The Mother Of All Assumptions

, , , | Learning | April 19, 2018

(It may sound odd, but there is a 20-year age-gap between my little sister and me. Our dad died a few years ago, and our mom has been disabled since a car crash a couple years ago, so I take care of my sister most of the time. At the time of the story, she is six, and I am 26. It should be noted, despite me looking years younger — I am frequently mistaken for a teenager — people often think I’m her mother. This happens at a parent-teacher conference with her teacher, who I have met many times.)

Teacher: “Hello, Mrs. [Our Last Name].”

Me: “Oh, [My First Name] is fine.”

Teacher: “Ah, yes. Well, [Sister] has been excelling in reading, but her math scores are very low for a child of her age.”

Me: “Yes, I’ve been giving her extra help. Difficulty with math runs in the family.”

Teacher: “About that… I was thinking it might be due to her home life; as her mother, you’d know best.”

Me: “Oh, no. I thought you knew, I’m [Sister]’s sister. Our mom couldn’t make it, so I came.”

Teacher: “It’s okay. You don’t have to play games with me. I won’t let the secret slip to [Sister].”

Me: “Excuse me? What secret?”

Teacher: “I know you are her mother and that your mother claims to be her mother to protect you from the stigma of a teen pregnancy. It’s all right; as I said, I won’t tell [Sister].”

Me: “What?! No. I’m her sister, not her mother. I was not a teen mom. I’m here to talk about how she’s doing in school, so if we could continue?”

(She continued to make insinuations that I was my sister’s mother, and even “accidentally” used the term “mom” several more times. She had no interest in really talking about how my sister was doing in school, and I found out my sister wasn’t really thriving in her class. We had her moved to another teacher who turned out to be much better, and her math skills went up, too.)


Should Have Sent Your Spidey-Senses Tingling

, , , , , | Learning | April 10, 2018

I don’t know if kids are still encouraged to bring things in for “show-and-tell,” but when I was in elementary school in the early 90s, we each were told to bring one thing from home to share and describe to the class.

Once, in fourth grade, this kid brought in one of those small, plastic reptile containers with the slotted lid, like the kind the pet stores give you to transport your new pet home until they can be put in a proper habitat. Inside was a bunch of leaves and grass, and one twig with a large pod attached to it. He said it was a butterfly cocoon, and he wanted to leave in the class so we could see the butterfly emerge. Most of us had never seen a cocoon in real life, and apparently our teacher hadn’t, either, because it was most definitely not a butterfly cocoon.

The box was left in our classroom over the weekend, and when we arrived the following Monday morning, the room was filled with baby spiders! It was a spider’s egg nest!

Our teacher flipped out, herded us back to the gymnasium, and left us with the PE teacher so she could go report the situation to the office. We ended up having our class in the art room for the next few days while they sprayed for the spiders, and then waited until it was safe for us to go in without breathing the fumes.

After that, we weren’t allowed to bring in “nature” related items for show-and-tell, anymore. I was never sure if that boy actually knew what he had or not, but he didn’t seem too surprised when a thousand spiders came out of that thing instead of a butterfly.

It’s All Sticky And Eu

, , , | Learning | April 4, 2018

(I’m a special education teacher. I am reviewing letter sounds with a second grader. I am showing letters, and he is giving me words that start with that sound. I pull out a V.)

Boy: “Um… Oh, a vampire!”

Me: “That’s right.”

Boy: “Did you know that, um… they come from, um… that country that’s really far away? Across the ocean. It’s called, um… um… Oh, yeah! Syrup!”

(Normally, I can stifle my laughter when he says things like that. Thankfully, he likes making people laugh. I’m pretty sure he meant that they come from Europe.)

Be On Guard For Extra Duty

, , , , , | Learning | April 2, 2018

When I was in elementary school, the students had to take turns acting as crossing guards at those roads near our school which weren’t big enough to have proper crossing lights. We wore yellow vests and held stop signs to “block” the crossing for cars every time a student came by on their way to school.

Every student got a shift of about two weeks per school year. We had to do this for about 40 minutes every morning and every afternoon, standing in pairs at every road. In the morning, we’d walk to school, get the equipment, and go back to the roads, then go back to return the stuff and be late to first class. In the afternoon, we’d leave last class early, get the stuff, go to the roads, then go back to school to return the stuff, then walk home.

As far as I know, we all lived in reasonable walking vicinity, so having to do this wasn’t considered an overt hardship by the school.

Though I now view this as hugely unsafe — as well as unpaid — forced child-labor, unfortunately this was considered normal practice there. I think it was viewed as okay because only the oldest (sixth grade) students were assigned this duty.

We hated doing this duty, because we had to get up so early in the morning. Everyone hated doing it, but my best friend and I didn’t dare skip, because the punishment for skipping was double the guard duty, which compounded if you skipped those. We knew perfectly well that the school was serious about seeing that their assigned punishments were carried out; there was no way to wiggle out of it. Most kids knew better than to try it.

When your assigned partner didn’t show up, there was no one to replace them, so you were just left to do the job alone as best you could. The teachers knew well enough that there would be some kids stupid enough to ditch during every assignment cycle, and clearly just didn’t care enough to do anything about it, like assign extra kids to show up, or, God forbid, go out to the roads and help us themselves.

When my friend and I were assigned to this during the same time-period, we were assigned in pairs with some boys in our class. They were known not to be too reliable, so we weren’t that surprised when they didn’t show up for days on end, and my friend and I were left to each do this alone on our assigned roads instead of in pairs. This was obviously more risky, not to mention quite demoralizing.

The school got wind of things right away and assigned the boys the appropriate punishments; after a few days one of them started showing up.

The other one, however, was notorious for being amazingly lackadaisical. He didn’t care about school, never said a word in any class, didn’t bother to turn in homework or study unless and until he was screamed at, at length, by the teachers, and clearly only showed up at school at all because he was forced to under some kind of threat by his family. If I’d known the term back then, I might have called him a stoner, except he was only about twelve, and I think it’s highly unlikely he was actually “on” anything; he just really acted like it.

He not only didn’t show up for guard duty at first, but he kept not showing up, even after he was repeatedly assigned punishments for skipping. The entire two weeks we were assigned passed without him showing up; we all knew the school was piling more and more punishments on him in the form of extending his crossing guard duty.

While we were upset because of the principle of it — we were all getting up nearly an hour earlier in the morning for this while he was just cavalierly ignoring it — we also knew that he was being amazingly stupid, because there was no way the school would let it go.

We finished our two weeks, and a few days later, when we went to cross the road near school in the morning, what did we see? It was him in a yellow vest with the stop sign stick, grimly doing the crossing guard duty for all the other kids, including us!

And he kept on being there, on that road, in that yellow vest, week after week. After week. After week. After week… You get the idea.

Though we weren’t ourselves given the details, of course, I can only assume the school principal and our class teacher must have “invited” his parents for a mandatory “chat” and threatened them with something as grim as expulsion and outright fails in all his classes, as well as some terrible “behavioral” black mark on his records, if he and his family kept ignoring the school’s punishments. His parents then must have threatened him with something equally grim in turn. I’m pretty sure I’m very close to the truth, because having been in class with him for several years, I can’t imagine anything else that could possibly have successfully forced him to start showing up to do this every single morning.

And he kept on being there, every morning and every afternoon, for two months. That’s how much compounded punishment he wound up getting for skipping as much as he did.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the sweet, sweet karma every morning when I crossed that road and passed him in his yellow vest, with his stop sign stick and defeated expression, knowing I got to sleep in nearly an hour later than him, didn’t have to wear that stupid vest and stand all by myself on a road ever again, and that he’d keep on being on that road, every morning, for a long time to come.

Uwabaki Crazy

, , , | Learning | March 31, 2018

(When I still lived in the US, our teacher said a new student from Japan was going to join our class. Several days later, I’m a bit late coming to school — actually, I am often late — and I notice a pair of shoes sitting right outside the classroom door. Sure enough, the new student is inside, being introduced and answering any questions other classmates have about her.)

Me: “Are your shoes outside the classroom?”

Student: “Yeah.”

Teacher: “Why would her shoes be outside? But aren’t those shoes?” *points at her feet*

Student: “They’re classroom shoes.”

Teacher: “Classroom shoes?”

Me: “That’s what they wear in Japan.”

Student: “Yes, that is true. You know it?”

Me: “Yeah. We don’t do it here; we just wear shoes.”

Teacher: “Well, this is interesting.”

(In the end, sometimes she followed our ways and sometimes she still wore classroom shoes. The teacher had her put her outdoor shoes just inside the classroom instead of outside, though.)

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