Stories from school and college

Inattentive About Attendance

, , , , , , | Learning | April 23, 2021

Back when I was in middle school, when students completed eighth grade, the school would have a “graduation” to celebrate the student’s move up to high school. This graduation was similar to high school graduation; however, it focused more on the achievements of students, with many awards given. From academic achievements to sports achievements, almost every student received an award.

I was always a high achieving student, but I was never the top one — I missed being in the top 5% of my graduating class from high school by one person, for example — so I knew it was unlikely I would receive any academic awards.

My claim to fame at the time was the fact that I hadn’t missed a day of school since kindergarten. I know, nowadays everyone realizes how bad it is to give an award for coming to school when sick, but back then it really mattered to me. To get the perfect attendance award at the graduation, you had to not have missed a single day of seventh and eighth grade: two full years of classes you had to go to. And I had.

This was additionally impressive because I had a birth deformity that caused me to have over a dozen surgeries by the time I graduated high school. Over my time in middle school, I had two surgeries. Despite being in tremendous pain and taking strong painkillers, I was always in school long enough for it to count.

The day before the graduation, I went to the front office to ask a question about something unrelated and got on the topic of graduation with the secretary who was assisting me. I asked about the perfect attendance award, and while she told me she wasn’t allowed to release the names of who was getting what award before graduation, she did know there was one name for that award. I thought that confirmed it; I was guaranteed at least one award.

The next evening was graduation. I was super excited, as is any student; we all thought we were so cool, about to start high school. The night was wearing on, and we got to the final few awards. I hadn’t received a single award, which I expected, but I wasn’t upset because I knew my award was coming. Finally, they announced the award, went on a spiel about how some years no one wins this award, but this year there was one!

I was getting ready to stand, as I was also on crutches for an unrelated injury to my ankle; the student sitting next to me knew I was expecting this award and had agreed to help me stand up when it came.

They announced the name… and it wasn’t me. I was so upset, and the other kid looked a bit confused. I almost started crying at graduation. The awards finished and I didn’t receive anything.

I found a friend and expressed how upset I was, and he mentioned that we should talk to the guidance counselor. We eventually found her, and I expressed how upset I was that my name wasn’t called for the award. She initially gave me some pushback — apparently, a computer program spits out the correct students for each award so it’s “never wrong” — but I pushed too. She said she would check as a favour to me, and we left her.

Before the end of the night, the counselor found me again with my parents. She told me she’d read the program incorrectly; I was the only person to get perfect attendance. The student whose name was called had only missed one day and was second on the list. She told me she would print out another certificate and get it dropped off at my homeroom for the next morning.

At this point, it meant nothing to me. As a middle schooler who was smart but not the smartest, athletic but not the most athletic, and going through what I would later realize was a depressive episode, this was supposed to be my one moment to shine. My homeroom teacher the next morning tried to make a point to present my award, but no one really cared. I got home and threw the award away.

I learned my lesson, though: my next surgery, I took an entire week off school and really milked my recovery period.

Eight years later in college, I now have problems seeing the importance of attending classes, because that one teacher let me down when it meant the most to me.

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Any Tom, Dick, Or Kate…

, , , , | Learning | April 23, 2021

My name is Katharine; I also go by Kate or Katie. I am seven years old and clever but not bright. It’s the first day of school and we’re in gym, waiting for the teacher to take attendance. He gets to the student before me and then…

Teacher: “Kathy.”

I don’t say anything. I’m just wondering who this Kathy is that wasn’t in any of my other classes. 

Teacher: “Kathy?”

I’m looking around trying to see who I don’t recognize, but I don’t see anyone new.

Teacher: “KATHARINE [MY LAST NAME].”

Me: “Here!”

Teacher: “Why didn’t you answer when I called you?”

Me: *Baffled* “But you didn’t call me!”

The rest of the class “oooh”ed as if I’d pulled off some great insult, but I was just confused. The teacher asked my preference and called me Katie after that.

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Time To Install A Brain Upgrade

, , , , , | Learning | April 22, 2021

I work for a small software company affiliated with a nearby university. We are licensed to sell and support the software while students can use it for free. A very small part of my job is monitoring the customer service email. Because we are a small company with clients who email their support engineers directly, it is typically college students looking for an excuse to turn in their homework late. 

I had one guy call the customer service line and leave a voicemail at 5:37 pm and claim he couldn’t do his homework that was due at 5:30 pm because we didn’t pick up. You know, ignoring the fact he had two weeks to contact us and we only answer software questions, which you don’t actually need to do the homework if you are paying attention in class.

I have just given one PhD student a new install package to run.

Student: “I tried to install it and it doesn’t work.”

Me: “I am going to need more information. Can you confirm that it was installed properly by checking to see if [folder] is empty or has files in it?”

The student sends me a heavily clipped screenshot of what doesn’t even look like our software.

Student: “What does this mean?”

Me: “Hello. Unfortunately, I don’t know which context this is in so I cannot help you with that. Let’s focus on troubleshooting. Did you check [folder]? Did you also check your app settings to see if it was installed correctly?”

Student: “Does it matter where it is installed?”

Me: “It does matter where it is installed. That is why I am asking if you can see the files in that folder or not. Can you please let me know if they are there?”

Student: “Can’t you just send me a new license?”

Me: *Thinking* “Are you going to actually install it this time or not?”

For the record, it turned out he was trying to install a second copy on his work computer, which is a big no-no and goes against the contract he signed. It also didn’t work out for him because of permissions at his work. Oh, well.

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Chemically Imbalanced, Part 10

, , , , , , | Learning | April 21, 2021

Back in the early 1990s, two other male college freshmen and I were studying for an upcoming quiz for a chemistry class.

Student #1: “I’m really not feeling it. Think I should just skip the quiz entirely?”

Student #2: “Sodium hypobromite.”

Student #1: “What?”

I wrote out the chemical formula for sodium hypobromite: “NaBrO”.

Related:
Chemically Imbalanced, Part 9
Chemically Imbalanced, Part 8
Chemically Imbalanced, Part 7
Chemically Imbalanced, Part 6
Chemically Imbalanced, Part 5

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We Can Only Draw One Conclusion: SHE’S A WITCH!

, , , , , , | Learning | April 21, 2021

My two best friends and I are in sixth grade — age twelve — and have a mandatory art class. We are spending a week drawing houses. Our first assignment is to draw our own house.

[Friend #1] draws her house, but she forgets to draw one of her parents’ bedroom windows. That night, it storms very badly, and a tree falls in such a way that the window she forgot to draw is broken by a tree branch crashing through it.

The next day, we are supposed to draw a house that exists and that we wished we lived in. [Friend #1] draws [Friend #2]’s house, but she forgets to draw the garage. The previous night’s storm had affected the soil of the hill beside that house, and [Friend #2] comes home to find that a tree has fallen on the (empty!) garage. 

The next day, we are supposed to draw the house of a friend. 

Friend #1: “I guess I’ll draw your house, [My Name].”

Me: “Nope! Not allowed! No, thank you, please! I like my house perfectly intact and how it is, thank you very much!”

Friend #1: “But I already drew [Friend #2’s] house!”

Friend #2: “Yeah, and look what happened to it! And what happened to your house! If you forget to draw anything at [My Name’s] house, we won’t be able to go to her sleepover this weekend.”

Me: “Hey, weren’t you friends with [Former Classmate] before she moved?”

Friend #1: “Yeah, why?”

Me: “My mom’s coworker bought it, and Mom said they’re tearing it down so they can build their dream house! So if you mess it up with your weird drawing power, it won’t matter!”

Friend #1: “I don’t think I had anything to do with the garage or the windows, but fine, whatever.”

[Friend #1] draws [Former Classmate]’s house, forgetting to draw the sizable front deck. That house is on a very busy road, right across from a T-intersection. As my mom picks me up from school, she tells me we are taking a different way home than usual.

Mom: “Yeah, it’s a good thing [Former Classmate] moved! Someone crashed into her house and destroyed the deck.”

I call [Friend #1] when I get home and relay the information. 

Friend #1: “Okay, you know what? Fine. I thought you and [Friend #2] were just being weird about all this, but I guess I have to believe you. I’m drawing made-up houses the rest of the week.”

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