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Stories from school and college

Mischief By Proxy

, , , , , | Learning | August 5, 2021

I attended a private high school that issued laptops to all of its students and faculty. Of course, because we had near-constant Internet access, the school had a pretty hefty firewall put in place — amongst other measures — to ensure we were doing what we were supposed to during class. However, being a bunch of teens, many of us were also doing our best to circumvent this firewall, typically through proxies. Once one of these was found, it spread like a wildfire before administration caught on and blocked it and the cycle repeated.

I’m not sure how this is handled at other schools, but at mine, the last week before finals was solely dedicated to reviewing for them and to giving you an opportunity to ask your teachers questions about older material.

It’s this time my sophomore year and I’m in my algebra class browsing social media via one of those aforementioned Internet proxies — perhaps not the smartest decision looking back, but oh, well. Unbeknownst to me, my teacher — the very same one from this story — has snuck up behind me.

Teacher: “Is that Reddit?!”

I nearly jump out of my skin, especially since computer misuse is an automatic detention, and circumvention of the firewall can be a suspension if you get caught directly.

Me: “Um, yeah.”

Teacher: “How the h*** did you get around the firewall?! I swear, I’ve been trying to do that all year.”

Me: “Oh, uh, I use [Proxy].”

Teacher: “Thanks!”

He immediately scurried back to his desk. 

Since the first story I submitted about him, I’ve learned he didn’t even apply to the school to be a teacher; he applied to be in their IT department. Administration just stuck him in the position because he had a math degree. That fact explained a lot.

The Password Adds Up

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Some Things Can’t Be Tutored Away

, , , , , | Learning | August 2, 2021

I am studying to complete my honours degree. To make a little extra money on the side, I’ve started working for a company that tutors high school students. Due to the current health crisis, most of our sessions take place online and on a one-on-one basis.

One of my students didn’t show up for his lesson. I messaged him about it and he gave me an excuse that was along the line of, “I had a meeting with a prospective employer and forgot to tell you.” I was a bit inconvenienced but let it go. 

Cue next week when the exact same thing happened. At this stage, I was technically supposed to tell my boss, who would make sure that I was compensated for wasting my time — it’s about half what I would have gotten if we’d had a lesson, without actually having to do one. I, however, took a different route.

I drafted an email to my student’s mother. I respectfully explained the situation and told her to please ensure that her son comes to our future lessons. I also mentioned that I had not informed my boss, and they would not be penalized for the missed lessons. I was professional and respectful throughout. I even had both my parents read the email to make sure that it did not portray me as condescending or disrespectful.

About a day later, the student’s mother emailed me back. She went on and on about my disrespectful tone and how she could not believe that I had not informed her earlier. She also told me, “I also CC’d in [My Boss], so don’t bother trying to hide it.”

I just don’t understand her reasoning here. Someone emails you after your son missed two lessons — it happens because high schoolers are idiots — and explains that there won’t be any disadvantage to him because my boss never found out, and your response is to yell at them and inform their boss?

I got paid for both missed lessons and all my boss did was tell me to rather go through him in the future.

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Negotiations Will Resume After Lunch

, , , , | Learning | CREDIT: -Whatever— | July 28, 2021

I’ve worked in K-12 education technology for most of my twenty-plus years in my professional career. When I first started, I was the only technician for a small/medium school district of 2,500 or so students. The Director of Special Education was married to the superintendent. I reported to the business manager who used to teach technology but was not a technical person. For the most part, I was left to do my work and was not micromanaged. I got into a habit of taking my lunch whenever I felt like it or even not at all. If I didn’t take lunch and there was no pressing work, I would just leave a little early at the end of the day. Of course, I made sure all the schools were out before I left.

As time went on, I got in trouble for leaving early, so I would take my lunch whenever time permitted; sometimes it was when there was only an hour left from work, sometimes not. But I would chill at my desk and just screw off. The others in the office reported me for screwing off every afternoon. When I tried to explain to the business manager that I was taking my lunch, she said something to the effect of, “You can no longer take your lunch whenever you want; your lunch is from 12:00 to 1:00.”

No problem, message received. So, starting that day, no matter what I was doing at 12:00, I would stop what I was doing and take my lunch. If I was at my desk, I would screw off. If I was at a school site, I would go sit in my car.

Fast forward a month or two. At about 11:30, the Director of SPED calls and says his computer is not working and I need to come fix it right away. I say sure thing and get on my way. When I get to his office, he asks me to fix it and heads off to a meeting. I start in on removing all spyware he has managed to collect. About a third of the way through, 12:00 hits. I stand up and walk out of his office and tell his secretary I’ll be back in an hour.

Out to my car I go, expecting a phone call any minute. Sure enough, about fifteen minutes in, I get a phone call from the business manager.

Business Manager: “I hear you walked out of the SPED Director’s office without fixing his computer.”

Me: “Correct. It is my lunchtime.”

Business Manager: “What do you mean? You couldn’t fix his computer first?”

Me: “I could have, but you told me that I could not decide when my lunch break was and that I had to take lunch from 12:00 to 1:00.”

Business Manager: “Wait, that’s not what I meant.”

Me: “But that is what you said. If I stayed and worked on the computer and took my lunch at 1:00 or 1:30, I did not want to get in trouble for screwing off when I was supposed to be working.”

Business Manager: “Okay, I’ll call you back.”

She called back about fifteen minutes later asking me to please go back in and finish the computer. She said that from then on, I could decide when the best time was to take my lunch. It was never talked about again. It was nice being able to go home early when I didn’t take my lunch again.

This story is part of our Best Of July 2021 roundup!

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, , , , , , | Learning | July 24, 2021

I attended elementary school — kindergarten through fifth grade — from the early to mid-1990s. Every year for Halloween, and the three days leading up to it, our entire school became a haunted house. The ticket sales went to various other school programs and activities. This being an elementary school, you might think it was more of a kid-friendly haunted house. Nope, it was an actual haunted house. The different rooms didn’t change much, but it was pretty gruesome and people really got into it. A lot of parents would help out and the high school even gave extra credit to the students who volunteered to help. Considering how conservative the little town we lived in was at the time, I’m surprised they were even allowed to start this, let alone keep it going for nearly twenty years.

The final scare at the end of the haunted house happened when you reached the cafeteria. A man, usually one of the coaches from the high school, popped out in a Jason mask while revving a real chainsaw (with the saw chain removed) and chased you through a wooden maze that had been built in the cafeteria.

By my fifth grade year, my friends and I weren’t really scared by the haunted house anymore, since most of the scares were the same every year. We were part of the first group to go through and were mostly giggling and goofing around. We made it to the cafeteria, but we weren’t sure when or where Jason would pop out.

We made it nearly to the end of the maze when Jason appeared, revving his chainsaw. The people at the front of our group screamed and ran out the door to the school lobby. One of my friends thought he’d be funny and decided to dart through Jason’s legs on his way out. Jason lurched back, sending the chainsaw over his head and into one of the maze walls. We all froze when we heard the sound of wood splitting and the chainsaw choking as it got stuck.

A teacher who’d been monitoring the area came running in and turned the lights on. There, stuck in the maze wall, was a chainsaw that most definitely still had the blades on. Coach Jason had forgotten to take the chain off.

The teacher herded us out of there while Jason tried to get the chainsaw free. They shut the haunted house down for about an hour while all the teachers met and talked about what to do. Different volunteers dressed as monsters, zombies, etc., switched in and out of the cafeteria for the rest of that Halloween season. They kept doing the haunted house for several years after I graduated on to middle school, but they never had Jason back again.

This story is part of our Best Of July 2021 roundup!

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Shaken, Stirred, And Silenced

, , , , | Learning | July 22, 2021

High schools are noisy places, especially at lunchtime. It is in the early summer of 2011, soon after the huge earthquake in northeastern Japan. We are a ways south of where it happened but still well in earthquake country, which is mostly all of Japan. 

I’m walking down the main hallway during lunch. The hallway and classrooms are bursting with noise as 800 students all try to talk over each other. It is really quite deafening.

Then, the building starts to shake.

And the school is utterly silent. 

Everyone waits to see if the shaking stops or things start falling, maybe even including the school itself.

Luckily, the shaking stops after a few seconds and the noise redoubles in intensity in an instant.  

Only an act of God can make a high school quiet during lunch.

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