This Lesson Headed South

, , , , | Learning | March 14, 2020

(In fourth grade, we have to do a project where we choose a country from Africa to do research on.)

Teacher: “Okay, let’s say what country we’re going to do!”

Student #1: “Egypt.”

Student #2: “Kenya.”

Me: “South Africa.”

Teacher: “No! You don’t understand; you have to do a country! You can’t just choose the southern or northern part of Africa! Look at this map and choose an actual country.”

(I silently pointed to South Africa.)

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Heavy Is The Head That Wears The Student Body Crown

, , , , , | Learning | March 12, 2020

(I go to a religious school, and once a week we have a chapel service; we sing hymns and listen to something of a sermon, that sort of thing. One day, the student body president gives a little talk about the importance of always doing what’s right, because God wants us to.)

Student Body President: “The other day, I saw a ninth-grader picking up some litter when no one else was around. She didn’t know I saw her; she was cleaning up just because it’s the right thing to do, not for any reward or recognition. You see, it’s important to always do the right thing. After all, who’s always watching?”

The Crowd: “[Student Body President] is always watching!”

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Talk Until You K-Pop

, , , , , | Learning | March 10, 2020

(I am an admissions counselor for a university. I am working from home and get a call from a man interested in our business program. I talk to him about our degrees and tell him the next steps, and he doesn’t seem terrifically invested in the conversation. It comes to a natural stopping point and I am getting ready to end the call when he says this:)

Man: “I just want to make sure this isn’t a scam. I’ve been scammed before.”

Me: “Oh, I completely understand. It can be difficult to know if something is legitimate, especially with online school.”

(He then launches into a rant about how a school scammed him in the past. He doesn’t seem rude or violent, only justifiably frustrated as he recalls the experience. I tell him about a school I almost went to and then later found out was a scam, and we are having a pretty animated conversation. Then, suddenly, he turns to politics.)

Man: “Everyone wants free college these days. Bernie Sanders wants to give everyone free college. Everyone wants socialism; they think socialism is great. It’s not. I’m telling you it’s not. I’m not gonna ask you how you vote, but free college just wouldn’t work.”

(I am actually a socialist, but of course, I am at work so I just make some non-committal noises.)

Man: “I’m not gonna ask how you vote, but I’m an independent. I just think we need Republicans and Democrats to come together. We need a president who can bring everyone together. That’s why I love Tulsi. Have you heard of her?”

Me: “Yeah, I’ve seen some of her billboards around.”

Man: “She’s great. I love her. Man, I would kill to get her autograph. I bet you see a lot of presidential candidates up there in New Hampshire, huh? I tell ya, I would kill for Tulsi’s autograph. She spends most of her time in Hawaii, but I would love to meet her one day. If you see her in New Hampshire, get me her autograph, will ya?”

Me: *jokingly* “Sure thing! I also have family in Hawaii so I’ll give them a call and see if they can get her autograph for you.”

Man: *even more excited* “You’re Samoan?!”

Me: “Ah, no. My grandpa was in the military.”

Man: “Oh, I see. It’s a beautiful place. Beautiful. I’d love to go there someday. But really, I will pay you money for Tulsi’s autograph. I’m serious; I will pay you for it.”

Me: “I’ll keep that in mind.”

(He continues extolling the virtues of Tulsi for a while, and then he suddenly comes out with this gem.)

Man: “I’m really into K-Pop. I love following those girl groups. I’ve been learning a bit of Korean through that.”

(Students enter their date of birth when they inquire, so I know this man is in his late forties. Most K-Pop groups consist entirely of women in their late teens or early twenties. This comment, paired with his earlier excitement about the possibility of me being Samoan, instantly shoots up a couple of red flags for me.)

Me: “Oh, that’s so cool. I’ve heard it’s a great language…”

(He continued to expound on his love of K-Pop, with me getting increasingly uncomfortable. FINALLY, after nearly an hour of conversation — only 15 of which were spent talking about the university — he thanked me for being such a great listener and we said our goodbyes. This was almost a month ago and I have not been able to get back in touch with that student to follow up on his application. Probably for the best.)

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At Least It Wasn’t The Chokey

, , , , , | Learning | March 8, 2020

When I was in third grade, a new kid in school took a dislike towards me pretty quickly for some reason. Since he was mischievous, his elder sister paid a visit to our classroom whenever she could and asked his bench-mates to take care of him. The teacher eventually figured out that making him sit in a corner away from all the kids was good for everyone, which only encouraged him to focus on me even more. (That teacher needed to be banned!)

One Friday, my math teacher was acting monstrously toward every student that hadn’t learned their multiplication tables. So, she thought that locking him in the classroom after school would teach him a lesson! I know how crazy that sounds, but that’s actually what happened!

I hated that kid but not to the point that I wanted him to suffer. I waited until everyone left and informed his sister about it, as she always picked him up, and she knew that something was wrong when her brother was nowhere to be seen. The door was locked from the outside, so she was able to get him free.

That poor kid was terrified to death and I still remember his crying face. I am not completely selfless, as I did my fair share of complaining about that boy’s bullying to his sister. She told him that I was “off-limits” from then on. He actually used to look out for me when someone picked on me!

Sadly, the teacher walked away clean because we were children, and the parents didn’t want to make it even hard for the kid in school, but they told us to inform them if anything else happened in the class.

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Book Smarts Versus Street Smarts

, , , , , | Learning | March 6, 2020

I’m working in a Postgraduate Medical Library which, for anyone who hasn’t encountered one, is full of reference books and additional training materials used by — sometimes highly — qualified medical staff.

I answer the phone one morning to a rather irate person demanding to know our opening hours. “8:30 to 17:00,” I tell him, “and if you’re on our staff here you can arrange out-of-hours access by speaking to Mr. [Supervisor].”

“Well,” says my caller, “it’s half-past ten and I’ve been banging on the door for ages; I want you to let me in!”

I don’t understand; our door is open and people are coming in and out all the time. We have a second door, which is a fire escape door and only opens in one direction, but there’s a glass panel in it so I’d see if anyone was there, and it’s also right next to my desk. I explain this to the guy and he starts getting irate.

“No, the door’s locked and you’re ignoring me; will you please come and let me in?!

 I take a deep breath. “Are you sure you’re actually at the Postgraduate Medical Library?”

“Of course I’m sure!”

“Are you in a long corridor with dark blue walls and a view of the garden?”

“Yes, of course!” The guy’s blood pressure is going stratospheric by now.

“I’m afraid you’re in the wrong place. That’s the Patient Library, and it opens at 14:00. To get to the Postgraduate Medical Library, you need to walk back to the main reception area, take the lift to the third floor, and turn left. The door will be right in front of you, and it’s open all the time.”

Not a word of apology, just a slammed phone and, five minutes later, a very red-faced man erupts in through the door muttering something about signage. Both rooms have very clear signs explaining their titles, opening hours, and the number to ring at any other time.

I am always impressed by the total lack of reading comprehension displayed by some of these highly-trained people.

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