Self-Expression Assignment

By: Brooklyn Lile
The sound of seventeen pairs of feet slowly, uniformly dragging along the dusty old floors comes to life as the monotone bell rings, compelling students to enter the dimly lit classroom. White walls that have turned almost yellow with age contrast the deep brown desks that are placed in perfectly straight lines with the same notebook, pencils, and eraser beneath them. Dressed in the same white shirt and khaki pants, the students all take their seats as Ms. Norman turns on the white and black themed powerpoint she prepared the night before, gently clearing her throat even though the room is already silent.
“I hope you all had a good weekend and are ready to finish off the last semester you will have in this school,” Ms. Norman began, “Today, we are going to change things up a bit. I have been speaking quite often with the administration as of late, and they are wanting to allow students to use more creativity and self-expression in their work. You all will soon be leaving for college, and it is imperative that you know how to think for yourselves and develop your own unique ideas.”
She turns her back slightly and clicks to the next slide. The words “Self-Expression Assignment” are typed in white against the black background; the students all look at one another puzzled.
Ms. Norman grabs a stack of white papers off of her desk and begins passing them down the rows. “This assignment will allow you all to explore your creative side and express yourselves. I want you all to type a three page, Times New Roman, 12 point font, 1.5 spacing essay on any topic you choose. You must have the paper typed in that exact format or you will lose points.”
A student sitting near the middle of the room raises his hand. Ms. Norman looks in his direction and nods her head slightly, vaguely acknowledging him.
“Can we choose any topic we want?” He asks quietly.
“Yes, of course! The main goal of this assignment is for you all to express and develop your own ideas,” Ms. Norman says clicking to the next slide. A small list of four phrases fills the entire slide: “Why Gun Control is Bad”, “Why Abortion should be Illegal”, “Why Global Warming is Fake”, and “Why the Wage Gap is OK”.
“Ms. Norman, do we have to write about those topics specifically?” A girl in the front questions.
“Yes! You can choose any of these four topics. Choose whichever you are the most passionate about. Good question! Are there any others?” Ms. Norman questions, placing the extra copies of paper on her desk.
“So, do we like have to write about why those statements are true or can we disagree?” A voice from the back mumbles.
Ms. Norman abruptly drops the papers and glares in the direction of the voice. “No, you cannot disagree. These are the topics you all are assigned to write about. Do not pick another topic or contrast the statements or you will fail the project. Not to mention, that would be extremely defiant which is deserving of, at minimum, a detention.”
Ms. Norman stops to turn off the colorless powerpoint on her computer. “Don’t forget,” she advised, “This assignment is not black and white. Be as creative as possible. I want you all to be as expressive as you can with your papers. A large portion of the scoring guide is your ability to be creative and freethinking.”
Ms. Norman sat down at her small, black desk and began grading papers as the sound of seventeen pencils being forced upon notebooks filled the room.