Absolutely Despicable, Horrendous, And Dreadful

, , , , | Learning | September 1, 2020

I am in the fourth grade. It is the middle of the first month of school, and while most kids have shiny new pencil cases and things, my family is going through a rough patch and has been barely able to afford school fees for the four of us that go to school. So, I have my sister’s old sneakers and one pencil to last me for the month. I guard it fiercely.

For the fourth and fifth grade, I have a teacher who HATES me, mostly because I have ADHD and need to leave class twice a day to go get my medication and take it at the water fountain. It takes less than a minute and I usually remember on my own.

I slept in this morning and forgot my pencil case — with my pencil and sharpener inside — on my desk. So, I lean over and ask my friend for a pencil for the day.

My teacher turns around so fast she might have tapped into the speed force.

Teacher: “Stop disrupting the class.”

Me: “But I—”

Teacher: “You’re still doing it.”

Me: “I need a pencil. I forgot mine.” 

Teacher: “You should have thought of that earlier.”

She turns back to the projector. My friend quietly rolls a pencil across our shared table to me. 

After the lesson, the teacher turns back. She demands as I scribble in my last notes:

Teacher: “Where did you get that?”

Me: “My fr—”

Teacher: “I told you to stop disrupting other students with your disorganization. Give it back.”

Friend: “It’s fine, ma’am.”

Teacher: “No, she’s lazy and ungrateful. She needs to learn. Give it back.”

Me: *Standing up* “But I need my notes.”

Teacher: *Towering over me* “Don’t care. You should have pencils at home for homework so this doesn’t happen.”

Of course, this makes my ADHD just dig its tiny heels in. I am in the right. I’m not doing anything wrong.

Me: “We can’t afford that many and there are four kids in our house that need them. “

Teacher: “Oh, they can’t afford pencils but they can afford your medicine for your made-up disease?”

Me: *Shouting* “It’s not made-up! The doctor says it’s just not common in girls!”

I stamp my foot, tears starting to run down my face.

Teacher: “It’s not. Your family is just poor and trash, and your doctor is just making excuses for your messy habits and terrible grades.”

I am furious and embarrassed and crying up a storm.

Me: *Shouting* “You’re a dumb face!”

I leave the class, attempting to slam the door behind me. I then walk to the office, still sobbing my little heart out. When I get there, my principal is waiting. 

The principal is one of the few people who knows that my dad has been fired for being very sick and that my parents are very close to a divorce. So, she invites me in and listens to me blubber out what happened. She then calls my dad, who is at the school faster than you could eat a candy bar.

I have never seen my father so angry in his life than when I burst into tears when he enters the office and my principal explains what happened. It isn’t his usual volcano; it is quieter, like a freezing knife. 

Father: “Go get your coat. Your sister can get your homework.”

Me: “It’s recess; there’s no one in class.”

Principal: “I’ll help you get it.”

The three of us go to my class. My teacher is there and she goes as white as a sheet when she sees my dad.

I have no idea what he said to her while I got my coat and bag but she never outright looked me in the eye again.

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Lack Of Empathy Trumps Anxiety… Or Reality

, , , , , , | Learning | August 4, 2020

We all have that one teacher: the teacher that is completely horrible, has no empathy for your situation, and just does everything to make your life a living Hell. I had one of those. 

She was the type of teacher who would assign a lot of homework every day. It didn’t matter if it was the first day of school or the day before leaving for Thanksgiving break, Christmas vacation, or Easter vacation. Not only that, but we all also had huge projects to do every month. Papier-mâché a planet, create a dragon for Chinese new year, even a complete project of one of the fifty states. She also made plays that we would have to perform on top of that.

The worst part was that she would assign the homework and then teach us about it the next day, so we had to figure it out before we were actually taught it.

I was a special needs student, so I was only supposed to have a set amount of homework every night. She still expected me to do all of it, no ifs, ands, or buts. If I didn’t, I would still have to do it the next day for one letter grade less. My parents complained; she didn’t care. Cue anxiety attacks.

The last straw came in the second week of June. We were cleaning out our desks one Friday when she announced that she had tonight’s homework: two sheets of English, a sheet of math, and a sheet of science.

That’s right; she assigned homework on the last day of school. And once again, it was stuff we hadn’t even learned yet. Also, we had already turned in our textbooks the previous day so we were up a creek without a paddle.

Here’s another thing. We were at an American elementary school on a US Air Force Base in England. Half the class had a parent who was getting transferred either to another duty station internationally or back in the United States. They couldn’t turn the work in because they weren’t going to be there. She said we couldn’t mail it; we had to physically hand it in.

When we students mentioned to her that there was no real way for them to hand the work to her, she said, “I don’t care. Turn it in on the first day of fifth grade, or I’m not passing you. You’ll repeat the fourth grade again.“ Our pleas fell on deaf ears. 

Since it was a half-day on the last day of school, I mentioned this to my mom and she and I bolted back to the school to complain to the principal. It turned out that no less than ten other parents were already there, including my best friend’s mom and my crush’s dad. 

My mum had the loudest voice there, saying that I have had high anxiety the entire year because of the amount of work she forced on me even though I wasn’t supposed to have it. I had never seen her so pissed off at anyone that wasn’t either me or my two older brothers. 

We had just gotten home when we received a phone call from the principal. He told us that we didn’t have to do the homework and that the teacher would be dealt with accordingly. Hearing that, I was so relieved that I didn’t have to do any summer homework.

When I showed up the first day of fifth grade, the principal came up to me and told me that our teacher was removed. He apologized for the amount of stress I had the previous school year, and he made sure that I had one of the more popular fifth-grade teachers who knew how I was. 

My fifth-grade year went a h*** of a lot better than my fourth-grade one.

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Welcome To Boss-Underling Relations The World Over

, , , , | Working | July 30, 2020

I’m an elementary school teacher. Our building is very old and has stairs going to the front door with no wheelchair ramp. Disabled students have to be dropped off in the back, as do deliveries that require carts.

I research grants and find a place that will provide the materials for a ramp for free. I contact the high school’s vocational prep teacher who says his students can build the ramp free of charge. But when I submit the grant to my principal for approval, she denies it, saying a ramp would interfere with pedestrian traffic when parents drop off their kids. Our students in wheelchairs continue to have to use the back door.

Several years later, the school was renovated. The board’s plan included a new ramp at the front door. Since it was built by a construction company, I’m sure it was quite pricey. 

I guess some things are bad ideas when an underling suggests them but great ideas when they come from your bosses.

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That’ll Teach Them To Hog The Sandbox

, , , , , , , , | Learning | July 9, 2020

Back when I was in elementary school, my fifth-grade teacher was a gruff older man universally loved by the students, well-known for giving his students nicknames that lightly poked fun of them and taking no nonsense from anyone. In contrast, I was a retiring, tiny nerd girl who loved nothing better than to curl up with a good book.

One day, near the end of the year, my teacher found a book about a popular sandbox game on the floor outside the classroom. He put it on the table just outside the room and made an announcement asking the owner to claim it. Weeks went by and no one did, though I did sneak glances at some of the pages when I could since I was a huge fan of the game.

The end of the year came and the book was left unclaimed. On the last day of school, my teacher made another announcement: if anyone wanted the book, they had to come inside right before the class kickball game and he would give them the book.

Needless to say, I showed up, only to find at least six other kids from my class who wanted the book — all boys with at least four inches of height on me. As soon as I walked up to take my shot at getting the book, they began to complain. My teacher said nothing as they told me to go away because girls didn’t play that game, with all the standard game-based sexism. Even though no one had ever told me video games weren’t for girls before, I stubbornly protested and told them that even if other girls didn’t play that game, I did, and I had just as much chance of getting the book as they did.

While they were still arguing and I was getting progressively more flustered, my teacher handed me the book. The boys stopped complaining, I started beaming, and I got to take the book home. I still play that game today, and the book — which I’ve read several times — has a permanent place on my shelf. Thank you, fifth-grade teacher, for not letting a couple of bullies ruin my day.

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Teacher-Parent-Principal Relations Are Hardly Elementary

, , , , , , | Learning | June 17, 2020

At one point in my career, my family and I were moved to an oil town in west Texas. There were lots of non-natives constantly moving into and out of the city; we contrasted with the locals who’d been there for years. At first, it seemed there were no issues, but I turned out to be wrong.

We lived in a higher-income part of town primarily for the elementary school. We moved in the summer and our daughter entered second grade on time. There were three second-grade teachers of about equal and above-average ability so we would have been happy with any of them. My daughter had a great year.

Third grade was a different story. As with second grade, there were three teachers. One was roughly equivalent of the ones we’d had before and she’d be fine. One of them was God’s gift to education. Her classes did enormously creative things, homework was both practical and fun, and people would kill to get in her class.

The third teacher, though, was the antithesis of the great one. Her classes were dull, kids learned little, and she tended to belittle her students. She was colloquially known as “The Blonde-Haired Witch” and we wanted to avoid her like the plague.

My wife had spent our daughter’s second-grade year volunteering at the school and got to be friendly with the office staff. Knowing what she knew, she tried to ensure that our daughter got into the great teacher’s class, or at least avoided the BHW. Alas, the principal got wind of what she was trying to do and called her into his office.

The principal was a weaselly piece of work. He had a Ph.D. in education from one of the lesser universities in the state and insisted upon being referred to as “Doctor [Principal],” which gives you an idea of the pomposity of the man. He laid into my wife, informing her in no uncertain terms that the class lists would be put together in late July and she wasn’t to ask about it again.

My wife was humiliated and angry, and got even more so when one of the office staff took her aside and told her in confidence that the super teacher’s class for the next year was already set; all the students were children of the local movers and shakers, with no one with our transient status allowed.

To make things worse, our daughter ended up with the BHW. We ended up pulling her out and homeschooling her for a year before moving again.

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