Stories from school and college

To Be Fair, A Middle-Schooler On YouTube Is Usually Up To No Good

, , , , | Learning | February 28, 2021

In middle school, I am in an honors English program. I love it, but since it is a small school and very few students are eligible, we don’t have a normal class for it and instead do all of our work online, using the computers in the school library. It might look odd to an outsider — two kids sitting quietly on computers in an otherwise empty library — but this is the only time I realize how weird it could look.

An adult visitor is going around the school for reasons I never bothered to find out. He sees my singular classmate and me on the computers and comes over, despite the fact that we are both wearing headphones.

Visitor: “So, what are you up to?”

Me: “English class.”

The visitor takes a look at my screen, clearly able to see a word processor in one window and YouTube in another. The video, which is paused, is clearly marked with a movie title, and since it’s animated, there’s no mistaking it for anything traditionally academic.

Visitor: “You’re just watching movies?”

Me: “It’s for our media literacy project. We’re each analyzing a movie and I chose [Movie].”

Visitor: “But you’re still watching movies.”

Me: “Just this one.”

Visitor: “They let you watch movies all day?”

Me: “It’s a project for just this class.”

Visitor: “I can’t believe they just let you watch movies.”

He shook his head and left, and I went back to watching the movie and typing out an outline of events. I still don’t know what part of “This is for a school project” he didn’t understand.

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Maybe They Didn’t Wake Up Until Three?

, , , | Learning | February 27, 2021

I work for a college within a university that specializes in teacher preparation. Some of our students are… interesting. 

We have advisors for our students, but they go by appointment only, not walk-ins or unscheduled phone calls — a “quick question” is never quick! Students are told this during their orientation.

I pick up the phone for the main line in that department. 

Student: “Hi. I’ve been trying to call [Advisor] all day and she just doesn’t ever answer her phone! Is it, like, broken or something?”

Me: “[Advisor] had appointments all morning and is currently in a meeting. Have you scheduled an appointment with her?”

Student: “No, but I just have a quick question and I just can’t believe she doesn’t pick up her phone!”

Me: “Ma’am, she doesn’t answer her phone when she is with other students; it would not be fair to those who have an appointment. If you’d like, I can take down a message for her, or you can send her an email at [email].”

Student: “Ugh! This is so unprofessional!” *Hangs up*

Maybe five minutes later, my colleague, [Advisor] finishes her meeting and comes out for a stretch. I tell her about the call, and she goes to check her missed calls. 

Advisor: “You know, it’s funny. For someone who has been calling me ‘all day,’ you’d think I would have more calls from her. I have two missed calls from her: one at 3:20 and the other at 3:33.”

It was only 3:50 at the time of this conversation.

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That’s Not How ANY Of These Things Work

, , , | Learning | February 26, 2021

I’m training to be a teacher after spending six years in customer service. I’m late for a meeting with the other trainees, which includes some veteran teachers, because my mentor and I had a meeting that ran long. I finally get to the meeting and settle in.

They are discussing how apathy is a problem and asking everyone around the table their opinions and how they think it can be dealt with.

Everyone gives some suggestions, whether it be better ways to engage students or ways to make the rules clearer until we get to this gem.

Veteran Teacher: “School is like a service and students are the customers. If they don’t like the service, they can go elsewhere. If they don’t like elsewhere, they are the problem.”

There were a few shocked faces and rolled eyes. Clearly, the veteran teacher has never worked customer service.

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It’s Official; Cats Are The Cure For Everything

, , , , | Learning | February 25, 2021

I used to get what I called “I hate everything!” days. Let me explain that: I used to struggle with depression, a lot of unresolved anger and grief, and several other mental health issues. I started therapy when I was in my early twenties, and I am so much better now, but back when I was in university I would sometimes have days where I felt nothing but anger and resentment toward everyone and everything. If the toaster malfunctioned, I wanted to throw it against the wall. If someone walked too slowly in front of me, I wanted to punch their lights out. If my dad called, I wanted to cuss him out.

On such days, I only had negative things to say. It was an awful feeling, but thankfully, my enormous fear of hurting people kept me from acting on my impulses. Still, I didn’t trust myself on those days, so I would stay home, lock myself in my room, and not interact with anyone.

One day I couldn’t do that, and that was the day that changed everything. I had an English literature seminar that day, and since I was struggling with that class a bit and had already missed a class because I was sick, I knew I couldn’t afford to miss it. I told myself to just go and keep my head down and my mouth shut. This is what I kept repeating in my head as I walked to class, wanting to scream insults at every cyclist that didn’t obey traffic rules and to kick everyone who got in my way. “Eyes down, mouth shut. Eyes down, mouth shut.”

Unfortunately, my calculations hadn’t accounted for my teacher, a young, happy-go-lucky guy who was super enthusiastic about his subject, loved every book we had to read, and loved interacting with his students even more. Normally, I really enjoyed the discussions we had in that class, and I was usually one of the most involved students. I should’ve known he’d get suspicious if I kept quiet.

The book we had to read that day was Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man And The Sea.” I’m not a fan of Hemingway on a good day, and this was most definitely not a good day. So, of course, the first thing our teacher asked us is what we thought of the book. “Eyes down, mouth shut,” I kept repeating to myself, as the rest of the class started debating. And then, disaster struck.

The teacher smiled brightly and turned to me.

Teacher: “What about you, [My Name]? You’re unusually quiet today. What did you think of the book?”

Now I’m thinking, “Don’t hurt anyone, don’t hurt anyone!”

Me: “Didn’t really like it.”

It’s all I trust myself to say, but [Teacher] isn’t satisfied.

Teacher: “Really? That’s it? That’s all you have to say? Nothing on the struggle of man versus nature? The wonderful use of language? The fascinatingly ambiguous ending? The—”

Readers, I’m sorry to say that I snapped. I flew into a rant about how much I hated this book and its author. I think the least harsh words I used were, “pompous, grossly macho, and ridiculously over the top.” The rest I won’t repeat, but I get a good few minutes of belligerency going before I suddenly realize the entire class is looking at me like I’ve grown an extra head, and the teacher looks like a kicked puppy. I turn red, duck my head, and mumble an apology.

Feeling guilty but still angry at the world, I say:

Me: “Sorry, I hate everything today.”

Before the teacher can recover, one of my classmates, whom I have previously bonded with over a shared love of cats, jumps up, pulls out her phone, and shoves it under my nose.

Classmate: “There. Do you hate that?”

It’s a picture of her cat, a very fluffy white Persian, wearing a tiny Christmas hat and looking very grumpy about it. The balloon of anger inside of me deflates a little.

Me: “No, I guess I don’t hate that.”

Classmate: “Look at her! Look at how grumpy she is. She only agreed to the photo because I was holding a treat. You can’t hate that!”

I really can’t. Somehow, that picture of a grumpy cat in a Christmas hat pops my balloon of anger, and I just feel tired — a vast improvement.

Me: *A lot calmer* “No, I can’t hate that.”

The teacher seems to think it’s safe to talk to me again.

Teacher: “As much as I appreciate the rescue, I must ask if that’s relevant for class.”

Classmate: “No, sir, it’s a picture of my cat.” *Shows him* “But it worked, didn’t it?”

Teacher: “Okay, that’s adorable. But we really have to continue now. [My Name], do you need to leave for a moment?”

Me: “I’m good, sir. And I’m sorry. Thanks, [Classmate].”

We continued the seminar without further incident. Afterward, I wondered if [Classmate] had found the cure for my “I hate everything!” days and decided that next time, I would look at cat pictures BEFORE going out. I did, and what do you know? It worked! It didn’t miraculously make me happy, but at least it made the anger go away.

Thanks to therapy, I no longer have days like that, but I still look at cat pictures when I feel down. My therapist and I even made it a part of my treatment plan, because apparently, no matter how miserable or angry I feel, I can’t resist cats.

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The Brains Are Out The Window

, , , , , | Learning | February 24, 2021

I have diabetes and have to take insulin. In high school, I have to stop by the nurse’s office in order to take it, since all medicine must be stored there. We all call the nurse’s office “the clinic.”

One day, I have to stop by the clinic for insulin just before history class, but I know it won’t take long. The history teacher is known to be cool, and since I’m a good student, I know he will be fine with me being a couple of minutes late. I ask my best friend to tell the teacher that I’m in the clinic when she gets to class. 

Friend: “[My Name] is in the clinic.”

Teacher: *Staring* “The dog barks at midnight.”

Friend: “No, [My Name] is in the clinic.”

Teacher: *Eyes narrowing* “The crow flies in from the north.”

Friend: “Mr. [Teacher], you’re not listening! [MY NAME]. IS IN. THE CLINIC!”

Teacher: “The ship has arrived in the harbor?”

Friend: “My friend, [My Full Name], is currently in the clinic with the nurse so that she can take some insulin! She is going to be a couple of minutes late and asked me to tell you! She’s fine; it’s that just someone brought cupcakes in English and now she has to take insulin because she ate one!”

Teacher:Oh! I thought you were speaking in code! We are going over espionage in World War II today, and I thought you were just trying to really feel the subject material! I never submit the attendance until the end of class, anyway, so she’s fine. Thanks for telling me!”

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