“Oliver, you are already late for school, please come downstairs straightaway”, shouted Mrs Sparks to her 8-year-old son while standing at the bottom of the stairs.

“I don’t feel well, I don’t want to go to school” mumbled Oliver from under his bed covers.

Five minutes later, Mrs Sparks climbed the stairs and walked straight into Oliver’s room, which looked like a group of monkeys had been visiting Oliver and decided to have a party in his bedroom. Clothes were strewn on the floor, on the bed, under the bed, on his desk, everywhere except where they were supposed to be; in drawers and wardrobes. Toy cars, trains and trucks also featured in the décor, not to mention empty cans of soft drinks, bowls of cereal, forks, spoons, sweets and crisp wrappers. Mrs Sparks rolled her eyes in frustration and tried to find empty spots on the floor to step on in order to reach her son’s bed without tripping over something sharp or breakable.

When she finally reached the bed, she sat on the edge, not for comfort but in order not to step on anything that might break or suddenly come to life!

– Now Oliver, what’s the matter with you this morning?

= I don’t feel like going to school today

– What do you mean? You have to go to school, that’s what boys and girls do, darling

= I hate school; it’s so boring

– No you don’t, you love school, all your friends are there and you enjoy sports, maths and science, don’t you?

= I don’t feel well anyway

– Oh dear, what’s wrong with you then?

= I feel hot and I have a tummy ache

– You don’t feel hot to me and your tummy aches because you are hungry. Now stop this nonsense, get washed and dressed and come downstairs for breakfast. Your tummy will soon feel as good as new

= I don’t want to!

– Now listen to me Oliver Sparks, you are going to get up and ready for school or you will have to stay in bed without TV, iPad or toys. In fact, I expect you to get up and tidy your room and then get back to bed to rest until your tummy is better and your temperature has gone down

= It’s not fair!

– You need to get the right attitude darling. I will give you 5 minutes and if I don’t see you in the kitchen and ready for breakfast, you are staying in your room all day, is that clear?

Oliver had to make a decision on the two stark and unpleasant choices his mother put to him. He knew when he lost a battle with his mother and that morning was one occasion when resistance was futile. He grudgingly threw the covers off, got out of bed and as though he was using a satellite navigation system, he managed to find his school uniform in 4 different and totally random places in his room in no time at all. The shirt was dangling from a bookshelf, the trousers on his desk under his laptop, the jacket was under the bed with a shoe inside one of the sleeves and the other shoe was in the sock drawer hiding amongst a dozen race cars. His socks were inside his trouser pockets; where else?

Mrs Sparks was pleased to see Oliver come downstairs but was not pleased to see he had buttoned his shirt all wrong and his hair was not brushed and she doubted very much that his tooth brush was pressed in to service at all that morning. So, she set about making him reasonably presentable and not looking like he had been in a play-fight with one of the monkeys who caused all that chaos in his bedroom!

Oliver protested at his mother’s attempt to tidy him up with cries of “get off” and “stop it mummy”. Mrs Sparks kissed him on the cheek, opened the front door for him and by way of saying goodbye she repeated her earlier instruction: “Remember what I said Olly, get the right attitude”

Olly looked down the street and saw his friends Jamie and Freddy so he called out for them but they seemed not to hear him so he decided on a combination of shouting and running but they were too far away to hear him and in the end, he abandoned the shouting and focused on the running.

O: Hey guys why didn’t you wait for me?

J: We did but your mum said you were running late

O: No I wasn’t!

F: Yes you were Olly, we waited for ages and in the end we had to go

O: I was never late by ages; you are just being mean

J: Whatever. Anyway, I was saying that the best tennis player that ever lived in this entire universe and all other universes is Rafa Nadal

F: Rafa Nadal plays tennis like my grandmother when she has a bad back; the bestest tennis player in all of God’s creation is without one point in a gazillion of doubt is Roger Federer and Roger smacks Rafa Nadal’s bottom just for fun

O: Hey guys, you are ignoring my subject! I was never that late this morning, why didn’t you wait for me?

F: Stop going on about being late for 37 thousand years Olly, who cares?

O: I was only late maybe for 3 nano seconds

J: 3 Light years more like

O: You two are the backside of an old baboon

J: And you Olly, have a bad attitude these days

O: No I don’t

F: Yes you do

O: I don’t

F: Do

O: Don’t

J & F: Do too with bells on it!

“Okay class, let’s have some quiet please” spoke Mrs Jackson to Class 4A. “Everyone to their desks, bring out your homework and place it in front of you for me to inspect please”. Oliver’s face went ashen.

O: Hey Jamie, what homework?

J: Hahaha, Geography homework

O: I didn’t do it!

F: Just tell her your dog ate it this morning

O: I don’t have a dog

F: Get one then

J: Just apologise and say you forgot it at home

Mrs Jackson was a formidable woman in more ways than one. She is tall and wide and she doesn’t like bad manners or ill discipline. According to the best estimates of the children of Class 4A, she was anywhere between 100 and 175 years old and again according to their best guesses, she ranged from hating children to actually eating one for breakfast on daily basis. In reality though, she was a highly experienced and totally dedicated educationalist with over 25 years experience, she loved and cared about bringing up good and well balanced children as her way of making sure she and her fellow teachers “left this world in a better shape for humanity” as she often put it to young teachers when they first come to her beloved school.

Mrs Jackson walked up the narrow aisle between the left and middle rows of desks with a nod of her head for approval, pointing at a spelling mistake, remarking about a factual error, or saying need to be neater next time. She then walked down the aisle between the middle and right rows where Oliver normally sat two desks from the front. As she came closer to Oliver’s desk, he could feel his temperature rising, his heart pounding, his stomach turning and he was on the verge of being sick. He did not know what to do or say, but he knew he had to say something.

Mrs J: Where is your homework, Olly?

O: I forgot it at home and then my dog ate it Mrs Jackson

The class roared out with laughter

Mrs J: I beg your pardon?

O: I forgot…

Mrs J: Olly, before you say anything else, I want you to think and think very hard. Did you or did you not do your geography homework?

O: Well, I started doing it then the dog came in and then it was dinner time and..

Mrs J: What’s your dog called?

O: Nadal

The class which was tittering behind their hands broke out in loud laughter again.

Mrs J: Quiet class! Olly, for the last time, did you do your geography homework?

O: I would have done it if I had remembered it was for today and anyway, I wasn’t feeling well this morning and Mum made me come to school and that’s why I was running late and everything.

Mrs J: Stay behind after class, Olly. I want to talk to you.

O: Yes, Mrs Jackson

After class, Olly got up and tried to slip out of the class by hiding amongst the other 29 children in the hope that Mrs Jackson had forgotten all about him. He almost made it to the classroom door and was about to step outside when a familiar voice rang out: “Where are you going Oliver Sparks?”

Mrs J: Now Olly, what’s going on with you?

O: Nothing Mrs Jackson

Mrs J: Why didn’t you just tell me the truth?

O: I did Mrs Jackson

Mrs J: Olly, please don’t make this harder on yourself than it already is. All you had to say was: “I am sorry I forgot to do my homework and that would have been that.”

O: Yes but, I wasn’t feeling well and I was tired and then…

Mrs J: Olly, Olly, listen to me. All children have reasons to forget homework every now and again; do you understand? What I expect from you is to have the courage to tell the truth. If you tell lies, it gives people the idea that you have the wrong attitude. The right attitude is to tell the truth and then you will see how much better your life will be. Now, as a punishment, you are going to do the homework that you missed and I want you to write a 250 word essay explaining why you must have the right attitude; is that clear?

O: Yes Mrs Jackson

During lunch break, Oliver caught up with his friends Jamie and Freddy who were talking to Zoe and Clarissa about Oliver’s trouble with Mrs Jackson.

J: What did you get?

O: Do the homework and an essay on right attitude

F: What’s that?

O: I don’t know, maybe about always telling the truth

Z: No, It’s how to behave properly

C: When do you have to hand them in Olly?

O: Tomorrow, I think

J: It was funny you saying your dog ate your homework

O: Well, it’s Freddy who made me say that

F: Yes but I was just teasing

Z: I can help you with the homework Olly, if you want

O: I don’t want. Leave me alone, all of you

C: Mrs Jackson is right, you need to change your attitude

O: I need to change my friends, that’s more like the truth

J: Smelly socks to you then

O: And you Jamie the germ

F: chill out, scout!

O: No, you chill out scout, I am going back to class

Olly walked off half frustrated his friends got him into trouble and half sorry he upset Zoe who had nothing to do with the whole thing and was trying to help, he liked Zoe but he didn’t dare tell anyone, especially Jamie and Freddy because they would tease him about kissing and hand holding and that was the last thing he needed in his life, Mr Fork & Knife.

The rest of the day passed relatively trouble free for Olly but, it was also friends free and Olly felt very lonely and dejected. He walked home on his own and walked in straight to the fridge to find something to eat.

= Mum, there is nothing to eat in the fridge

– Don’t be silly Olly the fridge is full of food

= There is nothing I like

– What do feel like eating then?

= Pasta, pizza, peanut butter, chocolates

– There is peanut butter there somewhere but, why don’t you have a chicken sandwich and a fruit?

= No, spank you very much!

– You will get a spank yourself if you are not careful. How was school today?

= Okay

– What did you do?

= Nothing

– What do you mean nothing? You must have done something

= Just the usual boring stuff, Mrs Bluff

– Do you have homework?

= Eh, yes

– Why don’t you do it after you have had your snack so it is out of the way for the rest of the evening?

= Very well, Mrs Stockwell

Oliver went to his room and found it disgustingly tidy and clean. It smelled so fresh he almost vomited. “It smells like Old Auntie Mildred underwear drawer”, he thought to himself. He threw his school bag on the floor, his jacket on the bed, kicked off his shoes randomly where one landed on the desk and the other inside the empty waste basket, which made him clench his fist and go “Yessss!” in triumph.

“Olly, Dad is home! Come downstairs if you finished your homework”, called his mother from the bottom of the stairs. Having completed his original geography homework that got him into trouble in the first place, Olly was in the middle of the longest essay in history. How can anyone write 250 words about the “Right Attitude”? He opened his computer on Microsoft Word and typed the word “Attitude” and copy-pasted a few times, then checked the word count and found it was only 25. He highlighted the whole text again and copied it 9 more times making it add up to 250 and looked at the whole thing. It filled an entire standard A4 page on Word. “Smelly bottoms! I can’t write that much about attitude”, thought Oliver. However, he took out a blank piece of paper and began:

“I must have the right attitude because it is better for me, my Mum, my Dad, my friends, and my teacher Mrs Jackson.”   He was pleased with himself for this start. He counted the words and found they were only 24 so he needed to write 9 or more like it and he wished he were a cat so he didn’t have to go to school or do anything he didn’t feel like doing.

When his mother called him downstairs, he was more than pleased to abandon the essay and go downstairs for family time and presumably dinner. Mum asked Olly to set the dinner table up and as always when he was asked to do a chore his standard reply was: “Why do I have to do everything?” His mother stopped answering that question and just moved on to the next topic and Oliver did the task as badly as he could, in the hope that he would not be asked to do it again but invariably the tactic backfired as his Mum or Dad would make him do it again under close supervision, which in his considered opinion, was “more annoying than eating cabbages boiled in cat pee”.

+ How was your day today Olls?

= Okay

+ Okay good or okay bad?

= Okay okay

– I didn’t get much out of him either

+ Did you do maths?

= Yes

+ Did you do English?

= Yes

+ What other subjects

= Same as last week

+ For example

= Math, English and stuff

+ Did you get in to a fight?

= No fighting, Mr Whiting

+ Did any of the teachers tell you off?

= How did you know?

+ Aha!

– Did Mrs Mortimer tell you off Olly?

= No!

– Was it Mrs Jackson then?

= Maybe, Baby

+ What did she tell you off about?

= About a roundabout, Mr Stout

+ Olls, don’t be silly, why did Mrs Jackson tell you off?

= It wasn’t my fault, Freddy made me say it

+ Slow down son, what wasn’t your fault?

= I forgot to do my homework

– What was it?

= Geography, Mrs Pornography

+ Where does Freddy come in to this story then?

= He told me to lie

– Oliver Sparks! Since when do we lie in this house?

= Well I was confused and everything

+ What did you tell Mrs Jackson that was a lie, son?

= Nothing

+ Oliver, what did you say?

= I said the dog ate it

– What dog?

= My dog

– You don’t have a dog; you never had a dog!

= That’s because you won’t let me have one!

+ Wait, wait, wait! Never mind not letting you have a dog, why did you lie son?

= Well, I was confused and everything

+ I am disappointed in you

– Just a minute Jim, Olly darling, do you understand what you did was wrong?

= Yes

– Would you do it again?

= No. Can I have a dog then?

+ No Oliver, this is not a joke!

= That’s not fair, Mr Square

– Finish your dinner now

= Everyone at school has a dog

+ Don’t be ridiculous! You are not old enough to have a dog and that’s that

= How old do I have to be then? I am almost 9

– We will talk about it some other time. What did Mrs Jackson say you have to do?

= I have to hand in the homework tomorrow and do an essay

+ Essay? What subject?

= Attitude, Mr Gratitude

– Good idea, have you done them?

= I finished the homework and started on the essay

+ Why haven’t you finished that then?

= Mum called me downstairs for dinner

– That’s right. Come on, finish your dinner so you can go and work on your essay.

= But I don’t know what to say about attitude!

+ Say something about how it is important to have the right attitude in life and give examples of the times you didn’t have the right attitude and that you promise to change your ways and be a good boy

– He is a good boy; he just sometimes forgets his right attitude that’s all

+ We will see about that

= When can I have a dog then?

– Not now Olly darling, now help me clear the table

= Why do I have to do everything?

+ That’s precisely what we mean when we say you need to have the right attitude Olls, now help your mother

Oliver cleared the table with his mother and was finally allowed to go upstairs on the clear instructions that he would go straight and finish his 250-word attitude essay. He looked at the piece of paper and was so daunted by the task of having to think of at least 220 more words on a subject he did not understand, he decided to play on his computer instead.

An hour or so later, his father walked in to say goodnight and make sure he went to bed and found him on the computer. He asked him if had finished his essay and Oliver blushed when he realised he had forgotten to complete it. An argument ensued between them, his father shouted at him and ordered him to go to sleep straight away and wake up an hour early to finish his homework.

Oliver burst in to tears and went to bed feeling miserable and dejected.

Oliver’s mother walked in and for the first time in a long time, he did not ask for a bedtime story. She kissed him goodnight and told him she loved him, switched the lights off and closed the door behind her.

The following morning, his mother walked in to his room again and was about to tell him off when she noticed his face was bright red. She touched his forehead and realised he was running a temperature. To his absolute amazement, she told him to stay in bed and that he didn’t have to go to school! He loved his mother!

His mother brought him a bowl of cereal and a hot chocolate for breakfast. She also gave him some medicine to help him rest. She spoiled things a little when she ordered him to rest without TV or computers for a while. Within minutes, Oliver fell asleep again.

Oliver walked through the park near their house because it was a short cut to Zoe’s house. His mother said it was okay to go and play with Zoe that afternoon. On the way, Oliver saw an old lady with a white Scottie dog, which looked very cheerful and ready to make friends with anyone and everyone. As he approached them, the dog began to walk towards Oliver and Oliver stopped first in hesitance but then in anticipation that the dog might come over to be patted. The kindly old lady allowed the encounter to take place by letting the dog move slowly towards Oliver.

* He is a friendly dog; he won’t hurt you

= What’s his name?

* His name is “Attitude”

= That’s a funny name for a dog!

* Yes it is

= Why do you call him that

* Well, I had his mother for many years and she had a litter of 7 puppies, I gave away 6 of them except for him because he had a funny attitude and no one would pick him so, I was left with him. But he is a well-meaning dog really. He does get in to trouble every now and then but on the whole, he is friendly and just wants to play and make friends

= Can I stroke him please?

* Sure! Let me sit down on the bench and you can have a little play with him if you like

= Thank you Mrs….

* Wright, Mrs Wright. What’s your name?

= Oliver but most people call me Olly

* Do you have a dog of your own Olly?

= No, worse luck for me! My parents won’t let me have one

* Oh dear! I am sure they have their reasons

= I suppose, with a red nose!

* Maybe if you write to Father Christmas

= No! I tried this last year; it didn’t work

* I am sorry, Olly. Well, I come to the park pretty much everyday around this time, if you happen to be around, you can play with Attitude anytime you like

= But I am usually at school at this time of day

* What about today, is it a holiday or something?

= No, I was not feeling well and Mum said I could stay at home and rest but now I am feeling better, she said I can go visit Zoe at the other end of the park

* Are you happy at school Olly?

= Mostly, Mrs Postly

* You should be happy all the time at school. School days are the happiest of your life

= No way, Mrs Jose!

* Why ever not?

= I am having trouble with everyone these days

* What kind of trouble?

= I have a left attitude

* You have a left what?

= Left attitude

* I am 75 years old and I have never come across this expression; what’s a left attitude?

= It’s what they tell me I have

* Who is “they”?

= Everyone. Mum, Dad, Mrs Jackson, my friends

* They say you have a “left attitude”?

= Not exactly but it is the same kind of meaning

* What exactly do they say, Olly?

= They say I need to get the “right attitude”

* Oh Olly, you are funny boy!

= Funny like Mrs Bunny

* There is no such a thing as a left attitude

= There isn’t?

* No, child!

= So, why am I getting in to trouble then?

* Well, we all get in to trouble every now and then

= Yeh, right. Who do you get in to trouble with?

* My husband when he was alive, my daughter, sometimes my friend Mrs Bright

= You are Mrs Wright and she is Mrs Bright?

* It’s funny isn’t it?

= Yes, I am sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh at you and your friend

* Don’t worry, I am not offended, it is funny though

= Oh good! I was afraid you too would be cross with me and tell me to get the right attitude

* Not this time Olly. Look, you seem to be a very nice, clever and well-mannered young chap. Don’t worry about everyone saying these things to you

= But how do I get the right attitude though?

* Well, you already have it, it just sometimes it doesn’t come out at the right time so it looks like the wrong attitude

= What do you mean?

* Give me an example of when someone said you didn’t have the right attitude

= My mother said that to me yesterday when I said I didn’t want to go to school because I was not feeling well

* But today, she said you could stay at home, what was the difference?

= Well, yesterday I wasn’t really sick but today I am

* There is your answer! Who else said you don’t have the right attitude?

= Mrs Jackson, my teacher

* What happened?

= I pretended that I had done my homework but I didn’t and then I said I left it at home by mistake and then I said my dog ate my homework

* That wasn’t very clever, was it?

= I suppose not, Mrs Scot

* All you had to say was “Sorry Mrs Jackson”

= But if I do, she would punish me

* Did you get away with your lie?

= No, she still punished me

* So, what does that tell you?

= I shouldn’t lie?

* More than that, to tell the truth when you have done something wrong may get you into trouble but lying about it as well will get you in deeper trouble

= I suppose

* I suppose, Mr Red Nose!

= Mrs Wright, you are funny! I wish you were my granny

* Don’t you have a granny of your own?

= Both my grannies are dead now

* Oh, I am sorry to hear that, Olly! You can borrow me when you need a granny, how about that?

= Super, Mrs Cooper

* Jolly good, Mr Wood

They both laughed at their silly language and promised to meet in the park again. Oliver hugged Attitude and Attitude wagged his tail furiously and licked Olly on the chin.

– Olly, wake up darling, I brought you fresh orange juice and some soup.   How are you feeling?

= Oh, thanks Mum. I fell asleep

– I know, you are running a temperature and you needed to rest

= Mum?

– Yes darling?

= I am sorry

– What for, darling?

= For not having the right attitude and everything

– That’s all right Olly; you are a good boy really

= Thanks Mum

Oliver drank his orange juice and had his soup, which was a little too hot so he had to blow on each spoonful of the delicious liquid.

“Olly, do you want to come downstairs and watch TV for a while, your Dad will be home soon” his Mum shouted from the bottom of the stairs, in her usual way.

“I am busy Mum, I will come down when I am finished”, he replied back. His mother climbed the stairs thinking she would find him in bed playing on one of his gadgets. She opened the bedroom door and she nearly fainted with surprise. The room was immaculately tidy with Oliver sat on his chair scribbling away on a piece of paper.

– Goodness me Olly, what’s all this?

= What?

– Your room is so tidy, have the fairies been to your room instead of the usual crazy monkeys?

= Nope, I did it all by myself

– Well done Olly, what are you doing now?

= I am writing my essay on attitude as Mrs Jackson told me to

– Can I see it?

= When I finish it

– Okay, but don’t be long, your father will be home soon

= Okay, Mum

Half an hour later, Oliver came down the stairs looking very pleased with himself. He had a piece of paper in his hand. “Hello” chimed both his parents. “Hi”, replied Olly, “I have finished my essay, would you like to read it?” His mother picked up the piece of paper and read out:

“Today, I learnt an important lesson about life. I met a kind old lady called Mrs Wright and her Scottie dog called Attitude. Before I met them, I was going around with the WRONG attitude about things. I was lazy when it came to doing things for others and not so lazy when it came to doing things I enjoyed. When it suited me I told the truth and when I was in trouble, I lied a bit to see if I can get away with it. Sometimes I got away with it but sometimes I didn’t.

“My Dad works very hard in the factory to bring home money for us to spend on food, clothes and things like holidays and stuff. My Mum works very hard at home preparing nice food for us to eat and clean clothes to wear so we don’t stink.

“Dad gives me pocket money and buys me stuff like footballs, toys and computers. Mum does everything else. All I have to do is go to school, do my homework and get good grades. I also have to do chores like tidy my own mess, take the garbage out and lay the table for dinner or lunch.

“Mrs Wright and her dog Attitude showed me that I must understand that everyone has a duty to do and they must do them happily and not grumble so much about everything. If everyone does their duty, we will live happily together. And that’s the RIGHT ATTITUDE!

Essay written by: Oliver Sparks (8 years old)

Word count: 250 precisely