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Stories from school and college

This Kid Took Their Task Very Seriously

, , , , , , , | Learning | December 7, 2021

I worked as a substitute teacher for many years. It became a running joke with my spouse, who was a principal, that I always had to work on my birthday because if he didn’t need me to sub at his school, one of the other schools would call. I even agreed to substitute in the dorms at a residential school when my birthday was on the weekend.

It wasn’t a big deal, as we usually celebrated by going out for dinner on a night near my birthday and my spouse and children would either buy or make a cake. And the school staff benefited because it was a tradition to bring donuts to school on your birthday. 

For my fortieth birthday, I agreed to volunteer at our children’s school’s field day, so we joked that I wasn’t working on my birthday, even though I was going to be at school all day.

At one point during the day, my oldest child saw me heading toward the building.

Oldest Child: “Where are you going?”

I thought that was strange.

Me: “I need to use the bathroom.”

My child took off running ahead of me into the building. Again, that struck me as strange.

Near the end of the day, when all the students and staff and volunteers were gathered in one place, my oldest child came out carrying forty black balloons! My spouse had let the principal know it was my fortieth birthday so the teachers had gotten together and ordered the balloons!

[Oldest Child] was tasked with hiding the balloons until it was time to bring them out, and the balloons were hidden in the gym where I was headed to go to the bathroom. [Oldest Child] had to run ahead to hide the balloons in another room before I got to the gym!

You May Be Sleepy But You’re Not Wrong

, , , , , , | Learning | December 5, 2021

It’s my third class of the day, history, at 11:30 am. Despite the early time, I’m exhausted, meaning I don’t have much of a filter. My history professor is having us answer questions about the Constitution as a refresher before the lesson. If someone gives the right answer — or even tries — he gives them a chocolate.

The professor clicks to the next slide.

Professor: “Okay. In two sentences, explain what the Constitution consists of.”

Me: “I don’t know. Words?”

Professor: “…”

The professor slowly handed me a chocolate as the class laughed.

Comments About Babies From The Mouths Of Babes

, , , , , , | Learning | December 3, 2021

I’m volunteering at my church’s Vacation Bible Camp during the summer, leading the first-grade group. This mostly involves wrangling wriggly children and preventing them from knocking down intricate butcher paper decorations.

At one point, we have to wait outside one station while the previous class is finishing up. To keep the kids occupied, I start asking them about their plans for the fall. One kid pipes up.

Student: “What grade are you going to be in?”

Me: “I’m actually out of school.”

Student: “So, what are you doing in the fall?”

Me: “Well, I’m engaged, so I’ll be getting married this fall.”

Student: “Oh, so, you’re pregnant.”

Luckily, none of the other teachers in this very traditional church setting were around to hear, and I quickly corrected him, but I had to wonder what order these things typically happened in his family for a six-year-old to reach that conclusion!

Teacher Intelligence Exists On A Spectrum

, , , , , , | Learning | December 1, 2021

By the time I take psychology class in high school, I have already had a regular physics course and am now taking an advanced AP physics course. We have just gotten a test back that covered the senses and psychological effects on them. I go to my teacher at the end of the class.

Me: “[Teacher], you marked this question as wrong but I’m pretty sure it’s correct.”

Teacher: “No, violet light is a lower wavelength than red light.”

Me: “I’m pretty sure it isn’t. Radio waves have the longest wavelength; that’s why we use them for long-distance communication. Then, they get shorter, going up to infrared, followed by red light, up to violet, then ultraviolet and x-rays.”

Teacher: “That’s not what it said in the book.”

Me: “Regardless of what the book said, I’m pretty confident about wavelength; we’ve covered it numerous times in science classes. I could get [Physics Teacher] to check the question if you want.”

Teacher: “If you think the book was wrong, why didn’t you say something when you read it?”

Me: “I didn’t notice. I already knew plenty about wavelengths so I wasn’t paying as much attention to that section, and it always takes me half a second to remember which is shorter wavelength and which is shorter frequency. I probably wasn’t worrying enough about it to think through whether it was right or wrong while scanning over it.”

Teacher: “Well, we were testing if you learned by the book, so you need to give the answer in the book.”

Me: “But not if the book is wrong. I’m sure my answer is correct. I can get you proof if you want.”

Teacher: “It doesn’t matter. If you had a problem with the book, you should have brought it up before now.”

More than half a year later, it was the end of the year. During our last class, the teacher asked if anyone wanted to share their favorite and least favorite parts of the class. When it was my turn, I gave my favorites before moving on to my regrets.

Me: “My least favorite part is that you still don’t believe me that red light has a longer wavelength than blue light!”

Teacher: “Well, you’re in luck, then, because I believe you now.”

Me: *Hopeful voice* “Does that mean I get my point back?!”

Teacher: “No.”

Honestly, in the grand scheme of things, one point on a test hardly mattered. I still aced the class; it was quite easy compared to some of my other courses. But the sentiment of refuting the truth coming from a teacher has always bothered me.

What I found most confusing, though, was that supposedly, only one other person came to the teacher to refute the incorrect question, which implies most of the students gave the answer the teacher expected. We were all in our last two years of high school, so everyone should have had basic physics, not to mention chemistry and middle school science — courses where they learned about light. How could an entire classroom of students memorize the book’s incorrect answer without any of them realizing it conflicted with everything they had been taught previously?

Forcing Cake On A First-Grader Is Chestnuts

, , , , | Learning | November 29, 2021

When I was in first grade, my school organized a long series of events where each class participated in downscaled versions of typical farmer activities. One of the activities involved families cooking a typical dish from the area. One day, a classmate brought a chestnut cake to class for this exact purpose. The teacher invited everyone in class to cut a slice each, but being a bit of a picky eater still, I took the thinnest slice I could manage and tasted it. Whether because it was done badly, or because I didn’t like chestnuts yet, I didn’t like the taste and sat out from taking more.

When everyone had taken a second slice each, there was still some left.

Teacher: “All right, class, can anyone who has already taken two slices raise their hands?”

Everyone but me raised their hands. The teacher brought the plate to my desk.

Teacher: “[My Name], would you like to finish it?”

Me: *Crossing my arms* “No, thanks. I didn’t like it.”

Teacher: “You didn’t like it? Why?”

Me: “It tastes weird, there’s no chocolate in it, and—”

Teacher: “But do you wanna make your celiac friend over there cry? She can’t eat chocolate cake; it would make her happy to see you eat this.”

If you are thinking this is a non-sequitur or something is missing, don’t worry: she actually jumped directly to random allergy guilt-tripping.

Me: “I don’t care. I don’t like it.”

Teacher: *Sounding irritated* “Oh, c’mon, do it for her. You can’t only eat chocolate cakes; you need to learn to eat other things.”

Me: *Upset* “But it tastes bad. I did try it. Why do I have to eat it two times?”

I, and by extension my parents, got a warning letter for “Uncooperative Behaviour”. Even in hindsight, I fail to understand what she was trying to accomplish with her charade.