You Scored A Top Ten

, , , , , , | | Learning | May 16, 2019

I’ve always been a bit advanced for my age. When I was four years old, my first preschool shut down halfway through the year, and the only other preschool at the time was at a local elementary school, so grandmother enrolled me there.

At the time, I could count up to 39 but was having trouble grasping 40, and when my grandmother told this to the staff, their response signaled to my grandmother that I would be going to a different school for kindergarten onward.

“Oh, we only care if she can count to ten!”

The Bigger Child

, , , , , | | Learning | May 16, 2019

(I am a kindergarten teacher at a private school. The children are waiting for their parents to pick them up. It has been quite a difficult day.)

Mother: *furious* “EXCUSE ME! Why is my son telling me you did not give him some birthday cake?”

Me: “Actually—”

Mother: “I demand you give him some cake now, or I am calling the police for abuse!”

Me: “Actually, Mrs. [Mother], your son did get a piece of cake; however, he decided to throw it at one of the girls. Then, when [Son’s Friend] didn’t give him his piece, he kicked him in the crotch. We do not reward bullying or violence, Mrs. [Mother], and your son was appropriately reprimanded. A letter will be sent to you with more details.”


Me: “You will not use that language in this building. I am going to have to ask you to leave. You and your son are no longer welcome here.”

(She continued screaming for another couple of minutes until another teacher came out with the aforementioned cake inside a glass cover. She stormed up to it and tried to wrestle it off the teacher. The cover was broken and both the mother and the teacher were injured. The mother then stormed out, smashing a window in the process. We were all a bit rattled by it, but tried to calm everything down when two police officers arrived. They said they’d had reports of a woman — me — wielding a knife, demanding that I “convert the children to the burka” — a literal quote. We showed them the security footage of the area and had to go down to the police station to give statements — the mother included, who was still outside being seen by a paramedic. The other teacher refused to press charges and we were all free to go. A week later, the mother showed up again to drop off her son. I refused, saying they were no longer welcome. She had another tantrum and broke the same window we had just replaced the day before. She then left, screaming that she would take her money elsewhere. At this school, parents do not have to pay for kindergarten if they are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, which she was. Her sister left her son with us occasionally, and I’ve heard that that mother has built such a reputation that she has to take her son out of the county and is going to be homeschooling. I’m considering allowing the child to attend with us again, even if just for a bit of stability, but I’m fearful of what he might do. It was a first-time incident, but it was pretty serious.)

Aiming For A Reputation

, , , , , , , | | Learning | May 16, 2019

(We have all taken our seats in our classroom. Our teacher always comes in several minutes late, so someone decides to start an eraser-throwing war. The eraser lands on my desk, so I pick it up and throw it across the room. I’m not aiming at anyone, but it hits one boy in the side of his nose. I’m usually one of the more quiet, stay-out-of-trouble students.)

Boy: “Who threw that?”

Me: “Uh, I did.”


Time Is Math

, , , , , , | | Learning | May 15, 2019

One of the disadvantages in teaching in my part of Alaska was that when spring finally rolled around, most of the boys — and some of the girls — would prefer to be out on the tundra shooting at the amazing plethora of recently-arrived ducks, geese, and cranes — and hopefully not shooting any swans!

Because hunting was a skill that was very important to the Yup’ik culture — and useful, too — I understood that they were learning some practical skills even outside my classroom. But on the other hand, if I reported too many absences, I’d be catching some flack from our district admins.

So, on whatever day that class attendance had dropped unacceptably low, I’d announce a lesson in ”money math.”

Some background info: over the course of that year, my students had been very active in fundraising, mainly showing movies for the village multiple days each week, at which we also sold a lot of popcorn, drinks, and homemade “ice pops.” So, by the end of the year, we had a lot of buckets full of coins. This money would usually follow them to the next higher grade the following year, but unfortunately, my predecessor had taken his classes’ money with him when he’d left the village two years earlier. To prevent that from happening again and to give my attending students some “real-life” math practice, I’d bring out one of the coin buckets and place a big handful of coins in front of each pair of “money math” partners.

They would then need to sort them into appropriate piles — quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies — and then use multiplication to find the total value of each type of coin — e.g. “7 quarters x 25 cents each = $1.75.” Then, each pair would need to add all of their total coin values together and write that amount in a list up on the blackboard. As a class, we then needed to add all of those amounts into a grand total of all the handed-out money for the day. And last, we needed to do on the board the most difficult division problem we’d ever done in order to figure out how much each student would be getting — and later giving them some additional practice at counting out their “shares.”

Hey, who says math needs to be boring?

As a pleasant, and very planned-upon consequence, attendance the following day would almost always be at or near 100%… even though “money math” was almost never offered two days in a row. I guess just the possibility that they might be missing out on a “money math” lesson gave them some extra motivation to not skip.

Her Biology Is A Grade Crazier

, , , , , , | | Learning | May 15, 2019

(I get along well with both of my lab partners in biology class; all three of us are very prepared, and we usually finish our labs well ahead of everyone else and spend the rest of the time chatting and goofing around. There is one woman in the class, though, who drives me nuts. She’s a lawyer, three months pregnant, who couldn’t find a job as a lawyer and came back to school for Biology. She sits clear across the room, but every time I look up, she’s leaning over my shoulder, telling me what to do, and usually getting the lab protocol wrong. When we’re testing blood cells in an isotonic solution:)

Student: “You need to hold it up to the light!”

(When we’re setting up a hot water bath.)

Student: “Are you sure you have it at the right temperature? I think it needs to be [five degrees higher than correct, which would have killed our yeast cells].”

(On learning I’m studying to be a surgeon:)

Student: “Oh, you don’t want to do that. It makes it so hard to have a family. You’ll regret it.”

(After my lab group and I have finished, cleaned up, and are chatting:)

Student: “You should really be working; you don’t want to waste your education!”

(After two months of this, I snap at her, and she finally backs off. It’s about two weeks later when both of us stay after class to talk to the professor. She is first, and when it becomes clear that they are talking about grades, I offer to leave. She insists that it’s fine, which I think gives our professor the idea that we are friends. I’m on my phone, trying not to eavesdrop, when I overhear this gem.)

Professor: “You know, if you’re serious about bringing your grade up to passing, you might want to study with [My Name]. She had the highest exam grade in the class, and on the last four quizzes!”

(She burst into tears and went running out of the room, much to the bewilderment of our poor professor. And that’s the story of how I made a pregnant lawyer cry.)

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