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Leaving Space For Silly Problems

, , , , , , | Working | CREDIT: dont_trust_pete | August 22, 2022

I supported a school computer lab for several years, and this particular issue happened a lot. It was always a quick “fix,” but I still recall the sheepish realization that the first offender and I both shared early in my tenure.

A help desk student came to my office to inform me of a user with a login issue. I reset the user’s password.

Me: “Have the user try it again.”

A few minutes later, they were back.

Student: “The new password didn’t work.”

I confirmed that the new password DID work on a machine in my office. Maybe the lab machine was off the network? Nope, it pinged fine. Lost its domain binding? Nope, still listed. Strange. I went to investigate.

The user was sitting there, trying different passwords over and over. They verified their username again, and everything looked right.

User: “I’ve tried every password I’ve ever used, plus the one you gave me. None of them work. I also tried it on that computer, but it’s broken, too.”

I turn to the other computer.

Me: “Let me try a different account.”

It worked. I checked networking and domain settings for good measure and all were good. I checked the user’s account with the temporary password I had set, and… it worked, too.

User: “What? How? My login still won’t work over here, though. Let me try the computer I sit at for class. I don’t want to be locked out again later.”

I watched as they moved down a few seats, tapped the space bar to wake the screen, and then proceeded to attempt to log in. No luck. Then, they slid down to another seat. “Tap, tap, tap, tap” on the space bar to wake it up. Still no login.

I checked the first machine again, and that’s when I saw that, in waking the machine, they’d managed to type a single space in the username field before their username. They felt pretty silly about it, and I felt like a dummy for missing such a simple error.

The help desk now has a help document that instructs users to completely clear both the username and password fields before trying again, and I’ve habitually only used CTRL, SHIFT, or the mouse to wake computers since then.

Sometimes A Face Of Stone Hides A Heart Of Gold

, , , , , , , | Learning | August 7, 2022

When I was a child in the 1980s, I went to an all-white elementary school in Kentucky; I was one of about seven or eight black children — if that! — in the entire school of an estimated 600 children. 

I wasn’t directly mistreated or bullied by other children, but most of them were always short with me and avoided me, giving me an “I’m not supposed to talk to you” look when I said something to them. I did have a few friends here and there, but for the most part, I just learned to amuse myself alone.

Then, along came our new principal, a six-foot-five black woman with an iron face permanently cast into an angry expression. For the entire six years I was there, we only saw her laugh once, and that was after someone performed a hysterical comedy act at a talent show. She always wore a long coat and would silently make her rounds throughout the school campus, not saying anything to anyone. If she came across someone monkeying around and doing something they shouldn’t, she would stop and give this soul-piercing, heart-stopping stare that would make a hardened lifer in prison piss on himself.

We… were… terrified of this woman. Anytime she’d pass by us, voices would immediately quiet and everyone would freeze. Teachers would say to persistent class clowns:

Teacher: “Do you want me to send you to Dr. [Principal]’s office?”

Kid: “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO! I’LL BE GOOD!”

On one occasion, a child started throwing a tantrum and refused to accompany the teacher to the principal’s office. After what seemed like an eternity of the brat’s screaming and yelling and “GIVE ME ONE MORE CHANCE!”, the teacher finally left the room. Moments later, the teacher reappeared with the principal.

This kid’s infantile screaming and crying immediately ceased on the spot.

Principal: *In an icy, dark tone* “Get off the floor.”

The kid complied and stood at attention.

Principal: “Pick up all those papers, books, and pencils you threw everywhere.”

The kid complied. Then, the principal pulled up a seat next to the child’s desk.

Principal: *To the teacher* “Carry on.”

And for the rest of the day, she sat next to him. When it was time to do assignments, I would hear her quietly speaking to him as he worked, saying things such as:

Principal: “What aren’t you understanding?” *Explains the task* “Okay, excellent. Now let’s move on to this assignment.”

Kid: “I can’t!”

Principal: “I’m sorry, what?” *Explains the problems more simply for him* “Correct! See? You can do it. Move to the next one.”

Meanwhile, everyone else in the classroom was working on their own assignments as if our futures depended on it.

At the end of the day, the principal said to the kid:

Principal: “Don’t make me have to come back out of my office again to deal with you… because next time, you’ll be spending the rest of the day with me in my office!”

She didn’t have to tell him twice!

One day, I was sitting with a friend outside who was telling me about someone who was picking on him.

Me: “Too bad you aren’t in LA; you could get your boys and pop a cap in his butt!”

And that was when I felt a rough tap on my shoulder. I felt my heart stop when I turned around to see… her, burning a hole through me with that fierce stare.

Principal: “First of all, nobody is popping caps anywhere. Where are you from?”

Me: *In a choked voice* “My mom lives in California. My dad came here because of his job. I lived in New York City, too.”

The principal continued her stare and then looked down at a small bag of cassette tapes in my hands, including one with music by N.W.A., a hip-hop group.

Principal: “What is this? N.W.A.?! Your dad bought this for you?!”

Me: “No, I took it out of the car. I’ll put it back.”

Principal: “But he plays it around the house where you hear it.”

Me: “Yeah?”

Principal: *With a cold stare* “Tell him he can come to pick it up from my office.” *Walks away*

I decided to just let my pissed dad think the tape had gotten lost.

A few days later, my teacher quietly informed me that the principal wanted to see me after school. Thinking I was about to be seriously punished for my foolish comment and for bringing that N.W.A. tape to school, I dragged myself to her office and walked in, shaking like a leaf.

She motioned for me to sit, but then she began asking me questions like, “How are you doing with your schoolwork?” and, “How are things at home?” and, “I notice you are usually by yourself. How are the other kids treating you?” It was much like what you’d expect from a school counselor.

The following day in the cafeteria, I was eating by myself when the principal walked over, picked up my tray, and motioned for me to come with her. She walked over to a table where several white students were sitting, sharply rapped on the surface, and ordered:

Principal: “Let him eat here!”

Kids: “Yes, ma’am!”

They scooted over to make room.

Principal: “What are you talking about over here?”

Kids: “Nintendo and stuff.”

The principal glanced at my shirt with Super Mario’s face imprinted on it.

Principal: “Seems like you have something in common with him already. Find what else you have in common!”

Kids: “Yes, ma’am!”

And just like that, I ended up with about four new friends.

Every week, I would be summoned to her office, where I would update her on everything going on with me and she would give me motivational talks about excelling in school, as well as other issues such as building stronger self-esteem, handling teasing from other kids, etc. Many of these talks would end with things like, “I expect to see no lower than an A on that science test, you hear?”

This continued every year all the way until I left for middle school.

Fast forward to ten years later when I ran into her while out and about.

Principal: “So, which is it, Harvard or Yale?”

Me: *Laughing* “We don’t have that kind of money. Just a community college. Hey, what made you pick me out of all those children to mentor all throughout grade school?”

Principal: “Many years ago, I had a son that was taken because of drugs and alcohol. He lived with my sister in Chicago and just let him have the free run of the city. He got involved with gangs and violence and ultimately lost his life at the age of eleven after being shot by a rival gang member. It was my wake-up call to get clean and devote my life to seeing that no other child goes down that road — not on my watch. I couldn’t help but see him when I saw your face, and when you were out there, first grade, talking about LA, gangs, and shooting people, and had that gangster rap tape in your hands… all I could think about was the cycle repeating. And I thought if I could save at least one child from my son’s fate, then the work I did to get myself where I was wasn’t all for nothing. And… it seems like it worked! Don’t prove me wrong.”

She passed away recently, which is what motivated me to write this. I’m eternally grateful for her caring that much to help motivate me to learn, make the right decisions, and try hard in my studies.

“Higher, Further, Faster, Baby!”

, , , , , , | Learning | August 5, 2022

I used to have a classmate whose first name was Marvel. I’m not kidding. Her sister was named Wonder.

Marvel hated her name, especially all the jokes and teasing we made at her expense. In fact, I’m the one who coined the nickname “Marvellous Misfits,” which our old teacher found so funny that he referred to our class that way for an entire year.

Many moons and years later, I bring my daughter for her first day at school — my old elementary school, to be precise. And guess who is her Homeroom teacher? It’s Marvel, dressed up as Captain Marvel.

Marvel: “Hi, kids! My name is Marvel [Surname], and I’m the Marvellous Homeroom teacher of you Marvellous Misfits!”

Later…

Me: “Hi, Marvel. I don’t suppose you remember me? I’m—”

Marvel: “Ah, [My Name]? Wow, it’s been a while.”

Me: “Yeah. I must say, I didn’t expect this of you.”

Marvel: “The teaching or the Marvellous puns?”

Me: “Both. But let’s focus on the jokes. You used to hate them so much.”

Marvel: “Well, I figured that if I couldn’t avoid them, I’d just have to own them. Just go with the flow, you know? It’s what my sister Wonder does, and she’s the life of every party.”

Me: “Wonderful.”

Marvel: “Exactly.”

Marvel was a great teacher. She made school fun and enjoyable for her students, really stimulated their interests, and encouraged their hobbies.

She also got every single student of hers hooked on the Marvel Cinematic Universe — some to an exasperating degree — but that’s another story.

Photocopiers Can Smell Fear

, , , , , , | Learning | July 21, 2022

Years ago, I taught in a public school which had just received a new photocopier for the teachers’ staff room. I am interested in technological gadgets and quickly learned how to clear jams, change paper and toner, and generally keep the machine running.

One of the other teachers worked mornings at another school in our district and afternoons in our school. She would often have photocopying to be done over her lunch hour for her afternoon classes, but she had a reputation of having problems with our photocopier.

One lunch hour, she came in to prepare for her classes and looked at me.

Teacher: “[My Name], would you please come over to the copier with me?”

Me: “Sure, but you haven’t had any problems yet; you haven’t even used it!”

Teacher: “No, but I want you here so you can intimidate it for me!”

For the record, it worked perfectly when I stood beside her.

Goodbye, Wisdom; Hello, Wit

, , , , , , , , | Learning | July 15, 2022

I am the author of this story about my son who is famous for his one-liners.

A few years ago, we had to take him out of school to get his wisdom teeth pulled before we could start the process of braces. It was the Friday before a three-day weekend, so he didn’t go back to school until the following Tuesday. When he returned to school, his best friend asked why he was absent.

Son: “I was getting my wisdom teeth pulled, so now I can speak only stupid.”

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