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Academic Distractions, Demolished!

, , , , , , | Learning | November 17, 2021

I have ADD and am relatively smart. This combination can be difficult, because the symptoms for ADD and the symptoms for a smart child who finds school boring and not challenging enough are very similar, and they exacerbate each other.

As a young child in elementary school, I particularly hated tests because they never challenged me, but they did require me to sit still working on them for an entire class. With other assignments, I usually finished them early and got to read a book, and with lectures, if I was bored, I could disengage and start daydreaming; I was very good at living inside my own head. But tests needed just enough attention that I couldn’t start daydreaming, but they were not interesting enough to hyperfocus on, resulting in being the most boring task in school to me. 

To make tests a bit more tolerable, I tried turning them into a game. I had all kinds of rules as to how questions should be answered and the order I did them in, and I even kept “score” of how well I was sticking to the rules. It’s been too long for me to remember all the rules, but the result was that I skipped around the test answering questions in seemingly random order while tracking points on the side of the paper in a way that I’m sure looked a little crazy to an outside observer, but it made things at least a little more interesting to me.

We ended up having a substitute teacher one day when we had a test. A little after the test, she came up to me while I was reading a book; I’d finished the assignment ahead of time and had free time. She originally started talking about my book and the fact that it was a few reading levels above my grade before transitioning to talking about the test.

Substitute: “I noticed you were moving around a lot during the tests.”

I felt a little embarrassed at being “caught” at what I realized was a pretty silly game, but I tried to act as if it was normal.

Me: “Yeah, I do that sometimes.”

Substitute: “Why did you do it?”

Me: “It’s kind of like a game to make the test more interesting. I know it’s silly—”

Substitute: “Oh, no, there is nothing wrong about it. I was just curious. You reminded me a bit of my daughter.”

Me: “Oh?”

Substitute: “She’s smart and likes reading like you, too. But she used to drive us crazy; whenever she had a test, she would sit and try to read her book without even looking at the test for the first half of class before she would start it, and she wouldn’t tell us why she did it!”

Me: “Oh, yeah, I could see doing that.”

Now the substitute sounded surprised that I didn’t think that was odd.

Substitute: “What? That makes sense to you?”

Me: “I assume the test was too easy, so she wanted to make it more challenging by needing to rush to complete it in time. It would be kind of fun, but my dad would be mad at me if I tried it.”

Substitute: “Wow. I wish I had you around a few years ago to explain that to us! We had to take her to a fancy psychiatrist just to figure out what she was doing.”

It was a random little conversation, but it’s stuck in my head for decades because it was the first time that it really occurred to me that my brain and my ways of doing things were just a bit different from how “normal” folks did it. The fact that something as “obvious” as the substitute’s daughter’s motivations wouldn’t make sense to a “normal” person made me realize that I, and presumably the substitute’s daughter, might just see the world a bit differently than most did.

Luckily for me, I didn’t necessarily mind being different, so it wasn’t a bad memory. Over the years, I’ve actually grown increasingly happy that I’m a bit odd. I see so many people doing downright foolish things in the effort to seem normal that I’m kind of glad I’m not normal and peer pressure doesn’t tempt me to join in with the foolishness just to fit in. Still, this was the first time it really clicked in my head that my mind really doesn’t work quite the way others’ do.

If I Was Their Parent, I’d Have Ripped That Teacher A New One

, , , , , | Learning | July 20, 2021

I attended a Catholic school my entire primary school life, kindergarten to twelfth grade. Due to the mandatory cutoff date for when you can start school, I’m one of the youngest in my class; I was four when I started kindergarten.

In 1979, when I was five years old and in the first grade, I had a nun for a teacher. Our school required us to get book covers for all our textbooks. So, being young and not very neat, I pulled out one of my books for class, and the book cover was torn. Keep in mind this was a paper cover and the book was a hardcover, so there was no damage to the book itself.

The teacher looked at my book cover and then at me.

Teacher: “You’re going to Hell for having a ripped book cover.”

She walked away, and I was left terrified, a five-year-old told by my teacher that I was going to Hell. I couldn’t even tell my parents because they would take the teacher’s side.

And some people wonder why I stopped going to church when I was eighteen. This wasn’t the only reason, but it was probably the first.

Some People Shouldn’t Work With Children

, , , , , | Learning | July 4, 2021

I am a single father with an eight-year-old son. My wife was killed in a car accident when my son was three. My son’s second-grade teacher is the kind of teacher we all pray that our children can avoid; she takes great joy in yelling at children for such heinous crimes as “writing with your left hand” (which my son deals with every day, because this is the twenty-first century and I refuse to force my son to be uncomfortable when he’s writing) or “girls playing with boy’s toys” and vice versa, or “having a nickname that is different than the name on my class roster” (such as going by Katie when the class roster says Katherine).

Not only does she regularly yell at children for these oh-so-dangerous acts, but she also calls their parents afterward to ask what they will do to “fix” their child, and she often belittles their parenting skills. Several parents, including myself, have petitioned the school board to have her removed, but the school board keeps giving her “one last chance” to improve. The school principal has also voiced his belief that [Teacher] should not be in class, but he cannot fire teachers without the school board’s approval, so he’s in the same boat we are.

The final straw is when the teacher calls me with this.

Me: “Hello, [Teacher], how can I help you?”

Teacher: “Hello, Mr. [My Name]. Is Mrs. [My Name] available?”

Me: “No, she’s still in the grave, as I’ve told you many, many times now. If this is about [Son], what is it?”

Teacher: “Oh, well… [Son] was fighting with another student today.”

Me: “[Son]? Today?”

Teacher: “Yes. I have informed [Principal] of the fight, and [Son] will be given recess detention for one week as punishment.”

Me: “[Teacher], I can guarantee you that [Son] was not fighting anyone at school today. He—”

Teacher: “He certainly was! Now, please speak with him tonight about his behavior, because this is clearly unacceptable. You know, you really should find a wife. [Son] clearly needs a mother figure.”

Me: “Goodbye, [Teacher].”

I hang up before she can say another word, and the next morning, I head to the school to speak with the principal. The principal calls [Teacher] down to his office, as well.

Principal: “[Teacher], I understand you called [My Name] last night about [Son]’s fight?”

Teacher: “Yes, I did. You have my report on the fight.”

Principal: “Well, then we have a few problems. First, are you aware that [Son] was not in school yesterday? According to [School Secretary]’s notes, [My Name] called in yesterday morning because [Son] was sick and would be staying home.”

Teacher: “That’s impossible! I very clearly remember yelling at [Son] for fighting.”

Principal: “[My Name], can you verify that [Son] was at home yesterday?”

Me: “I can go get the T-shirt he puked on while we were cuddling, if that works.”

Principal: *Chuckling* “Understood. Please accept my apology for [Teacher]’s behavior. I’ll let you get home and take care of [Son]. I hope he feels better soon. [Teacher], can you stay behind for a few minutes, please?”

I said my goodbyes and headed home. A few hours later, I got an email from the school to the parents of all students in [Teacher]’s class. [Teacher] was finally fired! I later heard from other parents that, while there had been a fight, [Teacher] had knowingly falsified her report by including my son’s name, despite her own attendance records showing that she knew my son was absent that day. This prompted the school board to investigate other reports she had filed, and enough reports were found to contain false information that she was fired.

As of my writing this story, my son has recovered fully and returned to school, and his class is being taught by the school principal until they can find a long-term substitute.

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

Read the next Best Of July 2021 roundup story!

Read the Best Of July 2021 roundup!

There’s No Substitute For Compassion

, , , , , , | Learning | January 9, 2021

This happens when I’m in the second grade back in the 1990s. We have a substitute teacher for the day. Normally, we have two classroom bathroom breaks, but if we are having an emergency our teacher lets us go. I’ve been starting to feel nauseous and go ask the sub to go to the bathroom.

Sub Teacher: “No, you can wait until the whole class goes.”

Me: “But Miss [Sub Teacher], I really don’t feel good.”

Sub Teacher: “I said wait. Now go sit down!”

I went back to my desk defeated and progressively feeling worse, laying my head on my desk. Eventually, we were called to get in line, but due to how bad I felt, I ended up at the end with only four stalls for a class of ten girls. As we waited, I felt it coming and started heaving in line. The sub quickly grabbed me, pushing me into one of the stalls, but it was too late. I puked all over the floor and on her shoes. I found that to be wonderful Karma.

A Kid Who Likes Math?!

, , , , | Learning | December 29, 2020

Two students are sitting and drawing together, discussing what they want to be when they are older.

Student #1: “I like maths; maybe I will have a job with that.”

Student #2: “What are they called?”

Student #1: “They’re called math-a-magicians!”

Student Support Worker: “I feel that can be a good description for some accountants.”