just changed you.

Your writing style helps to build the urgency of the piece,it kept me reading and interested in the whole piece. Your description of the events as a whole is superb.

I think you were describing the huge difference one connection you make with a person can change your life.

Check for little errors and if you like how your piece flows.

Reviewer Comments