Stories from school and college

We’re Guessing She Doesn’t Go To Public School

, , , , , | Learning | June 19, 2021

I am an assistant for a Sunday school working with three- to five-year-old children. Class hasn’t yet started today, so I’m trying to entertain some of the early arrivals in the meantime.

Me: “What are you going to dress up as for Halloween?”

A few kids shout out their costume choices. However, one little girl who doesn’t usually frequent our church speaks up afterward. She speaks in a completely serious voice.

Girl: “We don’t do Halloween because it makes baby Jesus cry.”

I swear that was the first, and only, time I’d ever heard someone use the whole “makes baby Jesus cry” phrase with complete seriousness. I had trouble just keeping a straight face and pretending that was a normal comment.

I didn’t see the girl back again. I suppose our heathen church that would allow children to enjoy a secular holiday that wasn’t harming anyone in any way wasn’t up to her parent’s standards.

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Graduating To A New Level Of Stupid

, , , , , , | Learning | CREDIT: Brandilio | June 18, 2021

Back in 2013, I was a senior at a high school I had just transferred to. I had moved earlier in the year because my parents got divorced, and I made the deliberate choice to leave my old high school and move in with my dad, attending a new high school.

Normally, switching schools isn’t a huge deal, but it was sort of an abrupt move; I wasn’t able to take any of the AP classes I normally would have taken because they all had mandatory summer projects that I wouldn’t have been able to do in a week.

Additionally, a week into the school year, we were told about this stupid senior project they wanted us to do. In a nutshell, there was some acronym — IMPACT or something — and each letter represented a value of the school. They wanted us to write about how IMPACT had influenced us in our time at the school. We were then told that, should we NOT do the senior project, we wouldn’t be able to walk for graduation. Oh, no!

I heard this and thought it was stupid for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that I had only just gotten there, so their dumb acronym didn’t mean anything to me. I brought this concern up to the lady telling us about the project, and her response was that I just “figure something out or don’t walk.”

Well, okay, then.

I brought it up with my dad, asked if he gave a hot s*** whether or not I walked for a high school graduation. He did not. So I just figured that I wouldn’t do the project. End of story, right?

Wrong.

You see, a few months into this senior project, they did a checkup on every senior. We just lined up in our homeroom to talk to some lady from the principal’s office and told her how close we were to being done. When I walked up, I told her that I wasn’t doing it.

Lady: *Confused* “You’re not going to do it? You have to. It’s non-negotiable.”

Me: “No, it’s not. I don’t have to do it.”

Lady: “But you won’t walk if you don’t do it.”

Me: “Yeah.”

Then we just sort of stared at each other, and she wrote my name down and shooed me away. I correctly assumed that this would not be the last interaction I had regarding this non-issue. Several weeks later, my suspicions were confirmed when I was pulled out of class and brought into the main office.

They ushered me into the vice principal’s personal office, where she made a bit of a show of pulling out some papers. She told me that the meeting was regarding a misunderstanding I may have had regarding the senior project. She was apparently told that I didn’t know what to do for the assignment and I had chosen to boycott the whole thing as a result. I quickly corrected her.

Me: “I very clearly understand what you want me to do, but I think it’s stupid and I’m not going to do it. I understand the penalty for not doing it and I’m fine with that.”

She, like the first lady, seemed confused by this course of action and just let me leave, since there wasn’t really much of a conversation to be had.

A few more weeks later, I got pulled out of yet another class for this same thing. Again, I was brought up to the vice principal for a one-on-one. When I got there, she looked like the cat that ate the canary.

Vice Principal: “So, I know you were in here a while ago, and you said you didn’t want to do your senior project—”

Me: *Interrupting* “No. I said wasn’t doing the project.”

Vice Principal: “Well, we had a chat with your mother over the phone earlier this week. She told us that she really wants you to walk at your graduation.”

I was quiet for a moment.

Me: “Um… I live with my dad.”

Vice Principal: “Right, but your mom said she’d like to attend the ceremony and see you walk.”

Me: “I don’t think you get it. I live with my dad for a reason.

If ever there were an expression that perfectly exemplified the dial-up tone, that’s the face she made. After she collected herself, I was released and headed back to class.

By this point, I was mostly just not doing the project because it was dumb. But them calling a family member to strong-arm me was crossing a line. On top of that, they tried to strong-arm me using a parent with whom I was no-contact. I decided right then that, no matter what, I wasn’t caving into their bulls***. F*** the project, f*** the school, and f*** the weird tactics they were trying to use. However, in my anger was also confusion. Why did these people care so much about one guy not doing an optional assignment? I had made myself very clear, so was that the end of it?

Spoiler: it wasn’t.

A few more weeks later, I got pulled into the actual principal’s office. The principal, for reference, was one of those guys that tried to make a show of being overly friendly and goofy but to the point where it came off as superficial. When I got to his office, he was his usual extroverted self, greeted me, and sat me down.

Principal: “I’ve heard about this whole senior project problem you’ve had going on. And I get it. Trust me, I really do; you’re new here, so our motto hasn’t had as much of an impression. So, after talking about it with the folks grading the projects, we think it’d be just fine if you had a modified project. Just do a project on one letter of IMPACT, and you’re golden.”

He gave me a big warm smile.

Me: “No.”

Principal: *Smiling* “Sorry?”

Me: “I’m not doing it.”

His smile was slowly fading now.

Principal: “But you only have to do one letter. It’s really not that much.”

Me: “Yeah, I got that. I’m still not going to do it.”

Principal: “But you won’t be able to walk on graduation day.”

Me: “Yep.”

Principal: “So what’s the issue, exactly?”

Me: “You called my mom.”

His mouth was open like he was going to say something, but I guess nothing came to mind, as we sat in silence for a good twenty seconds — him trying to formulate an argument and me staring back blankly.

Me: “If that’s everything you need to talk about, I’ll be heading back to class.”

He didn’t protest, so I just left.

It was after this meeting that I eventually got some context. Apparently, California schools will shuffle principals around every few years for some reason that probably makes sense, but I don’t care enough to research. Our principal was going to be switching schools after the 2013 semester had ended, and one of his big plans was to leave that high school with 100% participation in the senior projects that would otherwise not affect any final grade.

He used the threat of preventing students from walking at graduation to bully everyone into doing the dumb project — almost everyone. I stuck to my guns and refused to do it. And sure enough, after the deadline had passed, they made a big deal about how happy they were that 99.6% of students completed their senior projects, even though they were hoping for 100%.

And the absolute dumbest part about this exercise in stupid? After everything was said and done, I was called in one last time to the VP’s office. She told me that, despite my refusal to do the senior project, they were still going to let me walk, and they gave me five tickets for friends and family. I laughed, walked out without the tickets, and didn’t attend my own graduation.

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Here’s Hoping That Train Of Thought Gets Derailed

, , , , , , | Learning | June 17, 2021

I’ve just moved to a new school. Neither of my parents is able to consistently pick me up after school, so I’m given money for a train ride. After school, I walk up to the train station, sit on the bench, and wait for my train to arrive.

This is my second time riding the train, so I’m a little bit nervous. Cue [Classmate]. This guy comes up and sits next to me. There aren’t a lot of benches, so I think nothing of it and continue to draw in my notebook.

Classmate: “So, you go to [School]?”

Me: “Oh, yeah, you?”

Classmate: “Same, it’s my first year.”

I’m feeling pretty good, and we start chatting about school stuff. I’ll admit, I think he is pretty hot at first. After a bit, he starts talking about all his previous girlfriends, the one that got away, the one from another country that still loves him even though she had to move away, etc. He goes on for a bit, and I am thoroughly uninterested in this topic.

Me: “Yeah, I don’t really relate. I’m gay, so…”

Classmate: *Chuckles* “Yeah…”

He then continues with his line of thought. Being the young little innocent queer that I am, don’t know a lot about South Africa’s very homophobic opinions despite how our constitution says it, so I shrug it off and continue to mildly chat with this guy from time to time.

A bit into the year, I’m walking to the train station, and a bit up ahead I see [Friend] and [Classmate]. [Friend] and I were friends before coming to this school and she admitted to me after I came out that she’d had a bit of a crush on me, but this didn’t affect our friendship. I rush over to them and we start a conversation. After a while, [Friend] asks me:

Friend: “So, did you end up asking that guy out?”

Me: “Yeah, I did, but he said no because he’s straight.”

[Classmate] does a dramatic turnaround. I can hear the reality show stinger as he opens his mouth.

Classmate: “Wait, you’re gay?!”

Me: “Yeah… I said so when we first met.”

Classmate: “I thought you were joking!”

Alarm bells in my head that young queer baby me has never heard and doesn’t understand are going off, and the gods decide that this divine comedy is not yet over. Next, my dear [Friend] leaves because she takes a bus and her stop is just on the way to the station.

I’m trapped. I’m sitting on the bench, my drawing book firmly in my bag so I can leave quickly. I still don’t know why I’m feeling such dread when [Classmate] speaks.

Classmate: “So, like, when did you decide to be gay?”

My school is very liberal, so I have not yet had to deal with ignorance like this, so it takes me a second.

Me: “I didn’t. I was born this way.”

Classmate: “Ah, I see… Are you a virgin?”

Oh, so that’s what my gay spidey sense is for.

Me: “Dude, you can’t ask someone that. How would you feel if I asked you that?”

Classmate: “Nah, dude, it’s not the same.”

Me: “Yes, it is. It carries the same emotional weight and the STDs. Pregnancy isn’t what makes sex special.”

[Classmate] brushes it off and continues to ask me some more personal questions.

My prayers answered, the train arrives and [Classmate] drops this dazzling gem.

Classmate: “By the way, don’t have gay sex. One of my friends from my old school died of gay sex.”

I’m just all for getting away from this guy now, and I hurriedly go to my usual cart. He tries to get me to sit in a different cart with him, which I refuse. Yeah… not so hot anymore.

A few weeks later, I’m still processing this whole thing, and then I realise how homophobic he was being. I share it with some of my friends and they are shocked, but I never go to the administration because I feel I took too long to realise what happened.

We share a drama class, and we end up getting assigned to be partners for an activity. Done with this man, I refuse to work with him, and I am forced to sit in silence in the drama room while others do trust activities. He confronts me about it after class.

Classmate: “What was that?!”

Me: “You said a lot of homophobic things to me and I refuse to work with you”

Classmate: “I can’t be homophobic; my sister’s gay! Name one thing I’ve said.”

I then went on to recap everything he said and left. He tried to act like he was going to defend himself, but he heroically shrugged it off like he was being the bigger man and letting it go. I didn’t see much of him afterward. Apparently, he got expelled because he was caught stealing a phone before an exam. Self-inflicted karma is sweet.

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There’s No Substitute For Good Teachers

, , , , | Learning | June 16, 2021

My father was a life-long high school teacher. When he retired from full-time teaching, he became a substitute teacher. Being in rural Alberta, that meant driving long distances to many different schools in all directions. He was in such demand that he ended up working almost full-time and driving much more than he did before. He enjoyed being in demand, though, often having to tell schools that he couldn’t sub for them because another school had already booked him.

Being able to say no was a privilege that he enjoyed being able to have, but in practice, he almost never did if his time wasn’t already spoken for.

He told me about one school he ruled out permanently, though. He said it was due to a single incident, but from talking to him, I knew that there was also an underlying issue that bothered him.

The incident? He had an off period one day and was walking down the school hallway during class. A male teenage student came out of a classroom in front of him and then yelled back into the classroom, “I’m going to take a s***, okay?!”

Dad: “I’m not going to sub there again. Anyway, it is a very long drive there.”

Me: “Did you talk to anyone at the school there about it?”

Dad: “No. I didn’t see a point. He wasn’t my student, it wasn’t my class, and I’m just a sub. The boy’s teacher should deal with it, not me. I don’t have to sub for them.”

Me: “In all the decades that you’ve taught, you must have witnessed bad behavior similar to this before. You also drive just as far to other schools to sub. What makes this different?”

Dad: “Well, I don’t have to put up with stuff like that anymore. I’m semi-retired. Plus, they’re a Roman Catholic school and they made me sign a document stating that I was a Christian. I understand why they do that, but what I believe has nothing to do with being a good teacher.”

I agreed with him whole-hardheartedly. Unfortunately, he felt that he couldn’t just tell that school outright that he wouldn’t sub for them anymore. He was concerned that the word would spread that he was “picky” about schools. So, from then on, he broke his own rule of honesty and always told that school he was already booked or busy when they called.

He continued subbing for several more years at several schools after that before retiring fully. Even after he stopped registering as a substitute teacher with the school boards and schools, he would still get calls occasionally from schools asking him to PLEASE come in for a day. He told me that he liked being needed but that his ailing wife needed him more.

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Every Vacation Has A Price

, , , , , , | Learning | June 15, 2021

When I was in fifth grade, there was this one kid who, to put it kindly, could never be accused of being in possession of general common sense. For example, he bragged to some kids about something mischievous he did — within earshot of the school principal!

One day, he did not show up to class, and no one thought anything of it. As usual, the teacher would leave whatever assignments and whatnot on his desk.

A week went by, followed by yet another week. I overheard the teacher mentioning to a faculty member that calls had been placed to the kid’s home, which had been both unanswered and unreturned, and that there was a serious concern that there might have been a serious personal emergency or illness.

Then one day, he popped up, as grand as you please, bragging to the kids about his “vacation” in Texas. The teacher saw him and obviously confronted him.

Teacher: “Where have you been the past two weeks?”

Kid: *Grandly, with a huge smile* “Texaaaaaas! Dad got a huge bonus at work and some vacation time and took us all! Yep! Got myself a heck of a tan, too!”

Teacher: *Turning a patchwork of purple and red* “You can’t just up and take a vacation smack in the middle of the school year without making arrangements with us first about your schoolwork! What is wrong with you?”

Kid: “Schoolwork? But I was on vacation!”

The teacher returns to her desk, produces a tower of paperwork, and plops it down on his desk.

Teacher: “I sure hope you’re ready to sacrifice your lunchtime recesses. And, on top of that, I hope your dad will understand why you will be in detention after school every day until every single assignment is completed!”

Kid: “That’s not fair!”

Teacher: “Unless you would like to get zeroes for everything. And, for your information, it’s not fair to the other students to let you skip out on your work while they are here every day trying and working hard. Anything else you’d like to share with the class about the spectacular time you had in Texas while they were hard at work? We’d love to hear it.”

The kid just scowled.

It took him a month to finally get caught up.

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