It’s Not Just Americans Who Don’t Know Anything

, , , , | Learning | June 11, 2020

I’m studying abroad and am at the first orientation for international students. Our first session had everyone together, but we are told to go to two different rooms based on if we are from a country in the EU.

I get out of my seat to leave when the guy next to me — a stranger — gives me a hopeless look.

Stranger: “I don’t know where to go.”

Me: “No problem. You go to room one if you are from the EU and room two if you’re not.”

The stranger gives me a blank stare.

Me: “The EU?”

Stranger: “…”

Me: “European Union? A blue flag with stars?”

Stranger: “…”

Me: “Never mind. Where are you from?”

Stranger: “Turkey.”

Me: “Cool, follow me.”

I thought it was an English thing, but I got to know him, and nope, he genuinely didn’t know if Turkey was in the EU or not.

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That Question Went Down Like A Balloon Filled With Gaseous Lead

, , , , , , | Learning | June 7, 2020

My eleventh grade — sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds — chemistry class starts out with some basic information about the periodic table and how it works. 

Teacher: “For example, this is lead. This symbol means it’s solid at room temperature. The melting point at surface pressure is a little more than 600F — 315C — so you won’t see liquid lead in your normal day-to-day scenario. And here—”

Student: *Interrupting* “If you inhale lead in its gas form, would you die of lead poisoning?”

Teacher: *Unfazed* “As I just said, the melting point is more than 600 degrees. The boiling point is over 3,000F — over 1,700 C. You wouldn’t have time to worry about lead poisoning at those temperatures. Moving on, this symbol…”

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Dogs Will Make Liars Of You Every Time

, , , , , , | Learning | June 6, 2020

My brother used to have an excruciatingly awful PE teacher. She was absurdly strict and demanding, hated boys, often humiliated students for bad performances, and enjoyed hunting in her free time.

Then, my parents got a puppy. It was not their first one, but this one was special. Imagine a hyperactive, overly curious, excitable, enthusiastically friendly, and loving little furball Hell-bent on becoming his new pack’s alpha. He was the sweetest little doggo you could ever meet but incredibly difficult to train. He tried to be a good boy so hard, he really did, but he couldn’t sit still if his life depended on it. 

My parents took him to an obedience school. The trainer there lasted three lessons and then told them to try somewhere else because he couldn’t handle him. The next one threw in the towel after two lessons. The third school was specialized in training gun dogs, but at this point, my parents didn’t really care as long as someone could make the little guy sit.

When my father and Good Boy arrived at the school, guess who greeted them? My brother’s PE teacher! She was a friend of the trainer and learned to train gun dogs in her free time; she had owned dogs all her life, in fact. Seeing how my dad struggled with his dog, she assumed he just didn’t know what he was doing. 

“Give him to me,” she said. “I’ll show you how it’s done.” Seeing how she was strict but friendly toward the other dogs, my dad handed over our puppy. 

Long story short: the puppy won. By the end of the lesson, he was jumping in circles around his new best friend, madly wagging his tail, and the PE teacher was nearly crying. She apologized to my dad. They started talking and he revealed that my brother was in one of her classes; she was mysteriously friendly for him for the rest of his time with her.

The puppy eventually became a fantastic gun dog. He did calm down a bit when he got older, but even when he was ten years old and started getting grey, people would still ask if he was a puppy — “He’s so energetic!” He died of renal failure last year. We decided not to get another dog since none of us can imagine that any other could live up to him.

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Those Who Can Do, Those Who Can’t Teach, And Then There Are Substitutes…

, , , , | Learning | June 4, 2020

To get an electrical engineering degree at my university, all students were required to take an upper-level course on electromagnetism prior to branching off to their sub-specialty concentrations. The course in question was taken after all the “weed out” courses, so it was expected that everyone taking the course was in it for the long haul and would pass the course even if they didn’t do overly well in it.  

Two days before classes were to begin, we were informed that the well-respected professor scheduled to teach our section was unavailable, and the class would be covered by a substitute they sourced for the semester.

Things did not get off to a good start. For the first few weeks, she had a very difficult time teaching the material, often making obvious mistakes in class both with the material and with simple arithmetic. We tried to give her a chance, hoping that it was just nerves in her first big solo teaching gig, but then came the first big exam.  

The class as a whole bombed the exam with the average score around 40%. There was no curve applied, so pretty much everyone was failing. A few people went and complained to the Dean at that point, but nothing was done. Not until we actually got our exam papers back, that is.

The next class, several students publicly asked her to explain how the answer to a specific problem was achieved because none of us had gotten it right and we had mostly all gotten the same wrong answer. Her response?

“I don’t know, that’s just what it says on the answer key.”

She hadn’t even written her own exam and didn’t understand the exam she was giving us. 

That’s when the rest of us marched into the Dean’s office and demanded that something be done. I don’t know what the outcome of the high-level discussions were, but I do know the following: 1) the scores on the first exam were normalized on a curve so that most people passed, 2) the following exams were much easier, and 3) her name never appeared on the teaching roster in following semesters the entire time I was at the school.

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Motoring Right On Through To Your License

, , , , , | Learning | June 1, 2020

When I am twenty-two, I decide to get a license to drive the second-largest motorcycle, which is the best I can do at the time. (A2, for you EU-citizens out there.) In drivers’ ed for a normal car, I had teachers that I would classify as “meh” at best, but for the motorcycle lessons, my teacher is awesome and knows exactly how to motivate his students.

While I love the driving lessons, the thought of taking the practical exam makes me very nervous as I failed several times when getting a license to drive a car. My teacher has already asked which spot I would prefer for the driving exercises as he has the possibility to make a suggestion to the examiner — unofficially, of course.

One thing that I am scared of most is one of the basic exercises: driving in a perfect circle. It’s not that I can’t do it technically; it’s just that the radius isn’t marked on the ground and I am terrible at guessing how many metres I am from the centre. This goes for motorcycling, biking, or horseback riding — I just can’t do it.

My teacher knows this and tries to calm me down by explaining that the examiner can choose from several exercises but he can only choose one, which means that if I am tested in, for example, stop-and-go, I won’t have to do the circle. I am good at stop-and-go, so I really hope we will do that one.

Fifteen minutes before the exam, we stop at a gas station to fill up and check the tyre pressure. Nervous as I am, I do something stupid and fall down with the motorcycle, hurting my knee — but not so bad that I couldn’t continue — and breaking the clutch lever! I can’t drive like this safely so we stop at the motorcycle dealership and my teacher calls the examiner to tell him we will run late. While the lever is being replaced, I am standing outside in tears. This is about as bad as it can get.

My teacher tries to calm me down. “Okay, so that is done now; it’s over,” he says. “Now you can focus on the exam and pass it.”

“I can try,” I say, shakily.

My teacher says confidently, “No! We’re not here to try. It’s far too expensive for that. You’re gonna do it!”

Cheered up only a little, I start the exam. For the base exercises, my teacher makes sure we go to the place I know best. Now comes the part I am so scared of; will the examiner make me drive in circles? I try to tell myself how unlikely that is when I hear my teacher over the radio making a subtle suggestion to the examiner.

“So, which exercise should we do first? Stop-and-go or—”

“Yeah, yeah, do that,” the examiner says.

I immediately cheer up over the little trick my teacher pulled, even if, on second thought, the examiner probably knew exactly what was going on.

And that’s how my teacher chose the perfect spot for the exam, saved me from the possibility of circle driving, and later even told the examiner that a line I illegally crossed was absolutely impossible to see with the wet surface of the road. I passed on the first try!

To this day, I think he is the perfect teacher and if I ever find the money to do the license for big motorcycles, I will definitely go to him! Even if I still have a guilty conscience about denting that motorcycle.

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