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Better Use It Carefully Or It Could Change Your Life!

, , , , , , | Learning | September 28, 2021

In university, my minor is in Translation. At the start of the first seminar of one of the courses, the teacher has us fill out a questionnaire. Some of the questions are straightforward and their purpose is clear, like, “Why are you interested in translation?” or, “What are your source and target languages?” (These are, respectively, the language you’ll be translating from and the one you’ll be translating into — in my case, English and Dutch.)

Other questions are less straightforward, like, “What is your favorite word in your source language?” (For the record, it’s “defenestrate”.) And then there’s this question:

Question: “Which words from your source language do you think native speakers would find hard to spell?”

Um… what? How am I supposed to know what words native English speakers find hard to spell, not being a native speaker of English myself? I ponder this question a bit, and all I can come up with is “knowledge” because it is spelled differently from its pronunciation, but again, I don’t know! The questionnaire is asking for multiple words, though, so I continue thinking, but I’m stuck.

All that’s going through my mind is the commercial I saw right before I went to class, for “Mary Poppins,” the musical. I start tapping along to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” trying to think of difficult English words. And then it hits me. THAT is a word that would be difficult to spell! Feeling a little mischievous, thoroughly done with this weird question, and also wondering what my teacher will make of it, I write Mary Poppins’ magical word down and hand in my questionnaire.

At the next seminar, the teacher returns our questionnaires with feedback. Next to my musically inspired answer is a question mark.

Teacher: “If you have any questions about my feedback, please ask them now.”

Me: “I have one, ma’am. What does this question mark next to question fourteen mean?”

Teacher: “Oh, yes, that. You know, you weren’t supposed to make up words for that question, [My Name].”

I’m puzzled that the teacher, who has kids, is apparently unfamiliar with this movie.

Me: “I didn’t? It’s from Mary Poppins.”

Before the teacher can respond, one of my classmates groans.

Classmate #1: “Did you seriously write down ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’?”

Me: “Yep!”

Now the teacher is the puzzled one.

Teacher: “This is really a word?”

Classmate #2: “It’s a song, ma’am.” *Starts singing* “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious…”

I and several other classmates fall in and sing the chorus and others start laughing and clapping along, until most of the class ends up singing,

Class: “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”

We’re all laughing, while the teacher is looking at us like we’ve all turned purple.

Teacher: *Bewildered* “Okay, I guess it’s a word. You can ignore that question mark, [My Name].”

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Even Chris Griffin Isn’t That Stupid

, , , , , | Learning | September 26, 2021

It’s the first day of classes, so we’re going over the syllabus.

Professor: “Now, here are my rules on using technology in class. I don’t mind y’all taking notes or whatever digitally as long as that’s actually what you’re doing and you aren’t being a distraction. A couple of years back, I caught one guy on his phone during an exam. The weird part was that he wasn’t even cheating. He was watching Family Guy! Good lord, can you imagine watching a TV show on your phone during an exam?! Or sitting next to someone that is?! Don’t be that guy, please.”

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There’s Snow Way That’s A Good Idea

, , , , , , , | Learning | September 24, 2021

Every year, my graduate program brings in a crop of new potential students for an “interview weekend.” Knowing that these students are visiting other schools as well, we try to make sure that they not only learn about the program but also have a good time.

One year, we book a banquet hall for a nice dinner on the last night of the interview weekend. It’s a fancy catered meal with current students, potential students, and professors. This particular banquet hall happens to be attached to a major league baseball stadium, though it’s not currently baseball season. From the windows of the hall, we can see the empty field covered in snow while we eat dinner.

[Professor] is the youngest professor in the department, and though he’s a nice guy, he’s constantly trying to show the students that he’s the “cool” professor. After dinner ends, he stands up and taps on his glass for everyone’s attention.

Professor: “I hear there’s been some interest in going down onto the field to run the bases at [Stadium].”

Students: “Yaaaay!”

Professor: “Well, I asked if we could, and they said we can’t.”

Students: “Awww.”

Professor: “But WHO WANTS TO DO IT ANYWAY?!”

He stood up. Immediately, about fifty students stood up, as well, and followed him out into the hall. Admittedly, I was one of them. Hey, if a professor is leading the charge, he’d be the one to get in trouble, right?

He led us on a march through hallways, down stairs, and through doors. At some point, I think we crossed a sky bridge from the banquet hall into the stadium itself, which I had assumed would be locked in some way, but it wasn’t.

During our march, a few of us got cold feet — a passing custodian warned us that we’d get arrested — so we positioned ourselves where we could see the field and just watched to see what would happen.

Apparently, [Professor] and the mob of students were able to make their way right to the double doors that led directly onto the field. A friend of mine says that, in retrospect, he thinks [Professor]’s plan was to get to those doors, show they couldn’t be opened, and lead the disappointed but excited grad students back to the banquet hall.

Instead, the double doors opened. [Professor] turned around, shocked, only to be mown down by a mob of gleeful students that he had unleashed on the empty stadium. From my vantage on the sky bridge, I saw students running the bases, throwing snowballs, and making snow angels in the outfield. Some kind of loud alarm instantly started blaring, and security removed everyone from the field. Our entire department was then kicked out of the banquet hall and told we were banned for life.

I never found out what happened to [Professor]. But I did hear that our wonderful administrators, as soon as they heard what happened, sent flowers and apologies to the staff at the banquet hall. When the following year’s interview weekend rolled around, we were somehow allowed back!

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Art Is About Baring Your Soul

, , , , , , , | Learning | September 22, 2021

When I was a graduate student at university, I had a job as a teaching assistant for a Geology 101 lab. Basically, we worked with the students to identify rocks and work with geologic maps, and we had an introduction to looking at rocks through a microscope.

Every week in one particular lab, this very attractive coed would arrive just as the bell rang to start the lab. It was obvious she had run there to make it on time, so the TAs never gave her any grief. The strange thing was that she always wore a long raincoat.

This was in Seattle, so raincoats were a common sight, as were umbrellas. The thing was, she wore the raincoat even if it was sunny outside. One day, I approached her when she asked for help and suggested she might be more comfortable if she took off her raincoat.

She smiled at me.

Student: “I might be, but nobody else would be.”

I looked confused, so she whispered:

Student: “I am a life model in the art school, and I don’t have time to get dressed after working for a class. I’m naked under here.”

To say it was difficult to maintain my concentration in that lab following that disclosure would be an understatement.

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Treat Me Like A Dog And I May Just Bite

, , , , | Learning | September 16, 2021

I work as a tutor for research methods in psychology. This is my fourth year, and I must say that I absolutely adore my job! If I didn’t have to get up so early for it — 8:00 am class, urgh — I would do it for free.

The class works like this: the students come over, we hand them worksheets, and they solve the problems. If they have questions, they can ask one of us.

Normally, the students are super nice, thankful for the help, and sweet, but a few weeks ago, I had my first entitled student encounter EVER!

I was sitting on my bench, scanning the class for raised hands, and this entitled first-year student snapped his fingers and whistled, and as I looked at him in disbelief, he waved at me in this “Italian mafioso” manner — outstretched arm, chin raised, not moving his hand, just making a “come here” motion with his fingers.

Really, he did almost all the disrespectful “calling someone” behaviours at once. I think there would only be shouting “garcon” left for him to be more of an idiot.

My boss was sitting right next to me and all she did was raise an eyebrow.

I went over to the student, ready to rumble.

Entitled Student: “Yeah, I don’t know how to solve this problem. Can’t find the approach.”

Me: “Okay, if you have a question, I am happy to help you. You can raise your hand or call my name, just like the other students do. What you cannot do to call me is snap your fingers, whistle, or gesture like a mafioso.”

Entitled Student: “What? Why?”

Me: “Because I am not a dog.”

Entitled Student: “Oh, come on. It’s not such a big deal.”

Me: “Actually, it is. It’s not appropriate. And now you’ve been told that it’s not appropriate, so I know for a fact that you’ve heard me. If you want help, call one of us in an appropriate manner or no one will react.”

With these words, I turned around and went back to the bench where my boss was still sitting. I told her what had happened and luckily, she approved.

The entitled student sat there for a while, stared at his paper, then packed his things and went home. 

I think that he learned his lesson as, the next week, he raised his hand when he had a question.

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