Stories from school and college

Carrying The Banner For Bad Phrasing

, , , , , , | Learning | July 18, 2021

In high school, I’m in a musical that takes place in New York around the turn of the twentieth century. One of our musical numbers is performed by a group of girls who are referred to in the script as “Bowery Beauties.” We’re at rehearsal, but we’re also on lunch break, and one of our directors is darting around to different tables.

He comes to our table, which is completely composed of girls.

Director: “Have you seen any Beauties around here?”

We connect the dots pretty quickly and figure out that he’s asking for the actresses, so we help him as best we can. He thanks us and leaves.

A minute later, he comes back to our table with an apology, reassuring us that we are all beauties and he shouldn’t have phrased it that way. I had a lot of not-so-great experiences in that theater, but that was one thing I’ll always remember in a positive light.

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Be Careful Who You Step On When You Stamp Out Racism

, , , , , , , | Learning | July 15, 2021

We’re on the train to school camp. I’m playing chess with [Classmate #1]. Meanwhile, [Classmate #2] is chatting with the homeroom teacher of another class.

Classmate #2: *Loudly* “And [Classmate #1] never does his homework.”

Classmate #1: “Huh?!”

Me: “Pot calling the kettle black!”

Classmate #2: “Ah-ha! Everyone, [My Name] is being racist! He called [Classmate #1] black!”

Me: “Oh, s***.”

I forgot that [Classmate #1] is African-American.

Me: “No! I didn’t mean it that way!”

Classmate #1: “Yeah, I know. No offence taken.”

He turns to face [Classmate #2].

Classmate #1: “What do you mean, I never hand in homework, you hypocrite? You’re the one that hands in the least amount of homework in class!”

The argument continues on for a while, but eventually, our own homeroom teacher shuts us all up. She comes up to me afterward.

Teacher: “And what’s this about you being racist?”

Me: “Nothing. It was just a badly-used phrase.”

She frowns a bit and then looks at the chessboard.

Teacher: “When we get back, I want you writing lines about not being racist.”

Me: “Why?! I’m not racist!”

Teacher: “Uh-huh.” *Picks up my queen* “Then why are you making the African-American boy play black?”

Classmate #1: “Hey, I prefer black in chess. I like going second. I chose it.”

Teacher: “Don’t worry. You don’t need to defend him. I’ll sort [My Name] out when we get back to school.”

Me: *Sighs* “I can see that I’m not winning this argument. But I insist that you talk to my father about this.”

Teacher: “Oh, I will. He needs to know that racism is intolerable and that such behaviour will not be tolerated in this school.”

She then flips around the chessboard, such that [Classmate #1] now has white.

Teacher: “And if I see you being racist to anyone ever again, I swear to God that I will find a way to drum your a** out of school faster than you can say ‘goodbye’.”

She smugly trotted off. [Classmate #1] and I sighed and continued playing.

The look on her face when she saw my father a few weeks later was priceless. I looked absurdly like my white mother, so nobody realised that my father was an African-American. Naturally, he disbelieved every single accusation of me being racist and basically ordered [Teacher] to let me off the hook.

She did that, but she always gave me the stink-eye in every homeroom. I was really glad to leave her behind when I graduated.

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Practice Taking What You Can Get

, , , , , | Learning | July 12, 2021

At the university where I work, I teach a library research methods course. Since the final exam is a skills test, I prepare a take-home practice exam with different questions that cover the same techniques as the final. If the students can work out the answers to the practice test, they should do well on the final.

Two students approach me.

Student: “We want to leave a couple of days before the final. Could we take it early?”

Me: “You can’t take the final itself, since you could potentially pass the questions on to other students, but I’ll let you take the practice exam in class the day before everyone else gets it, and I’ll grade you on that.”

Student: “But that’s not fair! We should get a practice exam, too.”

Me: “Let me get this straight. As a favor, I am letting you take the exam two days early, but you also want me to create an extra practice exam just for you two?”

Student: “Yes?”

Me: “No.”

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Quid Stultus

, , , , , | Learning | July 10, 2021

I’m new to this school. I’m Latina. I’m talking to a girl when she says this gem.

Girl: “Say something in Latin!”

Me: “Er… what?”

Girl: “You know, Latin! Your language!”

Me: “Um, I don’t know any Latin.”

Girl: “But you’re Latina!”

Girl’s Friend: “[Girl], she speaks Spanish, not Latin. Latin was the language of ancient Rome.”

The girl just looked confused.

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Sometimes A Nosebleed Is Just A Nosebleed

, , , , | Learning | July 6, 2021

My whole life, I’ve always been prone to getting nosebleeds. Thankfully, the issue has gotten better as I’ve grown up, but as a kid, anything from stress to a drop in humidity, to the lightest bonk on the nose was enough to set it off. After being assured by my pediatrician that, as long as the bleeds didn’t last too long or happen too often, I was fine and would likely grow out of it, my parents and I quickly learned how to properly take care of them and how to get them to stop more quickly.  

One year, when I’m about ten or so, I attend a local summer camp. I can’t recall the exact catalyst for this nosebleed — if there even was one — but I’m stuck in the bathroom for several minutes trying to get it to stop. Eventually, a counselor finds me and goes pale.

Counselor: “Oh, my God! What happened?!”

Me: “Just a nosebleed. I get these sometimes. I’m all right.”

Counselor: “I’m going to bring you to the front office, just to be safe, okay?”

Not really given a choice in the matter, I’m begrudgingly pulled up to the front office after I clean myself up.

Camp Director: “Okay, [My Name], I think we’re going to call your mom about this.”

Me: “Really, you don’t have to worry about this. It’s normal for me and she knows it!”

Camp Director: “We just need to make sure, kid.”

I can hear my mom through the phone as they talk.

Mom: “Hello?”

Camp Director: “Hello, Mrs. [Mom]. It’s [Camp Director] from [Camp]. I’m just calling because [My Name] had a nosebleed?”

Mom: “Is he not able to get it to stop?”

Camp Director: “No, no, it’s stopped.”

Mom: “Did it ruin his clothes? Do I need to bring extras over?”

Camp Director: “No, those are fine, as well.”

Mom: “Did he not tell you that these are normal for him and that he knows how to deal with them?”

Camp Director: “Well, he did but we just wanted to be sure—”

Mom: “Well, you can be sure by actually listening to the kids sometimes.”

She hung up and I was sent back with my group.

Looking back, I see that my mother was a lot ruder than she needed to be to a woman who was just worried about my health, but at least it taught her to note my nosebleeds whenever she signed me up for anything else so that we were both left alone after that!

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