A Teacher Devoid Of Common Sense

, , , , , , | Learning | July 1, 2020

A very long time ago — in the 1970s — I was taking a general science course called “Physical Science”. This was a required course, so the classroom was very large and packed full of students, most of whom were only present because it was required.

The instructors of two adjacent Physical Science classrooms frequently opened up the temporary wall between the classes and held joint class sessions, especially when reviewing material for examinations. The instructors had very different teaching styles; [Popular Teacher] was popular with students and always cheerful, while [Strict Teacher] was very formal and was widely reported to have never smiled. 

Even in my early teens, I was very interested in science. I frequently read science and engineering journals at the school library — which irritated the head librarian as those journals were intended for the teaching staff. As a result, I was usually bored to tears in the Physical Science class. The material presented was intended for a general audience of people unfamiliar — and often uninterested — in science, specifically to give students a basic understanding of what science was. I was enrolled in [Strict Teacher]’s class and often clashed with him when he put out material from the required curriculum which was outdated and/or inaccurate. 

“There are three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas,” [Strict Teacher] explained.

“Excuse me, Mr. [Strict Teacher]?” I interjected. “I read an article in Scientific American which says plasma is a fourth state of matter.”

“I read the same article,” the teacher explained, “but I have to teach what is currently in the course textbooks.”

Since I was usually right, we would have a brief discussion in class about the new information which hadn’t made it into the course materials, and my grade never suffered for challenging his authority.

[Popular Teacher], on the other hand, did not enjoy being questioned by students. He was popular with most of his students because he encouraged those with no interest in science to tease and mock those who wanted to learn. Oddly, [Strict Teacher]’s students tended to have higher test scores in all manner of scientific subjects than the students in [Popular Teacher]’s classes.

During one of the joint class sessions, while discussing scientific terminology, [Popular Teacher] mentioned that the suffix “-oid” was used to describe something similar to the root term. A couple of students asked about hemorrhoids, which [Popular Teacher] said didn’t count. Another student asked about asteroids, at which point [Popular Teacher] began to mock the students questioning him, calling them “nasty kids.”

[Strict Teacher] went rigid with anger, because [Popular Teacher] was belittling students who were at least interested in the material, encouraging their uninterested classmates to bully them. Because he was unwilling to confront [Popular Teacher] in front of the students and thereby diminish [Popular Teacher]’s authority in the classroom, [Strict Teacher] held his tongue, but he looked annoyed.

I raised my hand, and [Strict Teacher] called on me.

“Excuse me, Mr. [Popular Teacher],” I said. “’Hemorrhoid’ is a medical term adding the ‘-oid’ suffix to the Greek word for ‘vein’. ‘Hemorrhoid’ basically means, ‘little vein.’ So that was a valid question.”

“All right, smart guy,” said [Popular Teacher]. “What about ‘asteroid’, then?”

“Also valid,” I confirmed. “’Aster’ is the Greek word for ‘star’, so ‘asteroid’ means ‘little star’.”

[Popular Teacher], slightly taken aback, just said, “Okay, whatever.”

As [Popular Teacher] tried to get his lesson back on track, I noticed [Strict Teacher] turn quickly away from the class… to hide his smile.


This story is part of our July 2020 Roundup – the best stories of the month!

Read the next July 2020 Roundup story!

Read the July 2020 Roundup!

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Takes One To Know One

, , , , , , | Learning | June 3, 2019

When I was in grade seven, our class got a substitute teacher one day. The teacher had a condescending attitude and was talking down to the class. She started off lecturing them about good behavior and then said, “I want you all to be benevolent. You do know what that means?”

I put up my hand and asked, “Is it okay if we act malevolent, instead?”

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Softening Of The Contrarian Librarian

, , , , | Learning | September 13, 2018

(My school is two stories tall. There are two main stairwells, as well as a third stairwell in the library. The two main stairwells become unbearably crowded with students trying to get to their next classes, but the one in the library does not. Being an avid reader, I like to take those stairs to get to class because I can also spend a few minutes browsing for new books to read in my spare time. One day while I’m at school, my mom gets a call from the librarian.)

Librarian: “Hello, is this [My Name]’s mother?”

Mom: “Yes, this is [Mom], can I help you?”

Librarian: “Hello, Mrs. [Mom], I’m calling to ask if you’d like me to ban your daughter from the library.”

Mom: *aghast* “Ban her from the library?! What did she do?”

Librarian: “I see her wandering around the library between every single class period!”

Mom: “Is she causing a disturbance?”

Librarian: “No, she’s very quiet, but she’s here during every transition period. Sometimes she even spends her lunch period in here!”

Mom: *confused* “So, she’s skipping her classes?”

Librarian: “Well, no, she’s hasn’t been marked absent from her classes.”

Mom: *still confused* “Is she running late to her classes?”

Librarian: “No, she hasn’t been marked tardy, either.”

Mom: “Is she failing any of her classes?”

Librarian: “No, ma’am, she’s making good grades in all of her classes.”

Mom: *annoyed* “So, you mean to tell me that she’s making it to all of her classes on time, getting good grades, and quietly looking at books between her classes… and you’re asking if I want her to be banned from the library?”

Librarian: *is quiet for a few moments* “I’m sorry to have bothered you, Mrs. [Mom]. Have a nice day.” *click*

(The librarian was significantly more friendly towards me after that, recommending and reserving lots of new books for me whenever I returned the ones I’d finished, and I continued to use the library stairs without any more trouble.)

Related:
The Contrarian Librarian: Looking For Work
Re-emergence Of The Contrarian Librarian
The Inattentiveness Of The Contrarian Librarian

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Murdering Your Assignment

, , , , | Learning | July 24, 2018

(I am in sixth grade. I love to write stories, but I know that my teacher is very particular as to the criteria she gives for assignments. Therefore, by the end of the year, I always ask the teacher to clarify the assignment several times before starting.)

Teacher: “Your assignment is to write a mystery story. In the story, someone has to disappear, but in the end they are found. It needs to be four pages long.”

Me: “Are there any other criteria for the story? Any limitations on what we can or cannot write?”

Teacher: “No, you can write anything you want to write about.”

Me: “Anything?”

Teacher: *annoyed* “Yes, you can write any kind of mystery story you want.”

Me: “Really? Anything? No limits?”

Teacher: *really annoyed* “Anything! Only the original requirements of four pages, and that someone must disappear and be found. Your rough draft is due in two weeks.”

(Several days later, after some kids have finished their draft:)

Several Students: “[Teacher]! Four pages is way too long!”

Teacher: “Okay, everyone should make their story two pages long.”

(A few days later:)

Me: “[Teacher], I wrote four pages like you originally assigned. We did the peer review with my classmates, and I can’t figure out how to cut out half of my story. Can you help me?”

Teacher: *takes paper, looks at it for 30 seconds* “It’s too long; make it shorter.”

(Due date of the assignment:)

Teacher: “Okay, class, now that everyone has finished their mystery story draft, tell me what kind of mystery stories are there?”

Student #2: “Murder mysteries!”

Teacher: “No! No one is allowed to do a murder mystery! No murder, no violence! No one should have included any of these in their stories! I expect you to finalize your drafts and turn them in in two days.”

(Half the class completely rewrote their stories, since they assumed “anything” meant that a murder mystery was okay.)

 

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Thieves Are On The Periphery Of Society

, , , , | Learning | April 22, 2018

(This story takes place in the late nineties. I have a fairly sizeable collection of novelty pencils: patterns, holographic, Lisa Frank, etc. During one class, I have three out at once for some reason, and as I’m focused on writing something, I see a classmate’s hand inching towards one of them out of the corner of my eye.)

Me: “Don’t touch my pencils.”

Classmate: *shocked* “How did you know?!”

Me: “Peripheral vision?”

Classmate: “What?”

(For the rest of the class, he kept putting his hands where he thought I wouldn’t see, and was amazed every time I did.)

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