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Stories from school and college

It Really IS The Magic Word!

, , , , , | Learning | November 23, 2021

I walk into class to see several classmates gathered around the teacher’s desk. There are several packages of animal crackers on the desk, and my classmates are trying to cajole the teacher into letting them have some. After a few moments of consideration, I decide to make an attempt, as well.

Me: “Could I please have some?”

The teacher promptly grabs a package and hands it to me. My classmates are shocked and begin whining, begging, and so on. I just eat my crackers happily while I listen in on their further attempts to get some for themselves. One classmate pauses for a moment.

Classmate: “Could I… please have some?”

The teacher handed him a package. Because of the way that classmate had emphasized the word “please,” the others quickly figured out that the way to get the crackers was to ask politely, and soon the teacher had handed them all out.

Iguana Teach You A Language Lesson

, , , , , , | Learning | November 21, 2021

This was back in 2002 when I was in eighth grade. My science class had a pet iguana that lived at the school. He had free range of the classroom. My teacher was retiring and wouldn’t be able to care for him anymore. She brought him to a pet store that promised to find a good home for him. The name of the pet store has been changed.

Classmate: “What pet store did you bring him to?”

Teacher: “A place called Renault’s Pets in [Local City].”

It bugged me because she pronounced it “Rey-nawlts” when it’s actually pronounced “Rey-nose”.

Me: “That’s not how you pronounce that name.”

Teacher: “Yes, it is. How else would you pronounce it?”

Me: “‘Rey-nose’.”

Teacher: “You’re wrong.”

Me: “No, I’m not.”

Teacher: “Don’t talk back. It’s ‘Rey-nawlts’.”

Me: “You’re saying it wrong.”

Teacher: “What makes you the expert?”

Me: “My great grandfather opened that store in the early 1940s.”

Have You Tried A Punching Bag, Instead?

, , , , , , , | Learning | November 19, 2021

I took Tae Kwon Do for several years until I left for college, and at the time of this story, I was either a belt away from my black belt or had just gotten my first Dan. I was studying Olympic-style Tae Kwon Do, which is more sport than defensive art. Its sparring rules are designed to encourage interesting fights to watch more than to teach practical defense. Because of this, a number of things that are practical in a real fight, like grappling and punching, are either illegal or unable to score points when sparring.

Recently, we had a new person taking classes: an old friend of the person who ran the dojo who already had a black belt and training in a few different martial arts. He was always trying to get people to agree to bend the sparring rules to allow things he was taught but aren’t legal in our sparring, like grappling or punching to the head. By itself, this wouldn’t be too big a problem, except he wasn’t very good at taking no for an answer and would try to use these techniques even when his sparring partner didn’t agree to change the rules. He only did it with advanced belts and did it infrequently enough that, while annoying, it never quite reached the level of his being properly punished. Being friends with the owner likely helped him, as well.

On the day of this story, more for fun than anything else, we were doing two-on-one sparring matches, with two lower belts against one higher belt. I was going up against our master’s friend and had been paired up with a young girl who had only been sparring for a little while and still had the hesitancy that is often seen in new sparrers. While in a real fight, two on one is a massive advantage given the rules and limits of sparring, and with my partner’s lack of experience or aggression, I didn’t think she would be able to contribute much to the match. That meant the fight would mostly come down to me versus my opponent, who was far more experienced, which meant we would almost certainly lose the match.

I was worried that my new partner would be intermediated if our foe started using illegal moves she wasn’t ready to deal with, so before the match started, I politely reminded him that we wanted to stick to legal moves only without any of the stuff he liked to add.

My opponent seemed to take this as a challenge; the very moment the fight started, he dive-tackled me and grappled me to the floor. Not only was this illegal, but it was also rather foolish, as it put him on the ground and tied up with me while my partner was still free. Rather than trying to break his grapple, I instead did my best to tangle his legs and arms up with me so he couldn’t get up and told my partner to start kicking him while was defenseless. He had just turned an almost guaranteed win if he had just followed the rules into a rather inglorious defeat at the hands (feet?) of someone barely experienced enough to be allowed to spar at all.

Luckily for him, my partner seemed to realize how unfair the situation was, and as I said, she wasn’t remotely aggressive, so her “kicks” were barely more than taps, more demonstrating the damage she could do than really trying to inflict harm. Despite this, I could see our opponent growing increasingly infuriated with every strike.

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to keep my opponent tangled on the floor forever. Eventually, he managed to untangle himself and get up, at which point he went at my partner full force. He was clearly angry and not holding back nearly as much as an experienced black belt should against a newbie sparrer. I was honestly worried he would hurt my partner, so I rushed to get up and knock him away from her with a push kick so I could get between the two of them. Luckily, time ran out seconds after I’d knocked him away and the match ended before anyone was hurt.

My partner wasn’t badly hurt; he had landed a few very solid blows on her padding that winded her, but they didn’t cause any lasting harm. She was, however, terrified and upset at having been chased down and so viciously focused on, and I still wonder if he would have harmed her if it wasn’t for my intervention and time running out. As far as I was concerned, he had gone too far this time.

Despite being nothing more than a high school student, I went against my instincts and spoke to my master about his friend and my concerns after class was over that night. He agreed with me that his friend had pushed too far this time and told me he planned to have a “talk” with his friend. I don’t know what that talk entailed, but I noticed that the friend stopped coming to class not long after that.

Academic Distractions, Demolished!

, , , , , , | Learning | November 17, 2021

I have ADD and am relatively smart. This combination can be difficult, because the symptoms for ADD and the symptoms for a smart child who finds school boring and not challenging enough are very similar, and they exacerbate each other.

As a young child in elementary school, I particularly hated tests because they never challenged me, but they did require me to sit still working on them for an entire class. With other assignments, I usually finished them early and got to read a book, and with lectures, if I was bored, I could disengage and start daydreaming; I was very good at living inside my own head. But tests needed just enough attention that I couldn’t start daydreaming, but they were not interesting enough to hyperfocus on, resulting in being the most boring task in school to me. 

To make tests a bit more tolerable, I tried turning them into a game. I had all kinds of rules as to how questions should be answered and the order I did them in, and I even kept “score” of how well I was sticking to the rules. It’s been too long for me to remember all the rules, but the result was that I skipped around the test answering questions in seemingly random order while tracking points on the side of the paper in a way that I’m sure looked a little crazy to an outside observer, but it made things at least a little more interesting to me.

We ended up having a substitute teacher one day when we had a test. A little after the test, she came up to me while I was reading a book; I’d finished the assignment ahead of time and had free time. She originally started talking about my book and the fact that it was a few reading levels above my grade before transitioning to talking about the test.

Substitute: “I noticed you were moving around a lot during the tests.”

I felt a little embarrassed at being “caught” at what I realized was a pretty silly game, but I tried to act as if it was normal.

Me: “Yeah, I do that sometimes.”

Substitute: “Why did you do it?”

Me: “It’s kind of like a game to make the test more interesting. I know it’s silly—”

Substitute: “Oh, no, there is nothing wrong about it. I was just curious. You reminded me a bit of my daughter.”

Me: “Oh?”

Substitute: “She’s smart and likes reading like you, too. But she used to drive us crazy; whenever she had a test, she would sit and try to read her book without even looking at the test for the first half of class before she would start it, and she wouldn’t tell us why she did it!”

Me: “Oh, yeah, I could see doing that.”

Now the substitute sounded surprised that I didn’t think that was odd.

Substitute: “What? That makes sense to you?”

Me: “I assume the test was too easy, so she wanted to make it more challenging by needing to rush to complete it in time. It would be kind of fun, but my dad would be mad at me if I tried it.”

Substitute: “Wow. I wish I had you around a few years ago to explain that to us! We had to take her to a fancy psychiatrist just to figure out what she was doing.”

It was a random little conversation, but it’s stuck in my head for decades because it was the first time that it really occurred to me that my brain and my ways of doing things were just a bit different from how “normal” folks did it. The fact that something as “obvious” as the substitute’s daughter’s motivations wouldn’t make sense to a “normal” person made me realize that I, and presumably the substitute’s daughter, might just see the world a bit differently than most did.

Luckily for me, I didn’t necessarily mind being different, so it wasn’t a bad memory. Over the years, I’ve actually grown increasingly happy that I’m a bit odd. I see so many people doing downright foolish things in the effort to seem normal that I’m kind of glad I’m not normal and peer pressure doesn’t tempt me to join in with the foolishness just to fit in. Still, this was the first time it really clicked in my head that my mind really doesn’t work quite the way others’ do.

Your Snores Serve To Prove A Point

, , , , , , | Learning | November 15, 2021

I was told the details of this conversation after the fact.

Math Teacher: “I don’t really care how much you pay attention in class so long as you display an understanding of the material on homework and tests. Take [My Name], for example; I don’t think I’ve seen them actually awake in this class, but they’ve got an A. Isn’t that right, [My Name]?”

I snapped out of being half asleep.

Me: “Huh?”

Math Teacher: “Exactly.”