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Group Projects Can Be A Roller Coaster

, , , , | Learning | October 16, 2021

At my high school, all juniors — sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds for non-Americans — have to take Physics. Both the honors and regular courses have the exact same final project: build a working model roller coaster and do your best to “sell it” to your classmates during your presentation.

For this project, we are supposed to make our own groups of either three or four people. No more, no less. Of course, I immediately partner up with the one close friend I have in my class period, but we still need a third. That third ends up being a girl we are somewhat acquainted with that no one else seems to want in their group. This should be our first red flag regarding her, but we don’t have a choice regardless.

Initially, things go fairly well as we’re given class time here and there to plan out our schematic and theme. It’s at this point that we get our second red flag: we both notice that our third member isn’t super engaged. This is especially true with the math-based parts of the schematic that we have to include as part of our grade, but we shrug it off because the two of us are doing well in the class and it isn’t especially hard.

Fast forward until about two weeks before everything is due. We start planning out-of-school meetings to gather supplies and start building. After we section off who’s buying what, we struggle to figure out where we can meet that’ll have the room we need.

Groupmate: “Hey, maybe I can ask my Grandma if we can go to hers on Saturday? She lives just around the corner from here.”

Friend: “Works for me.”

Me: “Yeah, same.”

However, that Friday evening, she shoots us a text.

Groupmate: “Sorry, my gram’s in the hospital and we’ll all be there with her all day tomorrow so we can’t meet.”

Me: “Oh, heck. That’s fine. Hope she’s all right!”

I immediately call my friend because we can really only meet on weekends due to conflicting extracurriculars, and we only have two of those weekends left. After she manages to pull some strings to get a back room reserved for us at her family’s church, we ultimately decide to just bite the bullet and have the two of us meet anyway to at least start on the model.

While we’re building up our base, we take a small break and my friend checks her phone. After a few minutes, she starts scowling before turning to me.

Friend: “Holy s***, [My Name], check [Groupmate]’s Snapchat story.”

Apparently, our groupmate forgot she had us both added on social media because she has posted several pictures of her looking as happy as can be in a brand new car that was apparently a belated birthday present from her parents. Of course, we’re both fuming, but there isn’t much we can do at this point. 

We eventually decide to just work through the day to get as much of the model done as possible. We debate having our third member create the presentation on her own time, but we decide it isn’t worth the risk since we know she has pretty abysmal knowledge of what we are doing at this point.

Monday morning, the two of us hunt down our Physics teacher. We both explain to her what’s going on and show her both the text our groupmate sent, as well as the proof of what she was actually up to that day. 

Teacher: “Hm, unfortunately, there isn’t much I can do right now. Y’all aren’t finished with your coaster yet, right?”

Me: “No, we were going to try and finish it up Friday, and we still have the whole presentation to make.”

Teacher: “Okay, let me know if she doesn’t help out then. We’re also going to do group member evaluations after presentations are over, so make sure you’re both honest on those and I’ll keep them in mind when grading. I’ll make sure you two don’t suffer if she doesn’t end up doing anything because I absolutely remember exactly how crappy that felt when I was in school.”

And, what do you know, she ends up flaking on us again by not only completely ignoring our texts but also by not even coming to school Friday. We end up finishing the project on our own that evening.

Friend: “I’m going to be honest: I hope she skips again the day we present. She’s going to ruin the whole f****** presentation if she has to do it with us.”

Me: “No kidding. She literally doesn’t know s***. I might actually ask [Teacher] about that if she does show up.”

The day finally came to present and we did just that. We were informed that our third member would, unfortunately, have to present with us; however, by the grace of the gods, she did end up skipping that day, probably knowing just how screwed she’d be if she did show up. 

Despite our two-man show, we ended up not only killing our presentation but also winning the first round of voting for the competition the Physics teachers set up for bonus points. We were also brutally honest on our group member evaluations about our third member. When it was all said and done, my friend and I got scores in the high nineties. Neither of us know exactly what score the other girl ended up getting, but we did find out later from a mutual friend that she failed the class and had to go to credit recovery that following summer.

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No, Fine Dining In Greece Hasn’t Gone To The Dogs

, , , | Learning | September 27, 2021

Some of my relatives come from Greece, and this is probably why some of the other students in my class loved to ask me whether we ate dogs at home while flaunting a mock-concerned expression. When I told them people don’t eat dogs in Greece, they would gleefully inform me that they had eaten dog while in Greece. “The waiter told me so himself!”

I found it to be an odd lie, but as these kinds of statements would usually come from students who were very fond of attention, I figured it was just one of the many lies they told to get attention and/or bully me. It was just odd that three people in my class told the same lie.

The summer before I started my last year at that school, my family and I went on vacation to Corfu. This time the vacation was a bit more interesting, as we spent time with some of the friends of my family who had kids who could speak English.

Most of them were a couple of years older than me. All of them either worked as waiters in restaurants or had done so earlier, so of course, I told them about my idiotic classmates and their ridiculous statements about eating dogs. I expected them to be annoyed about the implicit racism, but instead, they all laughed. It turns out that if guests in the restaurant were rude, they’d tell the guests that they had just eaten dog, hoping that the rude guests would vomit. They’d figure that since rude guests usually didn’t tip well anyway, they might as well be rude back.

When I came back to school after the summer, one of the girls in my class came to me and asked in the most innocent tone if I had eaten dog during my vacation.

Me: “I told you already: they don’t eat dogs in Greece!”

Classmate: “Yes, they do. I already told you the waiter told me so himself.”

Me: “And had you, by any chance, been rude to him before he told you this?”

Classmate: “…”

Me: “Yeah, he was trying to make you vomit as payback for your rudeness. I hung out with several people who work as waiters this summer and they all said that this is a very common way to get payback.”

Cue several other classmates looking embarrassed. Funnily, none of the idiots ever repeated their ridiculous claim again.

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¡Que Embarazada!, Part 3

, , , , , , , | Friendly | September 13, 2021

Over the summer holidays, my class lost a member. [Classmate] is now a mother to an adorable little girl. The birth was in August, right before the school term started.

She spent a great deal of the last school year pregnant. And once she began to show, it exploded into a big scandal, and [Classmate] was expelled in May due to her pregnancy.

She eventually argued her rights to an education and reached a settlement with the school, where she was allowed to return and continue studying, but she was still relentlessly mocked by basically everyone for her pregnancy and motherhood — including, shamefully enough, my girlfriend and me. Both of us were her classmates, and we were rather nasty about our opinions on her pregnancy. We needled her relentlessly through most of September.

Six months or so later, in March, my girlfriend gave birth to our own adorable little girl. Turns up I knocked her up in June. That meant she was three months pregnant when we were mocking [Classmate]’s pregnancy.

The irony wasn’t lost on either of us. We learnt our lesson and promptly apologised to [Classmate]. She forgave us, thankfully, and our daughters are now playmates.

¡Que Embarazada!, Part 2
¡Que Embarazada!

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Double Standards Don’t Help Anyone Succeed

, , , , , | Learning | August 22, 2021

I was in fourth or fifth grade when this happened. I’m a girl, and at this time, I was also dealing with what would later be diagnosed as high-functioning autism. As a result, I had a really hard time interacting with my classmates. I did my best to learn what kind of behaviour was appropriate in different situations, but I found it to be very difficult, because the rules kept changing around depending on the individuals who were involved. 

One bright winter day, my classmates and I were playing King of the Hill on a big snowdrift in the schoolyard. The class bully kept winning, and I found it unfair, because he was so much bigger and stronger than the rest of us, and I thought he should give someone else a go instead of just kicking off anyone who tried to make an attempt to get to the top. This inevitably escalated into a fight between me and the bully, because I thought that the same rules applied to all children and had not yet grasped that girls were not supposed to fight. 

We ended up in an empty classroom with our teacher. It’s important to note that we were both chubby children, but [Class Bully] was tall and broad while I was short and squat. I’d been bullied for being fat for years, while no one had ever dared to say anything to [Class Bully].

Teacher: “Can you please tell me what happened?

Class Bully: “[My Name] said I was fat and to get off the hill!”

Me: “That’s not what happened! I told him he should let someone else have a chance to be King! I just said he’s as big as two people and it wasn’t fair!”

[Class Bully] started crying, which was usually what he did when he was being called out for his behaviour and there was an adult present.

Teacher: “[My Name], I’m very disappointed in you. You know bullying isn’t acceptable at this school!”

In fact, bullying was very much acceptable at this school; it just depended on who was doing the bullying.

Me: “But I wasn’t bullying him.”

Teacher: “You can’t go around calling other children fat. That sort of thing hurts. I’m going to have to call your parents about this.”

Me: “I didn’t say he was fat; I said he was big!”

Teacher: “It means the same thing, and it’s very hurtful. You need to be more considerate of others, [My Name]. See how sad you’ve made [Class Bully]?”

Me: “But the other children call me fat all the time; how is that any different? Why am I not allowed to say it?”

Teacher: “Well, we can’t always say everything we think. Now, apologize to [Class Bully] and then go home and think about what you’ve done.”

In my mind, I hadn’t done anything different than what the other kids were already doing to me without consequences, but in my little mental flowchart of human interaction, I carefully noted down, “Other children may be mean to me, but I may not be mean to them.”

This, and a hundred other little incidents like it, led to me, a few years later, being scolded by my teachers for not speaking up in class and not standing up for myself. 

It was very, very confusing until I reached my twenties and finally got a therapist who explained to me that I was not the stupid one.

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No Buying Your Way Out Of This One

, , , , , , , | Learning | August 20, 2021

[Student] is in our engineering course. He doesn’t listen to anything the lecturer says, doesn’t make notes, and is often late. Halfway through the year, he brags that he hasn’t done a single assignment himself. He either paid someone to write them or bought them online.

As someone who struggles daily, this infuriates me. Just because he has money, why should he have the easy life?!

After another bragging session a few weeks on, I speak to my professor, who tells me sadly that if there is no proof and the plagiarism isn’t evident, they can’t do anything about it. But “these people never get far.”

I take that as some meaningless platitude and try my best to avoid [Student] altogether.

The rest of the year, I struggle through the course getting average marks. [Student] gets 100% every time. Right at the end of the academic year, this happens:

Lecturer: “Good news, everyone! We have decided to scrap the last assignment.”

Cheers come from the class.

Lecturer: “But we will be having a test, instead.”

Cue lots of groans.

Lecturer: “Don’t worry. We devised a special one, just for this class.”

We all crammed like crazy. [Student] was particularly panicking. When we got to the test, it was incredibly easy, with basic answers from the coursework, just simple understanding questions. Everyone finished it in minutes… all apart from [Student].

He got a redo, failed, then had a retest date, and he failed that, too. He couldn’t pass without the exam and ended up repeating the whole year.

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

Read the next Best Of August 2021 roundup story!

Read the Best Of August 2021 roundup!

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