A potted plant is at the heart of the children's revenge scheme.

In the short story "Miss Awful," by Arthur Cavanaugh, a group of third graders gets a stern disciplinarian for a substitute after their easy-going teacher has to go out of town on a family matter. After a week of marching drills, punishment homework and rebukes from their teacher, the students start to plan their revenge.

Change of Heart

The climax of the story takes place when Miss Orville -- the teacher's real name -- tells the students that their regular teacher will be returning on Monday and that that day will be her last day with them. With that revelation, the children begin to defy her rules by slouching in class, talking back to her and taking action without first getting permission. The children plan their revenge at lunch and take it in the form of stripping the leaves off Miss Orville's beloved classroom plant. It is that action that prompts Miss Orville to share her thoughts on the gift that is education and why it is that she teaches, causing the story's protagonist, Roger, to understand that he had not judged her fairly.