Scout makes 3 mistakes on her first day of school. What were her mistakes, and why did they make Miss Caroline so angry?

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Scout's first day of school is disappointing, to say the least. For as long as she can remember, she has reflected upon the thought of attending school with a great deal of excitement and anticipation. We know that she had, in past years, felt incredibly jealous of Jem when he left for school. However, when the day finally comes for her to attend herself, the experience falls severely beneath her expectations. This disappointment causes a lapse in her decorum, and not managing her expectations well enough could be said to be her first mistake.

Her second mistake is flaunting the fact that she can already read and write. Miss Caroline is a young teacher, and is approaching a new experience every bit as much as Scout herself is. She is in no way prepared to deal with a student as willful as Scout, and no doubt fears losing control of the classroom if Scout gets the better of her. This tension and uncertainty from both parties creates a great deal of conflict.

Finally, Scout refuses to keep her thoughts to herself when Walter Cunningham will not accept money from Miss Caroline. The two could have likely sorted out the disagreement themselves, but Scout's intervention escalates the situation. She is likely feeling angry from her disappointment in school, as well as courageous from already getting under Miss Caroline's skin. To a young person like Scout, a teacher represents an absolute intellectual superiority. In Scout's mind, Miss Caroline should should already know all the subtleties of the classroom. She has no concept of Miss Caroline as a young woman who is every bit as confused and nervous as the students that she is teaching, perhaps even more so.

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Mistake number 1: Scout reveals to her inexperienced new teacher Miss Caroline that she already knows how to read. This is because Atticus taught her. Like any good parent, he also reads to her on a regular basis, which has improved Scout's general level of literacy. Strange as it may seem, Miss Caroline feels threatened by this. As far as she's concerned, it's her job to teach Scout to read, not her father. Scout's innocent remarks about her reading ability have made Miss Caroline feel that her authority as a teacher is being undermined. From then on, Scout is very much in Miss Caroline's bad books.

Mistake number 2: Scout reveals that she can do proper handwriting. Again, she doesn't think she's doing anything wrong by this. As with reading, writing is a skill that Scout has been taught at home by her father. But once again, Miss Caroline feels that her authority in the classroom is being undermined, and orders Scout to print when she's writing, just like a much younger child.

Mistake number 3: Scout intervenes when Miss Caroline attempts to lend Walter Cunningham Jr. a quarter for his lunch. Scout knows that the Cunninghams are too proud ever to accept charity from anyone, and tries to tell this to Miss Caroline. But Miss Caroline isn't prepared to listen, and feeling that she's been told what to do by an unruly pupil, raps Scout across the knuckles with a ruler.

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Scout has high hopes for her first day of school.  She had longed stared out in the distance to catch a glimpse of Jem playing in the schoolyard with the other children.  She wanted to be a part of this experience called school.

On the first day of school, Scout joins her class.  Miss Caroline is her teacher.  Scout unknowingly annoys Miss Caroline and makes her mad.  Scout makes three mistakes:

1.  Scout knows how to read, and she reads well.  Miss Caroline had expected a class full of hungry, unlearned young minds.  She asks Scout to identify the alphabet on the blackboard:

... as [Scout] read the alphabet a faint line appeared between [Miss Caroline's] eyebrows, and after making [her] read most of My First Reader and the stock-market quotations from The Mobile Register aloud, she discovered that [she] was literate and looked at [her] with more than faint distaste (To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 2).

Miss Caroline tells Scout to stop reading at home with her father.  She wants to "take over from here and try to undo the damage."  Miss Caroline wants to teach Scout how to read in her own way, which is by the methods she learned in college.  She is annoyed that someone else had taught Scout to read in the "wrong" way.

2.  Scout starts writing a letter to Dill in cursive.  Miss Caroline notices and stops her.  She tells Scout that her father needs to stop teaching her to write, as well.  She also informs Scout that for now she should learn to print, because she will not start writing in cursive until the third grade.  She is upset again that Scout had been taught to write in a way that she viewed as incorrect.

3.  Walter Cunningham, Jr. does not have lunch and Miss Caroline tries to loan him a quarter.  He refuses, but she insists.  Scout speaks up, trying to explain to Miss Caroline that people in the Cunningham clan do not borrow money from anyone.  Miss Caroline thinks that Scout is being impertinent, and she punishes her with smacks on the hand with a ruler.

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Scout certainly starts off on the wrong foot her first day of school.  First, she demonstrates that she knows how to read.  Second, she demonstrates that she knows how to write.  Third, she tries to offer an explanation for Walter Cunningham's behavior when Miss Caroline tries to give him money for lunch. 

It may seem odd that a teacher would be angry over a child who could already read and write, but as we read this section of the book, we can see what an insecure and rigid teacher Miss Caroline is.  She says that Atticus and Calipurnia have damaged Scout by teaching her how to read and write, so we can see that she believes there is only one way to learn, her way. 

Her lack of understanding about the Cunninghams stems from the fact that she is not a local woman and has no knowledge of any local families.  When Scout tries to explain, Miss Caroline is made even more insecure.

A good teacher is always happy to learn about new ideas and about his or her students, and the "portrait" of Miss Caroline is one of a teacher who is not very successful.

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