Fostering Some Growth In Your Classmates

, , , , , , | Learning | April 27, 2021

This happened in the mid-1980s. My state had just declared that only straight people could now foster children and I was one of many protesting this new policy. I was also getting an education degree. One of my teachers had us form small groups and choose an issue in the news about children or education to present on at the end of the quarter. I ended up in a group of about five people I didn’t know. I suggested the foster care topic and everyone agreed.

Our first meeting was in a restaurant. One of my fellow group members, [Student], was a bit older than the rest of us and brought along his eight-year-old daughter. He didn’t see the problem with the policy change.

Student: “I mean, I wouldn’t want a gay person babysitting my daughter.”

Me: “Oh. So, you wouldn’t want me to babysit her?”

Student: “What? No. You could babysit her. I just don’t want a gay person to.”

Me: “I see. So, I couldn’t watch her.”

Student: “I’d be happy to have you watch her. I just don’t want her around gay people.”

This continued back and forth a few times and he was completely clueless. The other students were trying not to laugh.  

Over the next month or two, we kept meeting and [Student] was always polite but still homophobic and opposed to gay foster parents. It didn’t matter for the project as we were only giving a factual overview and then each presenting on our own sub-topics, so we didn’t have to agree. [Student] had been planning something about how terrible it was for children to be raised by parents who weren’t straight. Eventually, I came out to him formally. He was surprised and didn’t say much.

At our last meeting before the presentation, we went over each of our sub-topics as some had changed a bit.

Student #2: “So, [Student], what have you decided for yours?”

Student: “I’m going to talk about the psychological harm to children when they’re taken away from their loving gay foster parents.”

And so he did. It was perfect.


This story is part of our Feel Good roundup for April 2021!

Read the next Feel Good roundup for April 2021 story!

Read the Feel Good roundup for April 2021!

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Cut This Lesson Short

, , , , , , , | Learning | April 26, 2021

My mother is a high school maths teacher working with some of the younger and more difficult students. To try and encourage her students, she stamps their work with various motivational phrases.

A few minutes after giving her class back their homework, she notices one student looking a bit puzzled for a few minutes before putting his hand up.

Student: “Miss, what’s a eunuch?”

Although this isn’t exactly a maths question, my mum decides to try and answer anyway.

Mum: “Uh, well, a long time ago, in some countries, nobles used to have lots of wives or girlfriends who were all housed in special rooms within their palaces. You know how dogs can get neutered to prevent them having puppies? Well, they used to do that to some of their male servants so that they could be trusted to look after the women, and those servants were called eunuchs.”

As you can imagine, all of the students in the class have stopped what they were doing and are watching this scene. The student looks even more puzzled and a bit angry.

Student: “Well, why did you call me a eunuch, then?”

Mum: “What? What are you talking about? When did I call you a eunuch?”

Student: “You did! You wrote it on my homework!”

Mum: “I don’t know what you’re talking about! Show me.”

The student stormed up to her desk with his homework in hand and showed her the message she had stamped on it. What did it say?

“You’re unique.”

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Those |337 Haxxor Skillz Are Finally Paying Off

, , , , , , | Learning | April 24, 2021

Our school’s MFL (Modern Foreign Languages) department has signed up to [Website], which has lots of puzzles and vocabulary testing. [Website] is not particularly well made, and soon, people are finding bugs.

[Classmate #1] finishes a test and clicks “Submit.” The website buffers, and [Classmate #1] clicks repeatedly, at speed.

Website: “You have gained 1,000 out of 100 points on this test!”

This, of course, is shared loudly and excitedly with other students. For that entire lesson, nobody does any work, and instead, everyone utilises the easiest game on the website to gain hundreds of points in seconds.

My friend meanwhile does Computer Science for A-Level. Having recently completed a unit about websites and security, he decides to take a look at the code behind the website. He identifies how, at the end of the puzzle, the authentication key stops changing, letting the website send the points several times. He also identifies the exact request being sent to the website’s database, and writes a line in cURL, which sends a request to the website.

Website: “You now have 1,000 more points than before!”

My friend now sets up a while: True loop repeating the request. (A while loop repeats something while a condition is true, and True is always true, so it does it infinitely.) It runs overnight.

Teacher: “Wow, everyone, I’m impressed! You’ve all clearly done lots of homework; the school has over a million points!”

This would have taken rather longer than we had, but several other schools have several million points. Therefore, my friend declares his intention to reach a BILLION points!

Me: “I don’t think that’s wise. Ms. [Teacher] will notice your absurd score.”

Friend #1: “It’s fine. Everyone else has really high scores from that previous glitch. Besides, the scores reset every month [in about a week].”

Me: “Still, you might get in trouble with the [Website] technicians.”

Friend #1: “The whole website is bad; they probably don’t have much to do. And it isn’t as if I will hurt the server; they will have [technical stuff] in place to stop my requests from overloading the server.”

The program runs fine overnight, but the next day he is disappointed that he “only” earned several million points. Trusting in [Website]’s ability to withstand his onslaught, despite the fact that it has up until this point been coded mostly with Swiss cheese, he sets up a loop that will open his program in new windows. Within a few seconds, he has several thousand windows open and his program almost overloads his own computer, though he stops his program pretty quickly.

Friend #1: *Via text* “I’ve just DOSed [Website]. The police will come to my house now.”

Spoiler: they don’t.

After confirming that I am unable to do my own homework on the website:

Me: “I warned you about loops, bro. I told you about loops.”

However, about half an hour later, the server is back up again, and [Friend]’s own Wi-Fi is immediately destroyed by the server, which sends a reply to every packet [Friend] sent to it. In the meantime, however, he has shared the original loop, which did not crash the program, with a friend of ours with a better connection. It is at this point that a technician notices. Encoded in the replies to the packets the program sends is this message:

Technician: “Oi, matey, I see you. Stop that.”

The technician changes the authentication key which is being used by the program [Friend #1] wrote. Of course, [Friend #2] now knows what to look for and manages to get it running again.

The next morning, [Friend #1] and [Friend #2] find that the entire school has zero points on the accounts. During a lesson that day:

Teacher: “I’ve just received an email from [Website]. It says that several students have been messing with [Website] and that the school’s score has been reset to zero! It also says that [Friend #1] and [Friend #2] are clearly very clever and that they would like to talk to them?!”

[Website] corresponded with the school and my friends for a while; they seemed more impressed than annoyed. They managed to fix many of the bugs, and eventually, [Friend #1] was offered work experience with [Website]!

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Inattentive About Attendance

, , , , , , | Learning | April 23, 2021

Back when I was in middle school, when students completed eighth grade, the school would have a “graduation” to celebrate the student’s move up to high school. This graduation was similar to high school graduation; however, it focused more on the achievements of students, with many awards given. From academic achievements to sports achievements, almost every student received an award.

I was always a high achieving student, but I was never the top one — I missed being in the top 5% of my graduating class from high school by one person, for example — so I knew it was unlikely I would receive any academic awards.

My claim to fame at the time was the fact that I hadn’t missed a day of school since kindergarten. I know, nowadays everyone realizes how bad it is to give an award for coming to school when sick, but back then it really mattered to me. To get the perfect attendance award at the graduation, you had to not have missed a single day of seventh and eighth grade: two full years of classes you had to go to. And I had.

This was additionally impressive because I had a birth deformity that caused me to have over a dozen surgeries by the time I graduated high school. Over my time in middle school, I had two surgeries. Despite being in tremendous pain and taking strong painkillers, I was always in school long enough for it to count.

The day before the graduation, I went to the front office to ask a question about something unrelated and got on the topic of graduation with the secretary who was assisting me. I asked about the perfect attendance award, and while she told me she wasn’t allowed to release the names of who was getting what award before graduation, she did know there was one name for that award. I thought that confirmed it; I was guaranteed at least one award.

The next evening was graduation. I was super excited, as is any student; we all thought we were so cool, about to start high school. The night was wearing on, and we got to the final few awards. I hadn’t received a single award, which I expected, but I wasn’t upset because I knew my award was coming. Finally, they announced the award, went on a spiel about how some years no one wins this award, but this year there was one!

I was getting ready to stand, as I was also on crutches for an unrelated injury to my ankle; the student sitting next to me knew I was expecting this award and had agreed to help me stand up when it came.

They announced the name… and it wasn’t me. I was so upset, and the other kid looked a bit confused. I almost started crying at graduation. The awards finished and I didn’t receive anything.

I found a friend and expressed how upset I was, and he mentioned that we should talk to the guidance counselor. We eventually found her, and I expressed how upset I was that my name wasn’t called for the award. She initially gave me some pushback — apparently, a computer program spits out the correct students for each award so it’s “never wrong” — but I pushed too. She said she would check as a favour to me, and we left her.

Before the end of the night, the counselor found me again with my parents. She told me she’d read the program incorrectly; I was the only person to get perfect attendance. The student whose name was called had only missed one day and was second on the list. She told me she would print out another certificate and get it dropped off at my homeroom for the next morning.

At this point, it meant nothing to me. As a middle schooler who was smart but not the smartest, athletic but not the most athletic, and going through what I would later realize was a depressive episode, this was supposed to be my one moment to shine. My homeroom teacher the next morning tried to make a point to present my award, but no one really cared. I got home and threw the award away.

I learned my lesson, though: my next surgery, I took an entire week off school and really milked my recovery period.

Eight years later in college, I now have problems seeing the importance of attending classes, because that one teacher let me down when it meant the most to me.

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Time To Install A Brain Upgrade

, , , , , | Learning | April 22, 2021

I work for a small software company affiliated with a nearby university. We are licensed to sell and support the software while students can use it for free. A very small part of my job is monitoring the customer service email. Because we are a small company with clients who email their support engineers directly, it is typically college students looking for an excuse to turn in their homework late. 

I had one guy call the customer service line and leave a voicemail at 5:37 pm and claim he couldn’t do his homework that was due at 5:30 pm because we didn’t pick up. You know, ignoring the fact he had two weeks to contact us and we only answer software questions, which you don’t actually need to do the homework if you are paying attention in class.

I have just given one PhD student a new install package to run.

Student: “I tried to install it and it doesn’t work.”

Me: “I am going to need more information. Can you confirm that it was installed properly by checking to see if [folder] is empty or has files in it?”

The student sends me a heavily clipped screenshot of what doesn’t even look like our software.

Student: “What does this mean?”

Me: “Hello. Unfortunately, I don’t know which context this is in so I cannot help you with that. Let’s focus on troubleshooting. Did you check [folder]? Did you also check your app settings to see if it was installed correctly?”

Student: “Does it matter where it is installed?”

Me: “It does matter where it is installed. That is why I am asking if you can see the files in that folder or not. Can you please let me know if they are there?”

Student: “Can’t you just send me a new license?”

Me: *Thinking* “Are you going to actually install it this time or not?”

For the record, it turned out he was trying to install a second copy on his work computer, which is a big no-no and goes against the contract he signed. It also didn’t work out for him because of permissions at his work. Oh, well.

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