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Cast A Spell Of Screaming

, , , , , , | Healthy | September 15, 2021

When my brother is in elementary school, he falls off the monkey bars and sprains his wrist pretty badly. My brother has a ridiculous pain tolerance and is screaming his head off, so there is worry that it is a break.

At the time, we only have one car, which is with my dad, who isn’t currently available. My mom calls a family friend to get my brother so they can get to the doctor and off they go. She doesn’t call my dad because she is in a rush and is planning on doing it when they get to the doctor, so my dad follows his regular routine and starts to head home. He happens to run into another family friend who knows what’s happened.

Family Friend: “Hey, have you talked to [Mom] yet?”

Dad: “Uh, I don’t think so. Why?”

Family Friend: “Oh, well, [Brother] fell and may have broken his wrist. I think she took him to [Urgent Care Office].”

Of course, my dad heads straight there and asks to be let in, but the front desk nurse won’t let him back. I’m not sure exactly why because most of the staff there know our family, so the only thing I can think of is that she is new and doesn’t know him. My mom hears the commotion and comes out and confirms he’s okay, and then they go back in to find that my brother’s wrist is not broken but sprained. The doctor splints the wrist and tells my brother to stay off the monkey bars for a few days and sends them home.

The next day, my brother comes home from school and my mom asks him about his wrist.

Brother: “It really hurts, Mom.”

He shows her his wrist and now there’s some very distinctive bruising.

Mom: “Come on. Let’s go back to the doctor.”

This time, my dad is home so they all go off to the clinic. They walk in and the nurse at the counter frowns as they come in.

Nurse: “Weren’t you just here?”

Mom: *Sigh* “Yes, but this time, it’s actually broken.”

While there isn’t any hesitation in getting things taken care of, there are other bills we are dealing with and an extra medical visit is not something we need right now.

Nurse: “Oh. Well, let me just put this in as a follow-up, okay?”

Mom: “Oh, you’re my new best friend!”

They go back and the doctor confirms that it is indeed broken this time.

Doctor: “I thought I told you to stay off the monkey bars?”

Brother: “I did! I was hanging on the single bars with my good arm and it was wet so I fell.”

Every adult in the room face-palms. I’ll give my brother one thing: he certainly is very good at not-quite malicious compliance.

Doctor: “Let’s get a cast on this, and then you need to stay away from all types of bars or hanging equipment for a while, okay?”

They splinted things and my brother got his cast. To this day, my mom thinks that the reason my brother was screaming so bad initially was that he really wanted a cast, and while he wouldn’t necessarily have gone out and purposely said, “Hey, let’s see what happens when I fall again!”, he still wanted that cast.

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A Quarter A Tray Brings Kindness To Stay

, , , , , , , , | Learning | September 14, 2021

In 1998, I was in my junior year of high school. School lunches were broken up into four periods, each lasting thirty minutes, to accommodate the nearly 1,600 students in my school.

Some kids brought lunch, and for those of us that purchased lunch at school, we were given trays to carry our food on. The use of a tray incurred a $0.25 deposit in your total. If you purchased $5.00 worth of food, you’d actually be charged $5.25 with that extra 25 cents for the tray. The idea here was to encourage students to clean up after themselves, bus their garbage to a nearby trash can, and then return the tray to the Quarter Lady. I don’t know if any of us actually knew her real name; she was just referred to as the Quarter Lady because she’d take the empty and clean tray — couldn’t have gobs of food stuck to it or garbage on it — and then hand you a quarter for returning the tray to her.

During the lunch period, some students either didn’t have much money or found it was easy to earn a few extra bucks by going from table to table and offering to return people’s trays and clearing their garbage for them. Most other students didn’t mind if they ran trays back to earn a few bucks to buy lunch.

A few weeks into the school year, [Student], who normally came by to ask for trays from time to time, started asking everyone if he could bus their trays. We didn’t know why. No one really made any noise about the situation he was trying to help out with, not at least until a few days later.

Word had been getting around that the Quarter Lady — an older lady, maybe in her late sixties or early seventies — had been diagnosed with some sort of cancer and students had been wondering why we hadn’t seen her at the tray return location to hand out quarters.

It seems that [Student] had been running all the trays he could so he could start a donation for the Quarter Lady. All the quarters he gathered, he would give back to the other lunch staff. Pretty soon, all the students were donating their quarters and other change in a donation bin set up at the tray return.

For the life of me, I cannot remember what happened with the Quarter Lady, but I do remember that the students raised almost $15,000 by the end of the school year.

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It’s A Little Early In Their Lives For That Lesson

, , , , , , , | Romantic | September 11, 2021

I’m an elementary school teacher. During the quarantine, I was moved to teaching online from my home and struggled to keep coming up with engaging lessons for my remote learners.

One day, I decided to incorporate our two cats into my lesson for humorous effect. The cats were not cooperative, of course, but after numerous takes, I finally managed to film the lesson to my satisfaction. I showed the video to my wife.

Me: “Well, it took forever and my legs are scratched to h***, but I really think my kids will get a kick out of this.”

Wife: “You realize your big poster for [Marijuana-Themed Movie] is in the background of every shot?”

Me: …”

Me: “Okay, [Cat #1] and [Cat #2], time for a reshoot!”

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How To Break A Principal

, , , , , , , , | Learning | August 28, 2021

Many years ago, my school system separated sixth, seventh, and eighth grades each into their own schools. The eighth-grade principal was still committed to maintaining the tradition of middle-school grades having the ridiculous and very specific school-system-wide dress code unforgivingly enforced upon them (and only them).

Early in the first full week of school, the principal announced that he was sick of students saying they didn’t know something was forbidden by the dress code that was in the handbooks he hadn’t given us yet. Because of this, we were to have an assembly where we’d be given the handbook as we walked in and he’d read the entire student handbook to us as we followed along, so we’d have no excuse.

He was so in control that, after we were seated, the other adults would leave. After all, since the bleachers couldn’t hold us all, it’d only be half the grade at a time — boys on the first day, girls on the second. Reading to the boys went just as planned, but on day two…

The principal had droned on through the handbook and was just getting started on the several pages devoted to the dress code.

“Sleeves must be no less than two inches wide. Students may not wear shirts or dresses in the style of tank tops, halter tops, or spaghetti straps. Students may not wear clothes, such as T-shirts, that display profanity or promote substances such as alcohol, tobacco, or any other illicit substance. All clothing must be hemmed and intact. Students may not wear clothes…”

We turned the page. The principal didn’t. He paused, longer and longer. We waited anxiously for him to go on — make a joke, retroactively ignore it, anything.

His eyes widened all, deer-in-the-headlights, as he started staring into the middle distance.

Please, man, clear your throat, cough, something. Don’t leave us here, we silently begged with small, excusable hand motions and urgent faces.

His jaw slowly dropped and his lips started quivering.

For the love of God, man! Bigger gestures, desperate faces.

The principal stood there, transfixed.

There was no changing it, so we gave up. Some of us started counting the seconds. How long could this go on? We all knew what the next words were supposed to be, but that didn’t change what happened — the words that came out of his mouth — and, by not continuing, he left us stuck, too. We resisted as long as we could.

Did the principal…

Five seconds. Scattered murmuring in the crowd. “Did he mean it?” “Couldn’t have.” “Yeah, but still…”

…just say that…

Ten seconds. Someone laughed and was quieted.

…we have to…

Fifteen seconds. A girl coughed from the stress.

…come to school…

Twenty seconds. Collective gulp.


Twenty-five seconds after the principal last changed — to say nothing of when he last made a sound — we couldn’t take it anymore and the gym of 250 thirteen-year-old girls burst into uncontrollable laughter.

The principal stood there like a terrified statue for several more minutes as we continued laughing. We couldn’t help it; we’d try to get a hold of ourselves but glance up at this art piece of a petrified man and find ourselves laughing harder than when we’d started. After a while, the principal went from “freeze” to “flight” and darted out of the gym, leaving us laughing girls unsupervised.

The whole lot of us laughed together for several minutes. It took another several minutes for spurts of laughter not to spread across the whole group. We had never considered that a school official might tell us we must go nude before abandoning us. But the laughter faded, scattered bursts lessened, and we went to quietly chatting with whoever happened to be around. We whispered about the principal, the page-break-o’-doom, and his eventual bolting, and began to talk about other things, waiting for the vice-principal to show up or the principal to return.

Eventually, word about the time started spreading: we’d been adult-less for over half an hour and we’d been gone longer than the boys were the previous day, yet nobody had come for us. We’d only been in that school a few days; we had no idea who we could go to when the principal flaked. We collectively decided the best time and way to leave — slowly, not long before the next bell to change classes — and that we should be super-good because this was bad enough without giving any reason for people to think we’d use this to break rules.

With five minutes to go, a teacher popped her head in and looked around.

“Where’s [Principal]?”

The room threw up its hands in a collective shrug. The cluster of girls nearest that door became our speakers. They told the teacher how long we’d been alone, that it all started because of an awkward page-break and failure to go on, and that none of us could talk about a further explanation. Everyone agreed. The teacher got some pencils and paper for us to write anonymous accounts if we wanted while school employees searched for the principal.

Ten minutes later, the principal shuffled in with downcast eyes, quickly read the rest of the handbook in a robotic monotone, and shuffled back out, never looking up. The teacher who’d come in earlier passed around a box to collect our consistent accounts of what happened and gave us excuses for being late as we left.

It was an awkward (but unifying) couple of weeks for us girls, nothing worse, as we never had to say anything more than we wanted to. But the principal… The display of power he’d intended instead led to him being caught in the worst page-break and led to all the girls in the school laughing their heads off, toward him, if not precisely at him. The man broke. It was weeks before he’d interact with a female student, and even then, he couldn’t do it empty-handed — he needed a school-office version of a blankie for this scary task — and he didn’t look a girl in the eye the whole first semester. Pitiable and also creepy. Creepier than the mistake that led to it all.

Thus ends the story of how hubris, a page-break, and inability to recover from a verbal flub broke a principal and the degree to which this brokenness prevented him from doing his job. What this broken man did to regain a sense of more and more power and the interesting places that led is another tale.

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Making Learning Even Harder

, , , , , | Learning | August 26, 2021

When I started student teaching, I had this site supervisor from the district who would frequently come in to observe and give feedback to student teachers from the school. She had a philosophy that if she told someone that they were doing a good job when they were not, it was not helpful. I completely agree that giving constructive feedback is crucial, but the supervisor took it to the extreme. Here are a few examples.

My students were doing a round-robin share among their tables.

Supervisor: “[My Name], you need to walk around with a purpose and ask these students questions during their share time. Engage with them; you are not doing it enough.”

During the next share time, I asked a table some questions to guide the conversation.

Supervisor: “Now you’re engaging with them too much.”

Another time, I was pulling a small group and needed the students to listen quietly to me for a minute so I could give directions. I told the students, “Shhh,” but I did not do so in a harsh tone at all, and that was a way my mentor teacher frequently got the students quiet.

After the group, my supervisor approached.

Supervisor: “You can’t say, ‘Shhh,’ to students. That’s very rude.”

And my absolute favorite incident happened during an individual meeting with the supervisor over lunch.

Supervisor: “You have to get over your anxiety and be more confident. Why aren’t you being more confident?”

Me: “I feel like I’m not doing a good job.”

Supervisor: “I’ll be honest; you’re not.”

She gave no explanation as to why she said what she did. No “You’re learning, so there is room to improve” or anything like that. I don’t remember the rest of the conversation, as I was furious at this point. However, she was yelling at me for my anxiety disorder and for struggling in the classroom.

In the end, among other reasons, I decided to withdraw from student teaching for that year. I completed it at a different district the following year, where the people giving me feedback were more constructive and weren’t constantly yelling at me. I ended up doing extremely well and received excellent recommendations from my university supervisor and mentor teacher.

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