Just when it seemed that things couldn't get any worse, Quinn gets an assignment that means he has to speak in front of the whole class. It might be the thing he fears most in life.
Luckily, he's got some great people in his corner. There's his best friend, Keenan, always loyal, who laughs at all his jokes and is a great student too.
He's got his new tutors, OnTime, who tells jokes and makes sure he's never late, and Vicky, who keeps him organized. She also believes that you have to face your fears.
Facing his fears is not going to be easy at this school. There's a lot to be afraid of. Quinn is in for a lot of action and adventure!
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In Front of The Whole Class
By Rick Hughes
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2012 Rick Hughes
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIn Front of The Whole Class
Mr. Tiburon gave the assignment to the class and Quinn Compton could feel the fear in the pit of his stomach the moment the words were out of the teacher's mouth.
It was an oral presentation to be done in front of the whole Grade Six class. Everybody had to do it and there was no getting out of it.
The question was that if you could spend an hour with any person who ever lived, who would it be? Why would it be that person? What would you want to ask them? What would you want to do together? Mr. Tiburon tried to give examples of things you might want to do. Play ball was his first one, but Quinn got stuck wondering if Mr. Tiburon had ever played ball. It was very hard to imagine him ever playing anything. He was very old and very serious, not to mention very strict.
Quinn struggled to pay better attention. Mr. Tiburon believed very strongly that you should stay on task. It was an instant detention if Mr. T discovered that you were not following what he was saying. He did not want your mind wandering, even a little. At the moment, he was suggesting that maybe you might want to have dinner with the person you'd chosen. The trouble was that this made Quinn think about his stomach and how even the thought of standing up there in front of the whole class made him feel like he was going to be sick.
He sat in his seat in total panic. He had absolutely no idea who he would choose. When he tried to think of somebody, he got a brain cramp and Mr. T's helpful examples were making it worse. He didn't want to have dinner with anybody. He liked eating in front of the TV.
Now the teacher was suggesting that you might want to go to a spa with the person. Quinn wasn't really sure what a spa was. He thought he might have seen a commercial with a lady lying on a bench, covered in towels. He didn't even like taking a bath.
He looked over at his best friend Keenan to see how he was taking the news. He was nodding and smiling and already writing something down. Keenan was a good friend but sometimes he could be kind of depressing. Here was Quinn praying that there was some way he could get out of this, and here was Keenan wishing he was up there in front of the class already.
Quinn put his hand up. He had no choice. He knew that this was definitely not something that Mr. Tiburon wanted to see while he was still speaking. Questions were to be asked afterward. It was a very strict rule, but this was an emergency!
The teacher went on with his suggestions, ignoring the upraised hand, in the hope that Quinn would remember the rule. But Quinn kept his hand up until Mr. T. couldn't ignore it any more.
"Quinn?" he intoned. It was amazing how long he could make that single word last as he drawled it. It left no doubt how unhappy he was that his strict rule was being defied, that he was being interrupted.
Quinn knew how how much trouble he was getting himself in, but he had to do something, and fast! He forced himself to speak as the teacher glared down at him.
"May I please go to the washroom?" He didn't even wait for an answer. He just ran out of the classroom! He really was going to be sick!
Chapter TwoImagine Them In Their Underwear
"Wow, I thought that you were really going to get it when you came back! The way you just ran out of class! But then Mr. Tiburon didn't do anything! I think he knew that you'd been sick. You could kind of smell it." Keenan was walking home with him after school.
"Oh no, really? Everybody could?" Quinn was already feeling embarrassed enough.
"Yeah, I think so. People anywhere near you, at least. And there's still a little on your shirt."
Quinn looked down and there it was, obvious enough that probably everybody saw it when he walked back into class. He tried to brush it off with his fingers. He'd looked in the washroom mirror when he was washing his face afterwards, but he must have missed it somehow. It wasn't really something that he wanted to know, but he was glad that Keenan had told him. It was what friends were for, he figured.
"You could always say you've got the flu." Keenan was trying to help.
"I might have to." 'Yeah, the flu,' he thought to himself. 'The public speaking flu.' He still felt a little sick.
Quinn decided not to tell his mother about being sick. He didn't know why. He just put the shirt he'd been wearing in the laundry and put on a fresh one. He did tell her about the presentation, and when he did, she just groaned.
"Oh no, not public speaking! I still hate it! I don't have to do it too often these days, but when I do, I still get really nervous.
It's not too bad with just a few people, but when it's in front of a whole room, my heart really starts to pound."
Quinn was starting to think that he was not alone in his fear of public speaking.
She put his juice bottles into his lunch bag. "I can still remember the first time I had to go up in front of the school."
"The whole school?"
"The whole school. The speech itself wasn't so hard. I had it all written down, and all I had to do was read it." She put out her hands. "My hands were shaking so bad when I took out the paper that I was sure that everybody could see. What saved me was that there was a lectern. I put the paper down on it and I gripped the edge of the lectern to stop my hands from shaking and I held on to it for dear life! When I opened my mouth to speak, my voice came out in this tiny squeak. I was sure that everybody was going to laugh."
"Did they?" This was something that Quinn was really afraid of.
"No, because I tried to turn the squeak into a cough as fast as I could, so that everybody would think I was just clearing my throat."
"And it worked?"
"It worked sort of. I think a lot of people knew, but at least they weren't laughing." She finished filling his lunch bag and put it into his backpack. Then she looked at her watch. "I've really got to go."
"But what happened?" Quinn didn't want her to leave without telling him.
"Oh, I started again and I just tried to keep going. I totally ignored the advice I'd been given and I just tried to pretend I was alone in my room practicing, and somehow I got to the end." She picked up her bag and started for the door. "I might be a bit late tonight. I'll call you."
Quinn chased after her as she went out the door. "But what was the advice that you totally ignored?"
"Oh, it was too silly. I just couldn't do it."
"What was it?"
"I was supposed to imagine that everybody in the audience was sitting there in their underwear!"
On the way to school, all Keenan wanted to talk about was Albert Einstein. He said he knew right away that he was the person he wanted to do the presentation on and he started to tell Quinn all the stuff he'd found out about him so far.
He sounded like a very cool guy, but hearing about him mostly made Quinn wish he'd picked an interesting guy like that, instead of not having the slightest clue who to choose.
They were getting close to school and Keenan was still going strong on Einstein. Quinn thought that maybe he should interrupt him because he did want to tell him about the underwear advice, even though he thought it was very weird. How could you ever concentrate if you were thinking about what everyone was wearing under their clothes?
By the time he got a chance, they were already in class and a girl named Emma had come up to join them. Keenan kind of liked her and he wanted to impress her, so he started telling her about Albert Einstein.
She was a pretty nice girl, so she listened politely. You couldn't tell if she really wanted to know any of this stuff, but Quinn didn't really think so. He didn't think anybody could be that interested in the exact date of Einstein's birth. So he decided to interrupt his friend, and when he did, he thought that she looked grateful.
"You know something? I talked to my Mom about this presentation and she told me how scared she was when she had to do it."
"Mine too!" said Emma, and he could tell that she was glad the topic had changed. "My mother told me that she almost fainted when she had to do it!" It was taking Keenan a while to change gears and adjust himself to not talking about Albert Einstein, so he just smiled. "And you know what else my mother told me?" Emma leaned a little closer to them. "She told me that I was supposed to imagine the audience all wearing their underwear!"
"No way!" Quinn laughed. "My Mom told me the same thing!"
"Can you believe it?" Emma giggled. "How is that supposed to help? Imagining everybody naked!"
Quinn started to laugh. "You're trying to do a speech and you're thinking there's Mr. Tiburon in his underwear?"
Emma laughed. "How could you ever do a presentation thinking about that?"
That got Keenan giggling which got Emma giggling even more than she already was. They were all giggling so much that they didn't see Mr. Tiburon come in.
Neither did a boy named Derek who came over to see what all the fun was about. Derek liked a good laugh and he didn't want to miss out on what was going on. But now Quinn and Keenan had seen Mr. T and they knew that he did not like a good laugh, not when you were supposed to be at your seat getting out your homework, so the two boys hurried over to their desks.
Emma saw the teacher too, so she started to get out her homework, but Derek still wanted to know what was going on, so she leaned close to him so that she could tell him without the teacher hearing.
What Emma didn't see was the girl with the long black hair and the green lipstick who was standing behind them. She didn't see the look that the girl was giving them when she saw Derek getting so close to her.
And when Emma said 'naked' and Derek started to laugh so hard, the girl with the long black hair and the green lipstick had a look on her face that was truly frightening.
Chapter ThreeThe Power of Laughter
"Put up your hand!"
Keenan was jabbing him in the ribs with his elbow, so Quinn stuck up his hand. He'd been lost in a daydream.
"Why is my hand up?" he whispered to Keenan. Mr. Tiburon clapped his hands once. "All right. All you people with your hands up are to proceed to the library with your partner."
Keenan stood up and motioned to Quinn that he should do the same. Quinn stood up, still trying to come back to Earth. It had been a pretty nice daydream, all on his favourite trampoline. He followed Keenan out of the classroom.
"Why did I have my hand up?" he asked as the group walked down the hall.
"This is why.
Because we get to go to the library."
"Oh." They turned a corner. "Why?"
"Because we're the ones who already knew who we're doing the presentation on. We get to do research."
"Oh, okay." Its till wasn't making sense. He still had no clue who to do it on. Why am I your partner?"
"Weren't you listening at all? Mr. T gave us partners." Keenan lowered his voice. "I was hoping I'd be Emma's partner, but he put Derek with her."
"So you got stuck with me?"
"Looks like it."
He could tell that Keenan was pretty happy, even if he didn't get to be Emma's partner. He was probably already anticipating that the library would have a huge section on his favourite scientist. What he was going to do there himself, Quinn didn't really know, but at least it was better than staying in class. Keenan had been looking after him again.
In the library, Quinn sat there at the table, wondering what to do. Keenan already had a pile of books featuring good old Albert and he looked as happy as a kid in a candy store. He thought maybe he could try to get back to his daydream. It had been about the trampoline and a new move, but it was no use. It just wasn't there any more.
He looked around and it looked like everyone was doing something productive. Even Derek was smiling as he looked at the stack of books that Emma had helped him find. He figured he ought to do something, not just sit there the whole time, so he got up to go look for a book. He thought that maybe he could at least find something fun to read. He walked over to a shelf and stood there staring at the books.
It was then that he heard the angry voice. It was so angry that it made him back up instinctively as soon as he heard it. He looked around to see where it was coming from. Peeking around the edge of the shelf, he saw the girl with the long black hair and the green lipstick, whose name was Vanessa. She was talking to Chloe, another girl in the class, and Quinn could feel the anger from behind the shelf. He leaned back so that the girls couldn't see him. He could still hear what she was saying.
"Emma? Are you crazy? I don't believe you said that!"
Now Quinn really wanted to hear. He took a book down without looking at it and opened it, pretending to be reading. He found that if he moved his head a little, he could see the girls between the books on the shelf. He knew that meant they could see him too, but they weren't looking his way and the conversation was really intense.
Chloe shrugged her shoulders. "Well, Emma is pretty."
Vanessa went absolutely ballistic. "Are you crazy! Pretty! Her!
What are you talking about? Have you seen the clothes she wears?" Chloe just stood there staring, like she was afraid of getting the wrong answer. "That skirt! Did you see that skirt!"
"What skirt?" Chloe shrunk back a little. She knew this wasn't the right answer.
"Oh my God! Don't pretend that you don't know! The one she's wearing today! The plaid one!"
"Oh, the plaid one. The long plaid one?" Chloe was still trying to get this right.
"Well, duh!" Vanessa couldn't believe that there could be any question about this. "The one that makes her look like a grandmother trying to be a cheerleader! It's like she's so dumb that she can't decide whether she should be a cheerleader or a geek, when we all know that there's really no decision. It's geek all the way!"
"You got that right. Emma is a total geek." You could tell that Chloe felt more sure of herself on this topic. "I saw the way that Derek was looking at her."
"What do you mean?" Vanessa's voice had turned to ice.
"Like she was a total geek, of course." Chloe couldn't get this out fast enough.
"That's not what you meant!"
"Yeah, it was."
"No, it wasn't! If you want to be my friend, you have to tell me the truth!"
"What do you want me to say? That he was grinning at her like a big baby?"
"He was, wasn't he? I'd like to smack that grin right off his face."
"That he was looking at her like he wanted to kiss her?"
"Don't you ever say that again!"
"I was only joking!"
"I don't care if you're joking!" Vanessa grabbed Chloe by the wrist. "Don't you ever say say that again!"
"Ow! Let go! You don't have to do that! I told you I was joking!" Vanessa loosened her grip a little and Chloe pulled her hand away. "Like who'd want to kiss her?" She rubbed her wrist where it still hurt.
"Never say it again." Vanessa glared. "Never even think it."
"Don't worry, I won't." Chloe was still rubbing her wrist.
The two girls started to move away, so Quinn turned and headed back to the table, amazed at what he'd just seen, wondering what it was all about. He tried to tell Keenan, but Keenan just nodded like he wasn't surprised.
"Vanessa's crushing on Derek. She thinks he's really hot."
"Wow! How do you know this?"
"I don't know. I just do."
Quinn shrugged his shoulders. "What does she think is so hot about him?"
"I don't know. I'm not a girl. All I know is that if Vanessa ever sees another girl going anywhere Mr. Hot, she starts to freak."
"She sure does! It was scary!" He sat down at the table and opened the book that he still had in his hand. "I didn't know girls could be like that."
"Yeah, but what do you know about girls?"
"Exactly my point."
Excerpted from In Front of The Whole Class by Rick Hughes Copyright © 2012 by Rick Hughes. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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