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Being A Little Squirrely With The Facts

, , , , , , | Learning | March 22, 2022

During our Easter break in my sixth-grade year, my grandmother finds an orphaned squirrel kit and watches it for a couple of days before she can find a place that can properly care for it.

Upon going back to school, I tell a girl that I am semi-friends with about it. I don’t recall how or why this happens, but I decide to mess with her and manage to convince her that squirrels lay eggs. Looking back, I realize this was kind of mean, but I was eleven and figured she was most likely pretending to believe me or that she’d bring it up to someone like her parents who would set her straight in the off chance she wasn’t. I promptly forget about our conversation within a few days since she doesn’t bring it up again.

Fast forward about a month, we’re learning about the major animal classifications and we’re on the section about mammals. 

Teacher: “With the exceptions of the platypus and echidna, mammals do not lay eggs, but instead give birth to live young… Yes, [Girl]?”

Girl: “What about squirrels?”

At this point, I kind of freeze in horror as I realize what’s happening.

Teacher: “Squirrels?”

Girl: “Yeah, [My Name] told me they lay eggs, too!”

Of course, now the room’s attention shifts from her to me, and I’m barely able to squeak out a response.

Me: “I didn’t think you actually believed me!”

Poor [Girl] looked utterly mortified, and our teacher looked like she wanted to retire right then and there. [Girl] didn’t talk to me for the rest of the time we attended school together. I can’t say that I blame her.

Middle School Is Depressing Enough Without Actual Depression

, , , , , | Learning | February 2, 2022

In eighth grade, I came down with a severe case of clinical depression. I withdrew from everything, my grades went down, I spent some of my breaks just listening to calming music on library computers to keep from breaking down, and I rarely talked to anyone I didn’t have to. None of this was helped by my teacher, a freshly graduated twenty-two-year-old with the classroom experience of a raccoon. I was stuck with him for homeroom at the start and end of the day, math, gym, and religion. At the end of the day, we were both trying our best, but frustration was mounting on both sides.

Math has always been one of my worst subjects. As a side effect of my depression, my okay math grade absolutely tanked, partially due to my getting behind and feeling crippled by a mountain of late work. Since I had yet-undiagnosed ADHD, verbal teaching rarely stuck, so I cracked open my math textbook and reread the steps. Several times.

Teacher: “Would you like some help?”

Me: “No, thank you.”

Five minutes of struggling later…

Teacher: “Are you sure you don’t want any help?”

Me: *More curt* “I said no, thank you.”

Five minutes after that…

Teacher: “Would you like some help?”

Me: *Finally snapping* “I trust the textbook more than I trust your teaching.”

That was the first and only time I was sent to the principal’s office, and I didn’t even get in trouble because the principal sympathized with me and said that there were other complaints about my teacher. As per protocol, they had to call my parents to tell them about me getting sent to the office, but I never got in trouble at home, either. I still avoid that teacher whenever I see him around.

Students?! Reading?! Preposterous!

, , , , , | Working | January 25, 2022

Undiagnosed ADHD and mild autism in a generally apathetic environment made me a very socially awkward child. In middle school, I would often spend my fifteen-minute morning break curling up in a beanbag in the library, engrossed in a book as big as I was. As such, the school librarian was one of my closest adult allies, partly because she loved to see a kid enjoying reading, and partly because I didn’t feel bad talking to her a little about the books I read, since she was paid to be there, unlike friends and family members who received no benefit from putting up with me.

One year, the librarian gave me special permission to check out books from the back room, where students were technically not supposed to be. There were no illicit materials or anything similar; it was just a storage space for seldom-used tech equipment and less popular books. The only books from the back room I was interested in were a long novel series that was nearly impossible to find anywhere else, so I couldn’t believe my luck.

Enter the school’s technology teacher. She was the principal’s wife, which I suspect is the only reason she was able to keep her job despite being generally disliked by everyone in the school. Her husband was a great principal and I have great respect for him, but she was the embodiment of every old church busybody stereotype.

One fateful morning, she saw me exiting the storage room with a new book.

Tech Teacher: “What are you doing? Students aren’t allowed back there!”

Me: “I got special permission from the librarian.”

Tech Teacher: “You can’t be back there!”

Me: “The librarian said I could.”

Tech Teacher: “But students aren’t allowed in the storage room!”

Me: *Holding up the book* “I’m trying to read this whole series, and it’s impossible to find it anywhere else. No one else reads it, so I got special permission to check it out.”

Tech Teacher: “But you can’t be back there!”

She continued in this vein as I scanned barcodes to check the book out and promptly fled the library, praying she wouldn’t follow me. She didn’t. I wonder what she’d think of me now, getting a degree in English and writing to work in the fiction publishing field.

Here’s Hoping Your Desserts Aren’t THAT Dry!

, , , , , | Learning | December 30, 2021

I teach technology and this particular class is eighth-graders. Before we get into computer stuff, I always start the year off with a “Getting to Know You” questionnaire I have the students fill out about themselves. It’s the easiest grade they’ll get all year and it helps me get to know them. It’s all fluff questions like what their favorite color is, favorite class, something they’d like to learn, etc.

A student raises his hand.

Student #1: “Miss? I don’t have a favorite desert.”

Student #2: *Shouting out* “Mine’s the Gobi!”

Me: “Uh… guys… the question is, ‘What is your favorite dessert?’ You know, cake, ice cream, cookies?”

Cue three other students frantically erasing.

Welcome To Middle School, Where We Crush Your Desire To Learn

, , , , , , | Learning | December 28, 2021

I was really good at math as a kid. We’re talking traded my stupid third-grade crosswords and word searches for my sister’s sixth-grade math homework kind of good… at least until Mom found out and made me stop. I wasn’t in trouble; she just explained that I was doing Sis a disservice by denying her the chance to understand math concepts she would need and be tested on. Busy work exchanges were still cool, though.

Then, I took Algebra 1 from a retired sailor who couldn’t teach to save his soul. And I had knee surgery on September 15th, the day the class learned what y=mx+b meant. When I returned from surgery the following week, I was still high as a kite on pain meds until some time in October. And the teacher flat-out refused to help me catch up. When I asked him to explain that formula, he’d just parrot, “It’s the slope-intercept form of a line!” without ever telling me what that meant.

At one point the following spring, during a conference with my parents, he had the gall to say that I was “too stupid to learn math” and “the stupidest kid in the whole school.”

Dad nearly rage-flipped the table, but Mom put her hand on his knee and then punctured the teacher’s ego.

Mom: “Every student must have aced the math section of their standardized tests, then! I demand to see proof of that.”

He was caught off-guard, with a dazed “Huh?” expression. Then, Mom pulled my test results (just back that week) out of her folio and practically purred:

Mom: “[My Name] only missed one question, so if they’re the stupidest kid in the school, then everyone else must have aced the test, right? Oh, they didn’t? Well, then, perhaps the problem is not a stupid pupil. Hmm…”

We left the teacher gaping like a fish and the school counselor laughing at him. 

That night, my dad went through my entire algebra textbook with me, right from chapter one. He started to gloss over that same equation with the same recursive answer the teacher gave until I stopped him.

Me: “What. Is. Y? What is X? What is M? And what the heck is B?”

Dad: “You don’t know that?”

Me: “NO!”

Dad: “Oh! Well, that explains everything!”

And he proceeded to actually break it down for me. It took less than two minutes, including drawing multiple graphs to illustrate how the formula works. Two freaking minutes would have saved me an entire school year of frustration.

After that, we zoomed through the entire text in about 4 hours. The next day, I took my final. I aced it.

But my love for math was gone. The teacher in question “retired” at the end of that year.