In the first grade, I cheated on a spelling test.


I was recently reminded of this ethical lapse when one of my own grade schoolers asked, “Mommy, how do you spell ‘little?’” Ah, my old nemesis — little — the word I didn’t know how to spell on that fateful spelling test.


I remember the event so clearly. It’s like I’m back in my six-year-old shoes and skirt. I remember struggling to decipher the word my teacher called out. I sounded it out and came up with “l-i-d-d-l-e,” for understandable reasons. That sounded right, but I wasn’t positive.


On the way to the teacher’s desk to turn in my test, I glanced at someone else’s paper just to check. Oh, no! I was wrong. Not “l-i-d-d-l-e,” but “l-i-t-t-l-e.” I quickly made a u-turn back to my seat and corrected my answer. To quiet the whisper of my conscience, I told myself that I’d meant to write “l-i-t-t-l-e,” but I just got confused for a minute. Of course, I knew how to spell that word.


Then, I walked my “corrected” paper back to the teacher’s desk, but conviction wouldn’t let me hand it in. For the second time that morning, I turned around, went back to my seat, and changed my answer again. Erasing “l-i-t-t-l-e” and writing “l-i-d-d-l-e.” By then, not cheating felt like lying in my six-year-old mind, because now I knew the right way to spell the word. Chagrined, I finally turned in my test with the purposely misspelled word.


I wonder if my teacher ever knew the moral battle that raged behind my pencil and eraser marks. Could she decipher the code of conscience being etched by a first-grader’s d’s and l’s? Even if she never understood, I did. In the 35 years since that school day, I’ve never knowingly cheated again. But, I also never became a very good speller, except for one word.


So, on a recent morning I spelled “little” for my first grader, or it might have been my third grader, and then told all my kids the story of when I cheated once, a long time ago.


I hope they learned more than how to spell a little word.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

About the Author
I'm one frizzled momma finding adventure and delight everyday...and writing about it! My chicken coop is full of six chicks, lots of friends, tons of books, and plenty of work. Stick around, I've got loads of stories to share.


  1. [...] am not good at spelling. Never have been. I read voraciously and write prolifically, but I am not good at spelling or [...]

  2. Ruth Rouchard says:

    Love the picture – great story:-) You know your kids will never forget that one…so good.

    1. Ruth says:

      Thanks, Ruth! As the children’s teacher, you know they are inheriting my poor spelling, but hopefully also my heart to do what is right.