In chapter 2, Scout starts school. The first day does not go well for her because she is uncomfortable with the type of authority the teacher exercises in the classroom, and she is discouraged when Miss Caroline insists that she confine her reading to school materials. She not only finds her interactions with the teacher unsatisfactory, but she also soon realizes that she will make little headway by continuing to challenge her authority. Although Scout is precocious, she is often impulsive and speaks before she thinks. At a certain point, however, she decides that silence is the best course of action—a mature decision.
I mumbled that I was sorry and retired meditating upon my crime.... I knew I had annoyed Miss Caroline, so I let well enough alone and stared out the window until recess….”
Scout’s problems with the teacher get worse at lunch time, when she tries to explain to the teacher—who is a stranger in town—why Walter Cunningham will not accept lunch money from her. Scout reflects on what she had learned from Walter’s father’s interactions with her father, who was his attorney on a land claims problem. As she thinks over everything that Atticus had told her, regarding the family’s low cash income but determined commitment to pay their bills, she realizes she cannot adequately put all this into words. This is a mature reflection. Unfortunately, she proceeds to try to explain it in a different way. This commitment to helping Walter may be considered brave.
If I could have explained these things to Miss Caroline, I might have saved myself some inconvenience and Miss Caroline subsequent mortification, but it was beyond my ability to explain things as well as Atticus, so I said, “You’re shamin’ him, Miss Caroline…."