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Stories from school and college

We’ll Bet He Wishes He’d Phoned In His Bullying For One Day

, , , , , , , , | Learning | December 1, 2023

In 2000, I enrolled in a government-funded residential vocational training program called Job Corps geared toward helping at-risk teens and young adults learn trade skills and find lucrative employment.

One of the students there made it more than obvious that he was simply there for the free ride. Aside from sleeping in class, he found amusement in bullying other students who generally could not fight back due to his massive 300-pound size. His antics would include snatching food out of other students’ hands and eating it, wrestling smaller students around while ignoring their shouts to get off of them, taunting students relentlessly even when no one was responding to him, and in one instance, calling a student’s mother and telling her about a very personal and embarrassing incident that had happened to him. Complaints about him were usually addressed with a “knock it off” talk and nothing further.

As my luck had it, this goon ended up being assigned to my dorm room. I probably shouldn’t need to go into detail about how he made it a hobby to make life absolutely unbearable for me. It came to the point where I once ended up going to management and asking them to just give me a bus ticket back home if they weren’t going to move me to another room.

Now, again, this was in the year 2000, and cell phones were not as widespread as they are today. For security reasons, Job Corps had a very strict policy against possessing cell phones or pagers. (Rumor had it that it was to discourage drug deals and gang activity on the campus, but I never got a clear answer.) At one point, after a student was involved in a serious incident that had been facilitated by the use of a smuggled cell phone, the center director announced that anyone else caught with a cell phone on the campus would face automatic termination.

A student approached me saying, “Hey, look. I just got this phone, but I don’t want to take the risk of automatic termination. I spent a lot of money on it, though. Could you take it for $50?”

At that point in time, I had become so disgruntled and disillusioned with the Job Corps program that I honestly didn’t care anymore if I completed or was terminated. I bought the phone from him, planning to stash it in a sock and use it in lone places like the utility room.

By strange coincidence, one of the dorm resident advisors announced that his phone had fallen out of his jacket and was offering a $200 reward for its return. The brand name and color didn’t match the phone I had bought from the aforementioned student. However, later that day, the bullying roommate spotted my phone, which had fallen out of my sock as I was rummaging through my things.

Bully: “YO! That’s that cell phone from [Dorm Advisor]!”

Me: “No, his was a [description].”

Bully: “Naw, naw, naw, that’s the phone! Give it to me!”

Me: “It’s not the same phone—”

Bully: *Grabbing me by the collar* “I SAID GIVE IT TO ME BEFORE I BREAK YOUR JAW!”

I gave him the phone, and he ran out of the room with a huge smile on his face. He ran straight to the dorm residential advisor.

Bully: “Hey! I found your phone!”

Resident Advisor: *Looking it over* “This is not my phone, but what are you doing with a phone on the campus anyway? The center director made it crystal clear that anyone else caught with a phone would be terminated from the program!”

Bully: “[My Name] had it. He was trying to sell it to me! I thought maybe it was yours! It’s his phone!”

I heard the resident advisor making his way down the hall and I knew this was about to become a fabulous day.

Resident Advisor: “Is this your phone?”

I pretended to read a book and looked very uninterested.

Me: “Huh? No, that ain’t mine.”


Resident Advisor: “[Bully], I’m going to ask you to come with me, please.” *Pulls out his radio* “I need security down to Dorm 4.”

Seeing [Bully]’s bed stripped and his belongings cleaned out of his closet felt like Christmas had come early. I still get a chuckle when I think about how the problem took care of itself — the bully ironically bullied himself out of the program!

Nobody Likes Dealing With Dress Codes

, , , , , , | Learning | December 1, 2023

I’m a male middle school teacher. My students are around ten to fourteen years old. My school has recently tried to crack down on dress codes after a few years of basically not enforcing anything beyond “cover your private parts”. A lot of teachers, including me, have not been looking forward to being the ones to enforce the dress code because of the stigma around “looking at students” that so many parents and others like to throw around.

After a few relatively minor incidents without any real protest from students, I have my first big case. A female student comes in on a rainy morning in a tight white T-shirt, which has now been rendered completely see-through because she didn’t have a rain jacket or umbrella. Needless to say, her dark-colored bra is completely visible. Unfortunately, this particular girl is known as a troublemaker, with parents who always take her side no matter what, at least in public.

Me: “[Girl], do you have a jacket or sweatshirt you can wear, at least until your T-shirt dries?”

Girl: “Why? What’s wrong with my shirt?”

Me: “You know exactly what’s wrong. Either find something to cover up until your shirt dries, or go change into your gym shirt.”

Our school requires either plain black, dark grey or school color clothing (blue and gold) for gym class. Students can fail the class if they have too many days without appropriate clothing, and since [Girl] is passing gym, I know that she must have an appropriate shirt in her gym locker.

Girl: “I don’t care if anyone sees my bra. My body, my choice.”

Me: “Outside of school, that’s up to you and your parents. In school, it’s not acceptable.”

At this point, several other students start telling her to quit making a scene, and she finally walks out of class and doesn’t return. During my prep hour, the school principal comes into my room.

Principal: “So… what did you say to [Girl] about her T-shirt?”

Me: “I told her that it’s unacceptable in school, and she needs to either wear a jacket or sweatshirt to cover herself until her T-shirt dries or change into her gym shirt.”

Principal: “You didn’t say anything about wet T-shirt contests or dancing on poles?”

Me: “Of course not.”

Principal: “I didn’t think so. [Girl]’s mom came into school after [Girl] apparently called from her cell phone. Mom insisted that everything was perfectly okay and that Mr. [My Name] needs to stop being a pervert.”

Me: “As expected. Any decision?”

Principal: “Yep. One-day suspension for [Girl] for dress code violation and unapproved use of her cell phone during school hours, and Mom has to re-sign the waiver declaring that she’s read the Parent Handbook.”

Me: “Anything for me?”

Principal: “Nope. Even Mom was chewing [Girl] out for dressing like a [derogatory term for a woman who enjoys physical relationships] while they were walking out the door, thinking they were out of hearing range.”

An Unexpected Hazard Of Race

, , , , , | Learning | November 30, 2023

I have been teaching at a private swimming school for over forty years now. It might be because of the “private” part, but until the past two or three years, we mostly had white students. We didn’t screen for that or anything; we just didn’t get any applications. But, like I said, in the past two or three years, it suddenly changed. Why, we don’t know, but we were overjoyed!

A new season starts, and I get a full rainbow of children. I have never taught these children before, so I want to see what they can do. They all have their basic diplomas and most are actually already quite skilled. I teach in a “competition pool” that’s about fifty years old; it’s three-plus meters (around ten feet) deep, and twenty-five meters (about eighty-two feet) long — half of an Olympic pool — with white tiles with black lines. 

Me: “All right, let’s see how far you can swim underwater. Remember, it’s how far you can reach, so any distance is fine. Just show me what you got.”

And the kids got to it. They lined up, and eventually, we got to a girl with beautiful dark skin, the darkest I’ve seen in real life. She wore a black bathing suit. She dove, I looked away for a second… and she was gone. Of course, I silently freaked out. Where did she go? I sighed, relieved, when I saw her climbing out of the water. I decided that she must’ve just been really fast and I’d just missed it. 

Just to test them, I decided to let them do it again. This time, I was going to pay very close attention to [Girl]; I wouldn’t be fooled twice! But again, I blinked and she was gone. Poof. 

Now, I just wondered if I was going crazy. What the heck was going on? So, I decided they would do the assignment one more time. I knew I was doing this just to find out why [Girl] just disappeared… and then I saw it. 

This girl swam very beautifully and hydrodynamically. She used minimal strokes and… followed the black line on the bottom of the pool perfectly. Due to the refraction of water and the lack of light underwater, she was almost invisible! 

So, while I always tell my students to follow the black line when underwater, I had to ask [Girl] to swim two tiles over from it. Part of me felt bad for having to ask her this, but honestly, if anything happens underwater while she’s swimming perfectly above that black line, I might not see it in time!

My Mom Has Been Forty-Nine For Decades, Part 2

, | Learning | November 28, 2023

This story reminded me of several similar incidents with my mom. She was a preschool teacher at a school that also had a before/after program. Whenever the kids asked her how old she was, she would always answer, “Twenty-nine.”

Incident #1, which repeated pretty much annually:

School Owner: “Today is Mrs. [Mom]’s birthday!”

Kids: “Happy birthday, Mrs. [Mom]!”

Kid #1: “You’re thirty now!”

Mom: “No, I’m not. I’m twenty-nine!”

Kid #1: “But you were twenty-nine yesterday, so you’re thirty today!”

Mom: “I am not thirty!”

Kid #1: “So, how old are you?”

Mom: “I’m twenty-nine.”

Kid #1: *Exasperated* “Mrs. [Mom], you can’t be twenty-nine forever.”

Mom: “Watch me.”

Incident #2: a student was meeting my younger brother for the first time.

Kid #2: “You’re Mrs. [Mom]’s son?”

Brother: “Yep.”

Kid #2: “How old are you?”

Brother: “Twenty.”

Kid #2: “How old is Mrs. [Mom]?”

Brother: “Old enough to be my mom.”

Incident #3: I went in on my birthday five years ago.

School Owner: “Happy birthday, [My Name]!”

Me: “Thank you!”

Kid #3: “Is it really your birthday?”

Me: “Yep.”

The kid wasn’t really looking at me, still playing with toys.

Kid #3: “How old are you?”

Me: “Twenty-nine.”

The kid stopped dead, looked up at me, and GLARED. Seriously, if looks could kill, I would have been a pile of ash.

I fought the urge to laugh.

Me: “No, I’m really twenty-nine. I was born in 1989. You can do the math if you don’t believe me.”

Kid #3: *Suspiciously* “Are you going to be twenty-nine next year, too?”

Me: “No, I’m going to be thirty.”

Mom: *Sighs dramatically*Fine. I guess I’ll cop to being thirty-nine…”

Kid #3: “MRS. [MOM]!”

My Mom Has Been Forty-Nine For Decades

Wow. He Picked The Worst Possible Way To Handle It.

, , , , , , , , | Learning | November 27, 2023

My sons are color-blind. When the youngest was in sixth grade, he had a teacher who was new. He hadn’t dealt with the older ones, and he had never had a color-blind student before. He was always using colored chalk on the green chalkboard.

I asked if he could switch to white as it was easier to see. The next day, he called my son out in front of the entire class.

New Teacher: “Can you see this one? What about this one?”

Of course, the kid was humiliated and just said yes to all of them.

Fortunately, before I picked him up, an older teacher heard about it. She reamed [New Teacher] out and took his colored chalk from him. By the time I heard about it, he had apologized in front of the whole class. [Older Teacher] was an awesome teacher.