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Pretty And Witty And Very Literal

, , , , | Learning | April 6, 2021

I learned what the word “gay” means through an old song that uses it to mean “happy.” Being the oblivious girl I was, I didn’t realize that most kids didn’t know “gay” has two meanings, or that homophobia was a thing, until about eighth grade.

Once upon a time, about a dozen years ago, I was an undiagnosed autistic sixth-grader. A gaggle of girls sauntered over to me at recess, and one of them asked the strangest question.

Girl: “Are you gay?”

Me: “Which kind of gay do you mean?”

There is silence, a pause, and confusion all around.

Girl: “What?”

Me: “Well, there are two meanings. There’s happy, like—” *singing* “—‘happy and gay the live-long way.’ And then there’s ‘gay’ meaning, um, guys like liking guys or girls like liking girls.”

Again, silence. She’s not clarifying her question, but I’m going to do my best to answer. After all, maybe she’s asking to make sure I’m doing okay, or because she likes me, or maybe she’s confused, and hearing someone else’s story could help her figure herself out.

Me: “I mean, if you meant ‘happy,’ then yeah, I guess I’m pretty gay right now. I’m pretty happy. If you meant, um, the other one, then I guess I don’t know? I know I like guys, but maybe I like girls, too? I haven’t had many crushes, so maybe it’s just a coincidence they’re all boys? I know I’m not all gay, but maybe partly?”

The girls are slowly backing away. I don’t know how they expected this conversation to go, but this certainly isn’t it.

Me: “I’m like, 90% certain I’m not that kind of gay, but if I figure out I am, I’ll let you know, okay?”

They didn’t really talk to me much after that. I’ve since lost contact with them.


This story is part of our Best Of April 2021 roundup!

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To Be Fair, A Middle-Schooler On YouTube Is Usually Up To No Good

, , , , | Learning | February 28, 2021

In middle school, I am in an honors English program. I love it, but since it is a small school and very few students are eligible, we don’t have a normal class for it and instead do all of our work online, using the computers in the school library. It might look odd to an outsider — two kids sitting quietly on computers in an otherwise empty library — but this is the only time I realize how weird it could look.

An adult visitor is going around the school for reasons I never bothered to find out. He sees my singular classmate and me on the computers and comes over, despite the fact that we are both wearing headphones.

Visitor: “So, what are you up to?”

Me: “English class.”

The visitor takes a look at my screen, clearly able to see a word processor in one window and YouTube in another. The video, which is paused, is clearly marked with a movie title, and since it’s animated, there’s no mistaking it for anything traditionally academic.

Visitor: “You’re just watching movies?”

Me: “It’s for our media literacy project. We’re each analyzing a movie and I chose [Movie].”

Visitor: “But you’re still watching movies.”

Me: “Just this one.”

Visitor: “They let you watch movies all day?”

Me: “It’s a project for just this class.”

Visitor: “I can’t believe they just let you watch movies.”

He shook his head and left, and I went back to watching the movie and typing out an outline of events. I still don’t know what part of “This is for a school project” he didn’t understand.

That’s Not How ANY Of These Things Work

, , , | Learning | February 26, 2021

I’m training to be a teacher after spending six years in customer service. I’m late for a meeting with the other trainees, which includes some veteran teachers, because my mentor and I had a meeting that ran long. I finally get to the meeting and settle in.

They are discussing how apathy is a problem and asking everyone around the table their opinions and how they think it can be dealt with.

Everyone gives some suggestions, whether it be better ways to engage students or ways to make the rules clearer until we get to this gem.

Veteran Teacher: “School is like a service and students are the customers. If they don’t like the service, they can go elsewhere. If they don’t like elsewhere, they are the problem.”

There were a few shocked faces and rolled eyes. Clearly, the veteran teacher has never worked customer service.

D***, What A Prude

, , , , , | Learning | February 21, 2021

I work as a substitute teacher. One day, I’m working in a fifth-grade classroom — the students are about ten years old — and it’s story time. Their teacher has been reading a book out loud, and I’m supposed to read the next chapter to the class.

The book is a young adult novel, with a few swear words here and there. For example, a character says, “D***, that was close,” after escaping a bad situation.

The first time I get to a swear word, I pause and ask the kids if they are okay hearing swear words as part of the story. The kids agree that they’re okay with it, so I continue reading, swear words and all.

A few days later, I’m subbing at the same school but for a different teacher. The teacher I subbed for earlier storms up to me before school begins.

Teacher: “Why did you teach my students swear words?”

Me: “Um… I don’t know what you’re talking about. I didn’t teach them any swear words.”

Teacher: “My students said that you swore during story time.”

Me: “Oh, that? I was only reading the story. I even asked the kids if they were okay with me reading the swear words, and they said they were.”

Teacher: “Well, they’re not okay with it! I never use swear words with my students. I make up silly words when I read to them.”

Me: “You never said anything in your lesson plans about that, so I didn’t know.”

Teacher: “They’re fifth-graders! They’re too young to hear swearing. I shouldn’t need to write it in my lesson plans!”

Me: “Mrs. [Teacher], with all due respect, the kids said they were okay with hearing swear words, and they knew what every one of those words meant. I understand that they’re not learning those words from you, but they’re learning them somewhere.”

Teacher: “Then they lied to you! Fifth-graders are too young to know swear words. Now you ruined everything because the kids asked me why I don’t swear when I read the story.”

Me: “Okay. I’m sorry for misunderstanding, and if I sub for you again, I’ll make sure not to swear when I read a story to the kids. I’ll use words like dang or shoot, instead, and—”

Teacher:No! That’s no good, because it’s too close to actual swearing! You have to make up random silly words like dibbydabby or swizzlesticks!”

The bell rang to start for class just then, so I just turned and walked away from her. I never did get called to sub for her class again, so I really hope her students are doing okay.

Give Students Room To Flourish, And They Usually Do

, , , , , , | Learning | February 12, 2021

I teach gifted kids, and contrary to the stereotype, some of them have academic disabilities compounded by anxiety, ADHD, and autism, to name a few. A student of mine, an eighth-grader, has documented anxiety and ADHD with accommodations. [Student] had a math teacher who insisted that they were playing the system. [Teacher] regularly refused to give [Student] the time allotted for tests in the accommodations, despite begging from me, calls from parents, and being called into the principal’s office.

In one of our go-arounds, [Teacher] claimed not to have the time to allow [Student] to finish tests because of the next classes coming in, and [Teacher] didn’t want cheating by looking problems up between class and study hall. I offered to escort [Student] from [Teacher’s] room to mine, and that was okay.

I set [Student] up in a secluded corner of my room and they went to work… and work… and work. I had students after my prep period, so I warned [Student] that other students would be coming in.

I was about halfway through my lesson with some sixth graders, and I asked a question.

Me: “What were Archimedes’ last words?”

Silence.

Right before I was about to answer, a disembodied voice came from the secluded corner of my room.

Student: “Don’t disturb my circles!”

At least I knew the eighth-grader listened when in sixth grade! And they aced the math test.