This Teacher’s Attitude Is Crippling

, , , , , , | | Learning | May 25, 2019

(I am at the high school for my sixteen-year-old son’s parent-teacher conference. I am about to meet his English teacher. My son has warned me that she is not an incredibly nice person nor a good teacher, but I have until this point thought he was exaggerating.)

Teacher: “Okay. Just before we start, I wanted to let you know that your son is kind of a loser nerd.”

(My son is a big nerd, but I’m not sure he’s a “loser,” as he has many friends and is good at making more. Besides, he seems happy with his situation.)

Teacher: *continuing* “Also, he’s good friends with some girls.”

(He has a group of about six or seven good friends, of whom two are girls.)

Me: “Why would that matter?”

Teacher: “Oh, nothing. It’s just that he might be gay and some parents don’t like that.”

(I do not believe my son to be gay, not in the least because he has a girlfriend. But even if he was, it wouldn’t really make a difference for us. Also, I’m pretty sure that if the parents were not okay with it, the last thing you would want to do would be to tell the parents.)

Me: “I believe that we were here to talk about my son’s performance in class.”

Teacher: “Right. Well, your son seems to have trouble making friends in class; he only talks to his friends when given the option to. In group projects, he would prefer to work with his friends over other students.”

Me: “I feel this is how most teenagers act.”

Teacher: “Oh, just a side note: do you think your son is unathletic? All the other boys in the class are on sports teams, and they always come in wearing their jerseys except for your son and his friend. Do you think you could convince him to join the track team or something? I’d like the seating chart to be symmetrical, and with two boys not on any teams it’s a bit harder.”

(My son is not too fat nor too thin, not terribly weak — though not very strong, either — and I see no point in making him join a sports team that he won’t want to participate in.)

Me: “Could we continue talking about him in class?”

(She gives actual important information about how he’s struggling in something and recommends some tutor or something. Then, I’m about to leave.)

Teacher: “I saw him talking to a crippled girl once.”

(The “crippled girl” is a freshman with one leg, who is my son’s friend’s sister and my daughter’s good friend, and I do believe he was comforting her about something — she has low self-esteem and my daughter brought up something about an interaction between the girl and my son. Luckily, this teacher retired from teaching at the end of that school year.)

Not The Perfect Way Of Announcing Perfection

, , , , , | | Learning | May 23, 2019

Chemistry Teacher: “I believe that if all my students fail an exam, it is my fault. I have obviously not taught the course well enough, and I won’t punish you for my mistakes. Thus, I grade on a curve. For example, say the highest score was 80/100. I will add 20 points to everyone’s scores. If the highest score is 99/100, I will add 1 point to everyone’s score. Does everyone understand this?”

Students: *all nodding*

Chemistry Teacher: “For our first exam of the year, I thought I had made a mistake. So many of you had failed! But I now see that you weren’t paying attention. [My Name] was able to get a perfect score on the exam. There’s no excuse for the rest of you. I’m so disappointed. This is one of eight exams for this semester. In other words, about 10% of your overall grade. Do better next time. [My Name], congratulations.”

(She handed me the test as I shrunk into my seat. The whole class was glaring at me. That was not a fun course.)

Dug Himself Into A Hole, The Wrong Hole

, , , , , | | Learning | May 13, 2019

(I’m in my history class during my junior year of high school. I am a rather studious high-schooler, and I am one of my teacher’s favorite students. This day, we are working on questions for a new chapter, and I am trying to focus on my notes. However, this one annoying girl in our class has decided to start a homophobic rant. It should be noted that I am a rather quiet person, and I was the vice president of our school’s Gay-Straight Alliance last year.)

Annoying Classmate: “I just don’t understand why lesbians are attracted to manly-looking girls. They could just as easily get with a guy.”

(I start to twitch, but I try to keep focused on my homework. Other classmates are either staying silent or giving noncommittal answers.)

Annoying Classmate: “I mean seriously, why go with a girl who looks super muscular and manly when you could just have a guy? I don’t understand it.”

(My twitching and seething increases in intensity.)

Annoying Classmate: “Could someone please tell me why some of these lesbians go for super butch chicks? It’s so weird. Like, I just don’t get it.”


(Everybody stares at me in shock for a couple of seconds, and then two of my classmates give me high-fives and thank-yous for shutting her up.)

Annoying Classmate: “Mr. [Teacher], aren’t you going to do anything?”

Teacher: “Nope. Now shut up and get to work.”

The Law Is Terrifying

, , , , , | | Learning | May 10, 2019

The current US story about parents buying their kids into colleges reminded me of my days, years ago, as a high school teacher in a small city. One of the students in my class was from a very well-off family and the younger brother of a boy who had been an excellent student. I and his other teachers expected the new member of the family would follow in the same tradition, but it turned out he was just coasting on his brother’s reputation.

One day in his senior year, his science teacher came to me and told me he’d caught the student dead to rights cheating on a test, and asked if I’d had similar problems. I’d had suspicions about some of his essays but nothing I could prove in the days before Internet plagiarism checkers. We weren’t sure what to do next, so we talked to his guidance counselor.

It turned out we weren’t the first to have suspicions. His foreign language teacher was positive he had gotten translations of the work to copy from, and the guidance counselor questioned his SAT scores. When he took the tests at our school his scores were mediocre, but when he took them at another school where he wasn’t known they went up by over 100 points each. The counselor was sure that the student had paid someone to take them for him.

We planned a meeting of all his teachers the next week to decide on a course of action, but on Monday the guidance counselor told us the student was now going to a private school 30 miles away. Not our problem.

The epilogue was that in the spring the young man was accepted into a very good college, not Ivy League but a small step down, later went to law school, and is now an extremely successful attorney with a lucrative practice. I leave it up to you – did we scare him straight or does this say something about lawyers?

The Test Is Testing Way Before The Test

, , , , , | | Learning | May 8, 2019

(I’m teaching a high-school government class. As with most teachers, I have a few students who can be stubborn about doing their work, but one especially stubborn girl drives me crazy. This is just one occasion. On Thursday:)

Me: “The test will be tomorrow. For today, we’re going to play a review game to make sure everyone knows the material. You can take notes during the review game, and use those notes on the test. You cannot use your textbook or your regular notes.”

Stubborn Girl: “Why does the test have to be on Friday? Fridays are the worst day for tests. Can’t you change it?”

Me: “Nope. We have to keep to the schedule set by the school.”

Stubborn Girl: “Can we at least use our notes on the test?”

Me: “You can use the notes you take during the review game today, but not the notes you took during the unit.”

Stubborn Girl: “What about our textbook?”

Me: “Nope. Just take notes during the review game, and you’ll have all the answers for the test.”

Stubborn Girl: *trying to be sarcastic* “What if I just write down everything you say today and use that, huh?”

Me: “Perfect! That’s exactly what I want you to do! Let’s start the review game.”

(We play the review game. Naturally, [Stubborn Girl] refuses to take notes. On Friday:)

Me: “Okay, let’s get this test started.”

Stubborn Girl: “You should change the test to Monday so we can study over the weekend.”

Me: “I told you, I can’t do that. Do you have your notes from the review game yesterday?”

Stubborn Girl: “No, because you said we couldn’t use our notes for the test!”

Me: “I said you can’t use your regular notes from the unit, but your review game notes were okay.”

Stubborn Girl: “Well, I didn’t take notes because you said we couldn’t use our notes. Whatever. I guess I’ll just fail the test, then.”

(I had to bite my tongue really hard to keep from making any remarks that might cause her to complain to the principal about me. Not surprisingly, she did fail the test, as well as the class. As a teacher, I obviously don’t like it when students fail my classes, but this girl failing didn’t bother me at all.)

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