On Jewish Holidays You Get The World

, , , , | Learning Related | April 28, 2019

(During my fifth year in high school — age 16 or 17 — I go along on a class trip to Prague. It is quite boring and hot. At one point, we are supposed to visit a Jewish cemetery, but the teacher asks us:)

Teacher: “Do you want to go?”

(Pretty much everyone says no, and we are allowed to do some shopping. I see a trinket I want, but I want to sleep the night over it and get it the next day, as we’ll have some free shopping time then, as well. That evening, my classmates go to a bar or disco. I’m not sure, because I am the only one who returns to the hotel — I’m an oddball and not very social — and I have a good night’s rest. The next morning, I notice how almost all my classmates are hungover, silent, sleepy… and the teacher is furious! It turns out that some of my classmates got so drunk, they banged on several doors in the hotel, including the teachers’, and the bus driver that would have to take us home that afternoon. Turns out I’m a deep sleeper; I didn’t notice a thing. The teacher is so furious, he yells at us all and the free shopping time is cancelled. We’ll go visit the Jewish Cemetery and then head home. I know it is of no use to argue and resign myself to not being able to get the trinket — I had decided to get it after all — for my dad. When we reach the cemetery, it turns out to be a Jewish holiday and it is closed. We get free shopping time instead, and I hurry to the shop where I saw the trinket. When home, I give the glass globe to my dad, who suddenly falls silent and says with misted eyes:)

Dad: “How did you know?”

Me: “Know what?”

Dad: “When I was born, there was a globe on my birth announcement. I always wanted to travel the world, but couldn’t.”

(I didn’t know what to say, but I realized that if it hadn’t been a Jewish holiday, I couldn’t have given this gift to my dad. It might be more than silly, but to me, it felt like divine intervention. And for those who wonder: since I moved out, he has taken my mom to Egypt and Costa Rica, so he’s a tiny globetrotter after all.)

Has A Bad Ring To It

, , , , , | Learning | April 26, 2019

(I’m 17 and I have low-level tinnitus, and have used music the majority of my life to keep my mind off it, much like Miles in “Baby Driver.” The vast majority of people either know that I have my reason for always using earbuds, or they don’t mind and don’t ask. This happens when my regular history teacher is away and we have a substitute teacher who is in her mid-20s.)

Teacher: “[My Name] take your headphones out; it’s against school policy.”

Me: “I could, but I use them to offset my tinnitus.”

Teacher: “Take them out.”

Me: “I just explained why I ca—“

(She walks over to me and forcefully takes them from me, shattering my phone in the process.)

Teacher: “Come on. We’re going to the office.”

(I stand up, calmly picking up my phone and following her to the office. By the time we get there, I have a mild headache and am visibly uncomfortable. We walk into the office and the principal and receptionist’s eyes go wide.)

Receptionist: “[My Name], are you all right? [Teacher], what happened?”

Teacher: “This student refuses to take his headphones out.”

Principal: “Because he has tinnitus!”

Teacher: “Nonsense!” *to me, literally yelling in my ear* “You’re fine!”

(The sudden increase in noise makes me scream in pain and defensively swing at the teacher. When I realize what happened, I am standing over the teacher clutching my ear as she covers her nose, which is visibly broken.)

Teacher: “What the h***?!”

(The principal came over and returned my headphones, then proceeded to help the teacher up. My parents and police were called; my father arrived and absolutely lost it on the teacher. Afterward, assault charges were filed against the teacher, and I had to go to the hospital to get the ringing to subside.)

Paint Me Selfish

, , , , | Friendly | April 25, 2019

(I’ve been best friends with two other girls since childhood. We’ve pretty much always done everything together, even when we started growing up and our personalities and interests started shifting. [Friend #1] has been saving money and building up her credit since she was old enough to get a work permit and credit card. A few days before winter break in our senior year, she gives me a call.)

Friend #1: “Hey, where are you?”

Me: “At [Friend #2]’s place, finishing up homework.”

Friend #1: “You’re together? Perfect. I’m coming over; I’ve got a surprise to show you guys.”

(Fifteen minutes later, [Friend #1] calls us outside and we find her leaning against a car we’ve never seen. It’s hers! She bought herself a used car! We, of course, start freaking out.)

Me: “Oh, my God! Do we get to ride in it?!”

Friend #1: “Naturally.”

Friend #2: “Can we decorate it? Oh! I’ve always wanted a car with fuzzy dice and a cute steering wheel cover… Oh, and painted a bright, pretty color!”

Friend #1: “Ha, paint. Nah, I’m good with how it is, and I already put a little dream catcher on the rear view.”

Friend #2: “Well, what can we do?”

Friend #1: *thinks for a moment* “You can each put a bumper sticker on the back — non-political — and a bobblehead on the dash.”

Me: “Dude! Will you take us bobblehead shopping?”

Friend #1: “Sure!”

Friend #2: “That’s it? We can’t even pick a fresh paint job?”

Friend #1: “It’s functional and reliable; I don’t need it to be pretty. Paint is expensive.”

Friend #2: “But this is going to be our ride! It should look amazing, and lame bobbleheads aren’t going to do that. It needs serious accessorizing. I say we vote on it.”

(We sometimes vote on things we’re going to do together when we can’t come to a full agreement.)

Friend #1: “Um, no? My car, my rules, my final say. Gosh, I have a car to make rules for! I feel so grown up!”

(She and I giggle, but apparently [Friend #2] isn’t amused.)

Friend #2: “That’s not fair! We’re all going to share it. We should have equal say in what goes! Right, [My Name]?”

Me: “No? What are you talking about? This is her car. She paid money for this. We’re lucky we have a best friend who can drive us around now.”

Friend #2: “We share everything because we’re best friends! How is this any different?”

Friend #1: “Fine. You want a paint job? You get to pay for it, along with [significant amount of money for us at the time].”

Friend #2: “What? Why so much?!”

Friend #1: “That’s half of what the car cost, and your price for equal ownership. Oh, plus half the insurance costs… Wait, my name is the only one on the insurance. Never mind, my veto power is absolute. No to the paint job.”

Friend #2: “This should be for all of us! I can’t believe you’re being so selfish!”

Me: “Dude.”

Friend #1: *disbelieving laugh* “I’m not the one being selfish here.”

([Friend #2] goes off on a full tantrum, complete with screaming and crying. [Friend #1] puts up with it to stall for me so I can sneak inside the house and grab my stuff. When I come back out, [Friend #2] is threatening to key the car, since [Friend #1] “doesn’t care about the paint, anyway.” [Friend #1] brings her phone, which is now in her hand at her side, up to her ear.)

Friend #1: “Hi, [Friend #2’s Dad]? You’re there? Did you hear all of that? She’s talking about my car. I just bought a car, yeah.”

(This does not help the tantrum. It does, however, freak [Friend #2] out enough that she runs screaming into the house. Once [Friend #1] finishes talking to [Friend #2]’s dad, she takes the opportunity to get us out of there. It’s total silence for a few minutes while she drives.)

Friend #1: *visibly upset* “So… want to go get gelato to celebrate my new car?”

(Not only did we get gelato — which I paid for and insisted she get multiple scoops — but as soon as winter break started, we headed off on a long weekend road trip that she’d wanted all three of us to go on. I covered half the gas, we enjoyed ourselves immensely, and we continue to enjoy ourselves to this day, while our ex-friend still needs permission to use her mom’s car whenever she wants to go anywhere alone.)

Thursday The Second

, , , | Learning | April 25, 2019

Me: *speaking slowly and clearly* “The test will be on Thursday.”

Student: “Okay! I heard you the first time!”

Me: “That was the second time.”

 

Go Big Or Go Home, Right?

, , , , , , | Learning | April 20, 2019

This is a “smart” student story. About 30 years ago, when I was just starting out as a teacher and having to be a substitute, I was called into this high school. No big deal. One day turned into two, then three and more. Then, I was told that the teacher I was subbing for would likely be out for the rest of the year, and they asked if I’d be interested in applying for the position. I had a quick interview with the principal and two members of the department after school and I was in. Yay!

I started about the beginning of October. There were six classes, three different courses, one of which was brand new, so there were no materials yet. But I was young and full of energy. After a few weeks, my department head had a talk with me about the approaching first-term report cards. Note: at this time, teachers filled out reports on those three-copy NCR forms. The student’s info was printed on top, but we had to hand-write the grade, add any comments in the space provided, and then sign it. My department head said that, as I would be merging my marks with the ones already recorded by the teacher I was replacing, and that I hadn’t really gotten a chance to know the students, to just record the grade, leave the comments section blank, and sign them. I did just that.

Sometime the morning after the reports went home, I got a message to call the mother of one of my students. On my first break, I called and identified myself. She said she had a question about her son’s report card. I was thinking the worst, that this was a parent going to beg, plead, or bully her kid into a higher grade. Nope. She was concerned about the comment. I told her that, due to the circumstances, I had made no comments on any of the report cards. She started howling with laughter, then read me the comment on her son’s card. It was over the top: best student ever, great class participation, and so on.

The reason she’d called was that all the comments from his other teachers were pretty much what she expected — work not done, more effort required, etc. — and she was curious about the one rave review. We had a good laugh about how if her son had just toned it down a bit she wouldn’t have noticed. She said she’d talk to the boy, and I took no further action than, when I asked that kid’s class if their parents had any questions about their report cards, to focus on this boy with my best imitation of laser eyes. His response told me Mum had talked to him.

I hope he learned something. I learned to never sign a document while leaving a space blank — put a slash through it.

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