Attack Of The Flying Cat

, , , , , | Learning | September 3, 2019

I was in seventh grade. My middle school had kindergarten through eighth grade, and I, being a bit of a know-it-all, had never done anything to mar my perfect record. It’s important to note that my school was… special. We were one of the best schools in the state. To put it plainly, we were all a bunch of nerds. 

Every year towards summer, we would have academic performances. We would spend months preparing to present what we learned that year to our parents.

Fast forward to the end of the day. The parents of our classmates had all just left. They had just left us in the science classroom with absolutely no supervision until the sixth graders were finished presenting in our classroom. 

Being rowdy seventh graders, we were quickly bored. We’d spent our entire day on our best behavior and we were worn out. We had just come from the English classroom and had finished presenting our stage plays. My group had needed a stuffed cat as a prop. By the time we made it to science, I was still carrying the toy around. My friend and I started to slowly toss the cat back and forth. I know; this was a terrible idea in a science lab. 

At one point another, one of my friends stood between us and was trying to catch it, forcing us to throw longer and longer, until suddenly, the first friend missed the cat. It flew right over her head and smashed straight into a sixth grader’s popsicle bridge project, knocking it off the table. 

It just so happened that the moment it flew off the desk was also the moment the teacher walked into the classroom. It turns out, that bridge was from the only sixth-grade class that hadn’t tested the strength of their bridges yet. We had knocked over the only untested bridge on the table. Great. 

Our head of discipline actually laughed when he found out what we had done. The only thing on my permanent record was vandalism. I had knocked over a popsicle bridge with a flying cat.

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Destroying The Scientific Method

, , , , , , , | Learning | August 30, 2019

(I’m visiting my sister and we’re picking her kid up from school. While we’re there, I learn that the students are learning about biology. I’m a microbiology PhD student, and the teacher excitedly tells the students that I’m a scientist. When considering their questions — and my answers — please bear in mind that I’ve studied two classes of bacterial genes for the past three years and just about nothing else.)

Child #1: “Ms. [My Name], if lily pads were blue, would frogs be blue?”

Me: “I, uh, maybe, but frogs spend time with other plants, too, so–”

Child #2: “Ms. [Almost My Name], if I fed a tadpole a little bit of salt every day, could I make a frog that lives in the ocean?”

Me: “Not right away, but if you kept feeding lots of tadpoles a little bit of salt over hundreds of years, maybe!”

Child #3: “Ms. [Definitely Not My Name], what’s ‘serviette’ mean?” 

Me: “Oh, that’s just a fancy word for a napkin.”

Child #1: “Ms. [My Name], when there were dinosaurs, were the frogs really big?”

Me: “Well, they wouldn’t be frogs, but they might be ancestors of frogs that–”

Child #3: “So, why did they used call Russia the serviette union?”

Me: “–ancestors of frogs… that… They used to call it the Soviet Union. ‘Soviet’ is a Russian word for… farmer, I think.”

(It’s not. But I couldn’t remember what it did mean, because…)

Child #2: “Only I have a bucket of tadpoles, and I gave then a little salt, and they’re all okay, except the ones Henry ate.”

Me: “Henry… ate..?”

Child #2: “Like this!” *baring her teeth* “Raar raar raar!”

Children #1 and #3: “Raar raar!”

(A bell rings, and they disappear. I go talk to the teacher.)

Me: “So… biology. Lot about frogs, I guess?”

Teacher: “Oh, no. We’ve been talking about trees. But I brought a frog to class and it jumped onto a student’s head, and they still haven’t stopped trying to make it happen again.”

Me: “Also, this might be important. Who’s Henry?”

(The teacher points to a small boy who’s hitting a pencil with another pencil.)

Teacher: “Oh, also, that’s the name of the principals’ cat. Why do you ask?”

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The Star Pupil

, , , , , | Learning | August 29, 2019

(I’ve gotten the results back from a quiz in my geography class. I notice an answer marked wrong, and I am convinced I answered correctly. In my righteous indignation, I grab two different encyclopedia volumes and do research to back me up before confronting the teacher. As I’m winding up for my big conclusion with him…)

Me: “I went and looked this up — twice! — and both sources said the same thing: at 4.2 light-years away, Proxima Centauri is the closest star to the Earth, except for the–”

(I’ve added the last part by simple rote, but I realize that it’s entirely correct and has completely undermined my argument; the question asked for the closest star to Earth. The teacher simply gives me a calm, patient smile, nodding.)

Me: “…I’ll just go sit down now.”

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Think Fast(ing)

, , , , , | Learning | August 1, 2019

(This conversation happens in my grade three class.)

Classmate #1: “Hey, [Classmate #2], you want some apples?”

Classmate #2: “I can’t eat; I’m fasting.”

(The entire class stares at her as she explains her culture, flustered. Most of the kids in my class are Asian.)

Classmate #3: *to [Classmate #4], whispering* “That’s stupid! People are supposed to eat when they’re hungry.”

([Classmate #2] hears and is now looking flustered and staring down at the table, so I decide to attempt to defuse the tension.) 

Me: “[Classmate #2], how long has it been since you used the bathroom?”

(I think I made things worse.)

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In Sore Need Of A Real Diagnosis

, , , , | Healthy | June 12, 2019

(I am in middle school and have been home sick for the past couple days with a bad sore throat and high fever. On the third day, my throat is still so sore I can’t speak or swallow anything and I am still exhausted, so at breakfast, I try to tell my grandparents, whom I live with, that I don’t think I can go to school. This does not go over well. Note, my grandfather is a licensed family physician and has successfully run his own practice for the past forty years.)

Grandfather: “Your glands aren’t swollen and you don’t feel that warm. It’s normal for a sore throat to linger. You’ve missed enough school; you can’t miss anymore. You’ll be fine.”

(My grandmother defers to his “diagnosis” and drives me to school, even though I haven’t eaten anything because swallowing is agony. I get there early and hang out in the school entryway waiting for the homeroom bell. I am just miserable. I’m achy and exhausted, and my throat hurts so much it’s making me cry. The school nurse walks by and notices the tears.)

Nurse: “[My Name], what’s wrong?”

(I try to tell her my throat hurts, but nothing comes out. She ushers me into her office.)

Nurse: “Well, let’s start with taking a temperature, okay? Just hold on a minute.”

(She puts the thermometer in my ear and waits for it to beep. After she reads it, there’s a beat of silence.)

Nurse: “Wow. [My Name], you can’t be here. I’m going to have to call your parents.”

(It turned out I had a 103-degree fever. Less than ten minutes after she dropped me off, my grandmother got a phone call from the nurse to come and pick me up. I didn’t even make it to homeroom. So much for not feeling “that warm”! Thankfully, my grandfather has a sense of humor, because I have never let him live that one down.)

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