When God Says Let There Be LightChapters List
Chapter 9: Struggling Students
There is a clear distinction between the experimental class and the regular class in Changchuan No. 1 Middle School. The regular class occupied Zhixing Building, while the Experimental Class resided in Gezhi Building. These two buildings stood facing each other, with a distance of around thirty meters between them. The corridor of Class Thirteen was directly across from Class One's balcony. If one had sufficient skill and could imitate the stance of a javelin thrower, there was a chance they could actually throw their assignments onto Class One's balcony.
Yet, in Nie Qingzhou's hands was a thin sheet of paper, and he had no confidence in his throwing skills whatsoever.
Thus, he hurried downstairs with the paper, then rushed back upstairs, finally reaching Class One's door just before the morning reading session. Xia Yi sat at the farthest end from the corridor, against the last row of the balcony, and was reading a book with her head bowed across countless swaying figures. Nie Qingzhou called out a girl who was about to enter the classroom.
"Could you please call Xia Yi and ask her to bring out her English assignment?"
The girl wearing a sky-blue bowknot, seemed momentarily lost in thought. Inexplicably, her face turned pale, and Nie Qingzhou wasn't sure if she had heard him. Nonetheless, she walked towards the last row of the class and passed by Xia Yi—then, as if belatedly realizing something, she turned her head and said something to Xia Yi.
Xia Yi looked up and caught sight of Nie Qingzhou standing by the classroom door, waving the papers.
When Yang Xiaoman, an English teacher in a class, was carrying English books to lead the morning reading session, she ran into the most outstanding student from her class standing together with the most notorious one in the grade.
These two completely unmatched people stood facing each other in the corridor. Nie Qingzhou appeared well-groomed and presentable today. He held an English paper, extending it towards Xia Yi with her name written upon it.
He looked up and saw Yang Xiaoman appearing, he was a little surprised and shouted, "Teacher Yang." As soon as the phrase "Teacher Yang" came out, his initial astonishment shifted to Yang Xiaoman, and she couldn't help but look at him a few more times.
Yang Xiaoman pondered how this rebellious student from Class Thirteen was voluntarily addressing her as "Teacher."
She lowered her head and glanced at the papers held by both of them, and the doubts that had just arisen were suppressed again. Clearly, people weren't that easy to change.
Yang Xiaoman said calmly to Xia Yi: "The morning reading has already started, what are you doing here? Come in quickly."
After Xia Yi turned and entered the classroom, Yang Xiaoman turned back to Nie Qingzhou and said, "If you really want to do your assignment, do it properly. Copying homework, and even copying it all the way to our class, isn't that a bit excessive?"
The tall, dark-haired boy across from her seemed to be stunned for a moment. Then helpness surfaced in his brown eyes. "Teacher, I didn't."
"Then why is Xia Yi's paper in your hands? Let me tell you, don't bother my students."
Nie Qingzhou seemed to find this both amusing and irksome. He retorted, "I didn't copy it."
Of course, he knew that Yang Xiaoman wouldn't believe him, and she drove him back after some verbal warnings. He had come all this way to deliver a piece of paper and ended up being scolded for no reason. Rushing back to attend the morning reading session was futile. Although he was late for the reading, his English teacher barely spared him a glance before he slid back to his seat, almost like he was invisible.
On reflection, he realized that "Nie Qingzhou" usually just dozed during morning reading anyway, so his presence or absence made little difference.
Class Thirteen had an odd number of students. Two pairs sit at the same table, so naturally there is only one person left to sit alone. This unique position unsurprisingly belonged to the most difficult student in Class Thirteen—Nie Qingzhou.
Nie Qingzhou relished the tranquility. The morning began with two consecutive English lessons. He propped up his chin, sighed deeply after ten minutes of listening, and then opened his pencil case to extract a colorful highlighter. He flipped through his textbook while marking as he read.
After half a class had passed, he had already taken out an English question bank from his drawer and spread it out on top of his textbook. While keeping one ear tuned to the teacher's voice, he swiftly began working through the questions with his pencil.
During the break, Zhang Yukun and Lai Ning walked halfway across the classroom to find him. Seeing the various markings left on his English book, Lai Ning said in surprise, "Zhou-Ge, you were actually listening in class?"
Nie Qingzhou popped a lollipop into his mouth, leaning back against his chair. "I didn't listen to it. I'm not used to it."
"Then what's with all these notes in your books?"
"I'm organizing my own study notes."
"What's that question bank?"
"It's a supplementary material for the Experimental Class, it's barely passable. I photocopied it."
Zhang Yukun and Lai Ning exchanged looks. Zhang Yukun asked seriously, "Zhou-Ge, are you okay? Why are you so studious all of a sudden?"
"My aunt made me feel helpless and I promised her that I'd do well in the midterms. As they say, a gentleman's word is as good as gold. I can't back down now." Nie Qingzhou spoke lightly.
"Don't all parents do that? My mom nags me about studying all the time. If she says it a hundred times, will I suddenly become good at it?" Lai Ning's irritation was evident when he mentioned his mom.
Both Zhang Yukun and Lai Ning were restless students with mediocre grades. Zhang Yukun managed to rank just above 700, while Lai Ning was around 800, padding in the bottom of this middle school.
The end of Nie Qingzhou's pen was tapping against the desk as he frowned slightly. "It's not entirely because of your... Our issue, let's take English as an example. Mr. Sun's accent is a bit heavy, and his delivery is both monotonous and fragmented. The pace is slow too. Those with a strong foundation can't follow along, and those with weaker foundations are left confused."
"True, he scolds us every day, but his own level is just that..." Lai Ning continued.
"So, during the second year of high school, we need to get into the Experimental Class," Nie Qingzhou concluded.
This conclusion was unexpected for the two across from him. Zhang Yukun widened his eyes in astonishment and said, "Zhou-Ge, I'm not doubting your intelligence... but it's not something you can achieve in just a few days. Those bookworms, from junior high to now, when have they not been studying seriously? You need to rank within the top 250 in the grade, and then have to maintain that rank consistently."
Nie Qingzhou smiled. The bell for class rang at that moment, and Zhang Yukun and Lai Ning waved and returned to their seats.
The second class was still English, and Nie Qingzhou had already organized half a unit's worth of content. He was preparing to continue with his question bank when he realized this class involved an interactive activity. Students were supposed to simulate dialogues based on scenarios from the textbook with their deskmates.
Nie Qingzhou didn't have a deskmate, so naturally, there was no one to practice dialogue with. He twirled his pen, gazing at the bustling classroom filled with various odd accents of English that sounded like a symphony. He felt somewhat out of place amidst it all.
So, he completed the dialogue silently, speaking to himself while holding the book. If someone had paid a little attention to this corner at that moment, they would have heard the pleasant lilt of a London accent.
After partner practice, the teacher called the groups to demonstrate in turn. He watched as each row stood up and performed their dialogues. When it came to the row just before him, they finished and sat down, and the teacher moved on to the next activity without acknowledging Nie Qingzhou's presence.
It's like some kind of tacit understanding, as if this group had no Nie Qingzhou at all.
Nie Qingzhou tapped his pen on the desk twice, smiling noncommittally.
In the afternoon math class, the corrected holiday assignments were handed out. This class mainly focused on discussing the assignments. The teacher was a middle-aged man with a balding head and a bit of paunch wearing a navy blue polo shirt. He turned to the blackboard, drawing diagrams for the questions and said, "This question is a bit beyond the syllabus, and is indeed quite challenging. No one in our class can solve it."
Pausing for a moment, the teacher continued, "Some students might have found answers online and copied them. It's not unusual for a question to be beyond the syllabus, but what's the use of finding and copying answers? It only reinforces bad habits."
Nie Qingzhou looked at his assignment. Beneath this particular question, he had written out the solution steps neatly, but there was neither a checkmark nor a cross. He raised his eyes just to meet the teacher's gaze. The teacher turned his head meaningfully, as if hitting upon the point.
This time, Nie Qingzhou didn't smile. He silently set down his pen, leaned back in his chair, balancing on its back legs, tensing his body to maintain balance, as if trying to use up some kind of strength.
Sitting at the back of the classroom, he had a view of the entire room—the students, some attentive, some playing secretly or engaged in other activities, and at the very front, the eye-catching bald headed teacher.
He realized that this solitary seat was like an isolated island.
There was an invisible barrier between him and the other students and teachers in the class. The students' enthusiasm and the teachers' intentions seemed to either evade him or distort his presence.
This enchantment came into effect at the beginning of every class, and it ended when the bell rang. It was secretive and tacit.
How novel! Nie Qingzhou thought coldly. Is this what it feels like to be a struggling student?
He suddenly lost interest in studying. He pushed the flawless math assignment aside and took out a gray soft-cover notebook from his drawer. This notebook did not contain notes or wrong answers. Instead, it contained a long timeline, stretching from 2011 to 2021, capturing everything he could recall about Xia Yi and Nie Qingzhou.
He had watched many interviews of Xia Yi with his cousin, but he didn't know much about Nie Qingzhou. He hadn't even read Nie Qingzhou's books or watched any of his movies, so most of the events on the timeline were related to Xia Yi. He took out a red pen and marked the events in which he was involved.
"Frequent injuries, extra classes, acts of bravery..."
He murmured softly, his pen hovering over a certain event.
—During high school, there was a period when I wasn't doing well emotionally. I had some extreme thoughts. If it weren't for Nie Qingzhou, I might not be in this world anymore.
Ten years later, Xia Yi once said something like this.
He turned his head. The air today was clear. Through the corridor and balcony, he could faintly see the silhouette of Xia Yi sitting by the window in the opposite classroom. He remembered that when he went to find Xia Yi this morning, she was also sitting alone.
Suddenly, Xia Yi stood up. Nie Qingzhou felt a pang of embarrassment, as if he'd been caught peeking, then realized she must have been called on by the teacher. Yang Xiaoman had shown a protective attitude towards Xia Yi this morning. With her good grades, she at least wouldn't be treated like air by the teacher.
But every time he looked at her during break, he never saw anyone talking to her. She was always alone, like an insulator in an electromagnetic field, or like oil dropped into water, out of tune with the bustling surroundings.
He withdrew his gaze, then drew a circle around an event on the timeline that spanned his entire high school experience. The event was labeled "Preventing Xia Yi from committing Suicide, date and reason Unknown," and he wrote "highest priority" (in english) next to it.
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