A Good Head On Your Well-Toned Shoulders

, , , , | Learning | May 2, 2020

I spent four years rowing in college and I keep it up on rowing machines once in a while. Today at the gym, I sit down next to a guy with horrible technique and start passive-aggressively impressing and challenging him by pulling better numbers with lower resistance and waaay fewer strokes per minute.

Two guys are having a look at the machine on my other side. One sits down and starts pulling.

Me: “Hi. Can I give you a tip?”

Curious Guy #1: “Sure!”

Me: “The motion goes: legs-back-arms, arms-back-legs. Make sure your hands come forward before your legs bend; that way you’ll never hit your knees with the handle.”

I repeat a couple of times and demonstrate slowly. The guy starts to pick it up and then switches with his friend. The man with horrible technique stands up from the machine on my other side and approaches the Curious Guys.

Horrible Technique Guy: “You should be pulling the handle up high into your chest.”

Me: “I rowed for four years, and I pull it right at my bra strap — not that you have a bra strap, but… right here.” *Demonstrates* “Pulling it up so high gives you what we call chicken arms.”

Horrible Technique Guy: “Yes, but the trainer here told me that.” 

Me: “Yes. How long has the trainer spent rowing?”

Horrible Technique Guy: “All I’m saying is that everyone will have different advice, and you just have to find a way to do it that makes you comfortable.”

Curious Guy #2: “You have four years of experience; I’m going to trust you.”

Me: “Thanks. And when you’re ready, relax your shoulders!”

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Cursing Cursive

, , , , , | Learning | April 30, 2020

My son attended a school with a large foreign student body. This happened his freshman year early in the semester during a lecture. The student next to my son was Asian; this is important, or I wouldn’t call it out.

My son noticed he was looking back and forth between the whiteboard and my son’s notes. Finally, my son asked the guy what was going on. The guy said, “I can’t read what the professor is writing.”

The professor was writing in cursive. The guy had only learned Latin letters as block letters. Since my son was taking notes in block, he let the guy copy off him.

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I Didn’t Even Know You Could Cheat At Trees

, , , , , , | Learning | April 28, 2020

Outdoor school has been a long-established “rite of passage” for third-graders here — a time to spend three days away from actual school and learn about the wilderness. Like many of the kids who are attending outdoor school, I am Native, which isn’t uncommon for the area we come from, nor the area we’re in.

We are learning about all the different types of trees, but I’m bored of this lesson and start whispering to my friends. 

It is important to know that everyone in my family has rather… unusual names. It is the late nineties when this happens:

Counselor: “[My Name], are you paying attention?”

Me: “I am! But I know all of this already!”

Counselor: “Oh? Then kindly point out the different types of trees you see around us. If you can get them all correct, you don’t have to go on the nature walk later.”

I stand up, walking over to a big spruce tree.

Me: “This is my Uncle Spruce.”

I walk over to the next tree.

Me: “This is my Uncle Pine, that’s my Auntie Maple…”

I continue on like this for every tree, and the councilor — who is also Native — stops me after a while.

Counselor: “All right, [My Name], you know your trees! But they aren’t your uncles or your aunties; they’re our friends.”

Me: “No, they’re my uncles and aunties! I promise!”

The counselor made a note on his clipboard, and we continued on. Later that night, I was summoned to the counselor’s cabin where they were on the phone with my parents. They put the speaker on so I could hear.

The counselor had told them that I had cheated at the tree lesson, which was a punishable offence. When asked how he knew I had cheated, the counselor told them that no one had ever gotten all the trees correct and told them about me calling them “uncle” and “auntie”. 

My father burst out laughing before my mother could explain; her parents had named all their children after trees, and they had taught all the kids the different types of trees! I didn’t cheat. I knew them because my aunts and uncles had taught me about their namesakes when I was little! 

The counselor blushed and apologized.

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Hunting For Kindness — And Finding It!

, , , , , , , , | Learning | April 26, 2020

I’m in my final year of high school. Partly because it’s an optional subject, there are only nine people in my chemistry class, and as a result, we’re quite a tight-knit class who get on well with the teacher. I’m sat between two friends, talking as we work.

Friend #1: “So, what are you both doing for Easter?”

Friend #2: “We might organise an Easter egg hunt for our cousins.”

Friend #1: “Ooh, that sounds fun. I wonder if I can convince my brother that we should do an Easter egg hunt. I haven’t done one for ages. How about you, [My Name]? Are you also going to do an Easter egg hunt?”

Me: “I don’t think I’ve ever done one, so probably not.”

There is silence as my friends stare at me.

Me: “What?”

Friend #1: “You’ve never done an Easter egg hunt?”

Me: “No?”

Friend #2: “But not even in primary school?”

Me: “Don’t think so.”

The teacher comes over to us.

Teacher: “Girls, I hope you’re talking about chemistry.”

Friend #1: “Miss, [My Name] has never done an Easter egg hunt before.”

Teacher: “Okay?”

Friend #1: “I really think this should be rectified.”

Teacher: “Do you want to do an Easter egg hunt, [My Name]?”

Me: “Uh. I mean, I wouldn’t say no to one but I don’t think my life has been worse off for it.”

Friend #2: “Miss, maybe [Friend #1] and I could set one up for her next lesson!”

Me: “What? Send me to hunt one egg? We could do that outside.”

Teacher: “All right, girls. Focus on your work. You can make plans later.”

We focus on our work and the topic is forgotten. Fast forward a few days to our next chemistry lesson.

Teacher: “Okay, everyone. We’re going to end the lesson a little early today. I’ll explain more later.”

We’re all curious but she won’t explain. We get our work done in the shorter timeframe and then put our books away, as requested.

Teacher: “All right. Now, I understand [My Name] has never done an Easter egg hunt. [Friends #1 and #2] feel strongly about this, so, in the spirit of Easter, I have hidden nine mini crème eggs around the room. You have until the bell rings to find them. Enjoy!”

We proceeded to spend the next ten minutes looking for the crème eggs, with a few lower school kids who had been sent in for bad behaviour even helping out. I asked my friends later but they said they had nothing to do with it. It’s been eleven years but I’m still a little touched that the teacher decided to do that for us, and I’ve never forgotten my first ever Easter egg hunt.

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Attaching A Tone Of Resentment To Your Assignment

, , , , , | Learning | April 25, 2020

I’m in Year 11, age 15, and I realise one Saturday night that I have an assignment for my Maths GCSE due on Monday morning. I’ve done the preliminary work for this but not much else. I spend all of Sunday doing it, working until mid-evening, and then I email it as an attachment to my school email address so that I can print it there, as we’re out of paper and ink at home.

It’s important to note that this is around 2005, when even emailing a simple Excel file was far less reliable than it is now. This means that when I get to school and sign in to my email, the attachment has failed to be included.

At the beginning of the class where I’m supposed to hand this assignment in, I approach the teacher and explain the situation. She’s sceptical and unsympathetic, since an email with no attachment is hardly overwhelming evidence of my innocence, and gives me a lunchtime detention, which will be escalated to after school if I don’t hand the work in at the lunchtime detention.

I’m fuming; I actually did the work, so feel it’s really unfair to be punished like this. I angrily rant about the situation to my friends as the class gets settled.

This class, as it turns out, involves something being projected onto the whiteboard. Or at least it was supposed to, but the projector isn’t working. After trying to get it working again, the teacher gives up and announces, “Sorry, guys, bit of a hiccup. We’ll do this another time”.

I respond, in what’s supposed to be an undertone: “Oh, so when technology fails on you, it’s just a hiccup, but when it fails on me, it’s a big deal.”

It’s only when the entire class turns around to look at me, and the teacher stares at me with unbridled fury, that I realise I said it extremely loudly.

There’s a very uncomfortable pause, which is broken when the teacher mutters, “Yes, well, make sure you bring your coursework tomorrow,” and continues with the lesson.

After school, I manage to get hold of whatever printing supplies I was missing and print the coursework at home. I arrive for my lunchtime detention and hand it to her, and she tells me that she had been planning to let me off the hook if I handed it in then, but my little outburst in class yesterday had changed her mind.

And so, I learned three lessons: keep your printing supplies stocked, always check that your attachment has sent, and be very aware of the volume of your voice.

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