The Short Version: Sewing Is Hard

, , , , | Learning | March 16, 2021

In high school, I take a sewing class. I am in no way a natural — it takes me three days to learn how to thread a bobbin — but I still learn. Our first big project is a pair of pajama pants. My teacher is checking my cut fabric pieces before I start pinning them together. It should be noted that I am only five feet tall and nearly always the shortest person in the room, but I have no problem poking fun of my own height.

Teacher: “These two pieces seem a lot shorter than the others.”

Me: “Huh. Yeah, it looks like it.”

Teacher: “Did you forget a piece of your pattern?”

Me: “I don’t know, but I can look.”

We find the problem pretty quickly: the pattern has two different pieces for the legs. The smaller one is meant to be cut out and taped onto the end of the larger one. I’ve done it with two of the four total pieces, but now I have two long pieces and two short pieces. The teacher tells me to cut out the smaller pieces and sew them onto the two shortened leg pieces so all four are the same length.

Me: *Joking* “I’m so short that maybe the short ones would actually fit better!”

Fast-forward a few weeks. My pajama pants are much further along, and it’s time to put them on for waistband measurements. The legs are long, so I have to roll them up a few times.

It only takes a few seconds to realize that the amount of fabric I’ve rolled up is equal to the amount of fabric in the smaller piece I’d sewn onto the shortened legs. The shortened legs really WOULD have fit better.

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They Don’t A-peer To Be Very Responsible

, , , , | Learning | March 12, 2021

My school had a fun system where, in your first year at the high school, at thirteen years old, for one hour-long slot a week, you got to have “peer support.” Your class would be taken by a small group of final-year seventeen-year-old students who would basically act as cool older siblings, do bonding exercises, and generally encourage good social behaviour, etc. The final-year students were called “peer support leaders.”

I had a blast with my experience as a newcomer to the school, so in my final year, I was all too happy to sign up to be a volunteer. I got teamed with two classmates and their boyfriends — five semi-adults and a class of around thirty kids. Shouldn’t be too bad, right?

The class was rowdy. Barely any of the kids listened, fewer were interested in the actual fun times we had in store for them. A few actively would try and ruin it for the others. We all grit our teeth and tried to work through it. We were relatively successful and managed to make a dent in some of the bad behaviours.

The funny thing was, at the end of the semester, for the last class of peer support, you were allowed to do something fun with your group. This included taking them out of school! You had to get things signed off beforehand, but if you dotted your Is and crossed your Ts, your group basically got a cool afternoon of whatever fun activity you could devise.

So, of course, no one could agree on what we wanted to do for the outing. The five leaders talked and decided on a plan: on a specific morning, we would go to rōpū (home class) of our class and get them to vote on what they wanted. I got permission from my teacher to miss my own rōpū and then went straight to my peer support’s rōpū before class commenced. The other leaders were nowhere to be seen. I waited for ten minutes… no sign. Rōpū is only fifteen minutes long, so I finally went in on my own and took the vote. About two-thirds of the class was there, but it was enough. I included the whole list I’d been given, which included go-karting, movies, and a few other things.

Movies won by a fairly decent margin. Great! Fun video times. I made my way to the Volunteer Coordinator — a teacher who made sure we knew what “activities” were assigned week to week — and let her know what the kids had voted on. She wrote it down but said we’d left this too late to take them out of the school, so we’d have to do it on-site.

No worries! Still unable to find my other leaders in their designated classes, I used my first break to go and approach a teacher I had an awesome rapport with, who I knew had no class during the peer support slot. I explained to her what was up, and she agreed that it sounded like fun. She simply asked that we keep it down a little as she’d be grading papers in the office next door. Perfect! Kids have chosen an activity and we have a place to do it!

You know I wouldn’t be telling this story if all went right from here.

Fully halfway through the day, after checking at each class-change for my co-leaders, I found one at the start of lunch. I quickly told him that I’d taken the vote — without accusing him or the others of ditching me for that — and let him know the kids had voted for the movies. I also let him know I’d told the coordinator, and since we couldn’t take the kids out of the grounds, I’d also secured us a classroom. So all that was left to do was organise the snacks and the movie.

He looked at me like I’d grown a second head and then told me in a condescending tone that I was an idiot. Didn’t I know they had all agreed that they were going go-karting? I was a moron for running around and doing all of this stuff because they had already done all of this hard work without telling me. He made fun of me in front of several other people until I had to leave to go and hide somewhere in tears from distress. I knew it wasn’t true, thanks to having talked to the coordinator, but I had no idea why my co-leader was being so cruel to me.

As you might guess, this genius was lying. No plans had been filed, no permission slips signed. So, come the morning of the treat day, the other three finally decided they should come back to school — never found out where they’d been all that day— and told me that they’d handle the movie and the snacks and pizzas, since I’d already done everything else. I was a little reluctant, but they assured me they would get a good one. I figured the miscommunication about the vote must have been a mistake and they’d found out they weren’t able to just whip thirty kids out of school on a whim.

At lunch, they told me they’d gotten the movie. Perfect! Now to wait until the last class of the day to go grab them.

The previous week, I’d made a list of the kids. This was a treat, after all, so it was supposed to only be for the kids who’d been receptive and learned, while those who’d been antagonistic or disruptive would stay in the math class they’d normally get out of. I made my way to the movie classroom to get everything set up, and five minutes later, everyone was there. Everyone.

Okay, fine. Maybe the others had made a judgement call that even the naughty kids should be allowed this treat, too. Fine, I just wish they’d bothered to tell me before I went to the trouble of the list. As the kids were filing in, though, one of them turned to me and said, in a really snotty tone, “I hear we’re not going go-karting because you went and had a little crrrry.”

I had no idea how to respond, so I just muttered something about the vote, and figured that was the end of it. Time to watch a movie and relax.

Then, I found out what movie the others had thought was perfect for these thirteen-year-olds.

American Pie.

The kids went absolutely nuts. They started running around, drumming on the desks — hands, feet, drumsticks; you name it, it was hitting the desk — banging the fire-escape door repeatedly, howling… actual, kid-you-not howling. I started rushing around, trying to calm them, as I knew that there was someone next door trying to grade. As you can imagine, this only encouraged them. Meanwhile, the other four people in the room, my former allies, my supposed co-leaders? They were just sitting there and basically laughing at my attempts to stop this chaos.

It got so bad that the teacher stormed into the room and had to stay there for the rest of the period. I don’t know if she ever realised what movie was playing, which is one small mercy.

I’m pretty sure the other four did not get their certificates saying they’d done this volunteer program. It also took me a long time to trust people on group projects again, especially when others failed to turn up to arranged meetings.

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The Brains Are Out The Window

, , , , , | Learning | February 24, 2021

I have diabetes and have to take insulin. In high school, I have to stop by the nurse’s office in order to take it, since all medicine must be stored there. We all call the nurse’s office “the clinic.”

One day, I have to stop by the clinic for insulin just before history class, but I know it won’t take long. The history teacher is known to be cool, and since I’m a good student, I know he will be fine with me being a couple of minutes late. I ask my best friend to tell the teacher that I’m in the clinic when she gets to class. 

Friend: “[My Name] is in the clinic.”

Teacher: *Staring* “The dog barks at midnight.”

Friend: “No, [My Name] is in the clinic.”

Teacher: *Eyes narrowing* “The crow flies in from the north.”

Friend: “Mr. [Teacher], you’re not listening! [MY NAME]. IS IN. THE CLINIC!”

Teacher: “The ship has arrived in the harbor?”

Friend: “My friend, [My Full Name], is currently in the clinic with the nurse so that she can take some insulin! She is going to be a couple of minutes late and asked me to tell you! She’s fine; it’s that just someone brought cupcakes in English and now she has to take insulin because she ate one!”

Teacher:Oh! I thought you were speaking in code! We are going over espionage in World War II today, and I thought you were just trying to really feel the subject material! I never submit the attendance until the end of class, anyway, so she’s fine. Thanks for telling me!”

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These Freshmen Are Jumping In With Both Feet

, , , , , | Learning | February 22, 2021

In my freshman World Literature class, one of our units is “1001 Arabian Nights,” not an uncommon choice of study for a high school.

Many of us are surprised by the book’s inciting incident: a king finding out about his queen’s affair, losing all trust in women, and taking a new bride every night only to have her executed the next morning before she can be unfaithful to him. The book is built on the premise of one bride continually telling him stories, causing her death to be put off just one more night until he no longer wants to kill her.

The king finds out about his wife’s affair because he discovers her in their bedroom with a stable boy who is holding her veil, deeply shocking for the original Muslim audience of the early Middle Ages.

Students in the class each have to have their own copy of the book; however, we are confused by the teacher’s unusual strictness about exactly which version of the book we need to purchase. When we ask about this, she tells us this story.

One day, my teacher saw one of her students looking oddly at his book, face pale and eyes wide. He looked like he was about to faint. Before she could say anything, he got up from his desk, shuffled over to her, and squeaked.

Student: “Uhh… Mrs. [Teacher]? Are you sure this is the right book?”

He showed her the page he’d been looking at. Skimming the text, my teacher found what had prompted him to ask the question: a passage about the king discovering the affair, with a long and explicit description of the queen’s state of undress.

The next time she taught that unit, she made sure everyone knew EXACTLY which version of the book to get.

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You Know What That Is? Growth.

, , , , | Learning | February 15, 2021

In the early 2010s, I was in high school taking a math course. It was the first class of the day and we had a really wonderful, punctual teacher. One day, she didn’t show up, no teachers came into the room, and after forty minutes — much to the anger of twenty other teenagers — I went to alert the office, worried something had happened to her.

The teacher was fine, but I became the center of horrific bullying in that class as a few of the students got in a lot of trouble for their actions while we were not supervised. Some of my favorites included shoving, spitting on my homework, and throwing plastic Easter eggs with slips of paper in them at me — the eggs were for a fun math game — hard enough to crack the plastic and bruise.

Most of this was led by this super senior; she was held back her senior year and was in her fifth year of high school. This bully went out of her way to make sure I was miserable that entire semester, and she was the reason I hated Easter eggs for years.

Fast forward to 2019, nearly a decade later. I am at a bar with two friends and my long-term boyfriend. The friends grew up around here but moved away years ago and are just in town to visit and catch up with people. A lot of people are coming to our booth to say hi and catch up with all of us. One of them is a woman a year or two older than me, covered in tattoos. She looks sort of familiar and is super thrilled to see [Friend].

I guess she thinks I look familiar, too, because she squints at me a little and finally asks if we used to go to high school together. After a few seconds of trying to remember where we know each other from, her face lights up with excitement. 

Woman: “Oh, yeah! We were in [Teacher]’s class together!”

Me: “Oh, yeah. You were the b**** who threw plastic Easter eggs at me.”

Cue deafening silence from the table. [Woman]’s face runs through a whole range of emotions, from shock, to remembrance, to horror, to complete embarrassment. [Friend] is glaring at her angrily; she’s heard the story before and is connecting the dots. My boyfriend looks like he might kick her out of the bar himself and our other friend is just shocked. 

Suddenly, [Woman], with all the charisma and emotions of a drunk woman, reaches out and takes my hands, her eyes tearing up.

Woman: “Oh. My. God! I have been trying to find out where you were for years! I am so, soooo sorry for everything! I was so unbelievably horrible to you and took out so many things on you, and it wasn’t until I got older that I realized how terrible I was! I was such a b**** to you and I’m so, so, so, so sorry!”

I don’t know what I expected, but it was not that. I just tell her it’s cool and it’s in the past; we were dumb kids and we can move forward now. Her whole face lights up again. 

Woman: “You are like, totally, seriously the best, Egg Girl! Besties! Can I put this on Insta?”

We never became friends, but I did let her take a selfie of us to “confess her crimes” online, and for the next year until the health crisis closed down the bars, we would occasionally run into each other out on the town. She would stop everything just to point me out to her friends and go, “That’s Egg Girl! I threw plastic Easter eggs at her in high school. I was suuuch a b**** to her!” 

Life is like a bunch of plastic Easter eggs; you never know what you’re going to get, I guess.

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