Chapter 3 Summary

Nick’s first day of fifth grade begins easily. For six straight periods, he picks up new textbooks and spends the rest of his time chatting happily with his friends. Then seventh period arrives and he goes to language arts, where he finds out that Mrs. Granger really is as bad as everyone says she is.

Mrs. Granger starts class with a pretest of the week’s vocabulary words. She throws all kinds of work in front of the kids: handouts, review papers, sample assignments that demonstrate how she wants her students’ homework to look. Nick finds the pace of the class exhausting.

Nick is an expert on wasting class time. His best method for doing this is to ask questions that get teachers off track. He can usually get teachers to talk about sports or hobbies or the news so the kids can take a moment to just chill out.

Whenever Nick can manage it, he asks a question to get his teacher sidetracked during the last three minutes of class. If Nick’s question keeps a teacher off topic long enough—as it usually does—he can prevent the teacher from giving out homework.

On his first day in Mrs. Granger’s class, Nick bides his time, waiting for the critical moment. Then he raises his hand and pretends to be very impressed by the number of dictionaries in the room. He asks, “Where did all those words come from?”

The kids in Nick’s class smile and glance at the clock. They know exactly why he is asking this question. Unfortunately, Mrs. Granger does too. “Why, what an interesting question, Nicholas. I could talk about that for hours, I bet.”

Mrs. Granger asks the other kids if they are interested in hearing the answer to Nick’s question. When most of them say yes, Mrs. Granger tells Nick to go home and do research to find the answer himself. She gives him a special assignment to deliver an oral report about dictionaries during class the next day. Then she goes back to giving out homework.

Nick is shocked and embarrassed. He cannot believe that Mrs. Granger is so good at spotting attempts to stop her from giving out work. Moreover, he is horrified that he now has to do extra work on top of the assignment Mrs. Granger was planning for the whole class. He realizes that all the stories he has heard about this teacher are true. Nobody can mess with Mrs. Granger.