A Civilized Disagreement

, , , , , , | Learning | July 10, 2020

I was never much into sports and preferred video games, even back in the nineties when they hadn’t quite reached the mainstream. In high school, this brings me into some conflict with one of the journalism teachers, whose other job is writing in the sports pages for the local newspaper. 

Despite our minor and mostly jocular disagreements on what constitutes news, he supports my interest in a video game review column, leading to one memorable clash. 

Teacher: “The column seems fine, except for one thing. You refer to the maker as ‘legendary’ and your column needs to be written from a neutral stance.”

Me: “He’s founded two separate game companies, and when he makes a game, they put his name on the box above the title. It’s a solid mark of quality.”

Teacher: “I get that he has some presence in the industry, but I still believe that your personal opinion on his work is coloring the piece inappropriately.”

Me: “I have an idea.”

I call out across the classroom to the only other gamer in the class, who — importantly — has NOT read my article or heard us talking.

Me: “[Classmate], I’m reviewing Alpha Centauri. What’s a good adjective to describe Sid Meier?”

Classmate: *Without hesitation* “Legendary.”

That teacher and I did not see eye to eye all the time, but I give him credit for working with me despite our differences. The column was published as written, and Sid Meier was actually inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences later that same year. He was only the second person inducted, after Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of, among others, Super Mario. Twenty-one years later, Sid Meier is still making award-winning games.

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That’ll Teach Them To Hog The Sandbox

, , , , , , , , | Learning | July 9, 2020

Back when I was in elementary school, my fifth-grade teacher was a gruff older man universally loved by the students, well-known for giving his students nicknames that lightly poked fun of them and taking no nonsense from anyone. In contrast, I was a retiring, tiny nerd girl who loved nothing better than to curl up with a good book.

One day, near the end of the year, my teacher found a book about a popular sandbox game on the floor outside the classroom. He put it on the table just outside the room and made an announcement asking the owner to claim it. Weeks went by and no one did, though I did sneak glances at some of the pages when I could since I was a huge fan of the game.

The end of the year came and the book was left unclaimed. On the last day of school, my teacher made another announcement: if anyone wanted the book, they had to come inside right before the class kickball game and he would give them the book.

Needless to say, I showed up, only to find at least six other kids from my class who wanted the book — all boys with at least four inches of height on me. As soon as I walked up to take my shot at getting the book, they began to complain. My teacher said nothing as they told me to go away because girls didn’t play that game, with all the standard game-based sexism. Even though no one had ever told me video games weren’t for girls before, I stubbornly protested and told them that even if other girls didn’t play that game, I did, and I had just as much chance of getting the book as they did.

While they were still arguing and I was getting progressively more flustered, my teacher handed me the book. The boys stopped complaining, I started beaming, and I got to take the book home. I still play that game today, and the book — which I’ve read several times — has a permanent place on my shelf. Thank you, fifth-grade teacher, for not letting a couple of bullies ruin my day.

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Going From Zero To Hero With A Splash!

, , , , , , | Learning | July 8, 2020

Our swimming club usually gets the kids who have behaviour issues and can’t be handled elsewhere. Since we are used to — untrue — negative stories, we usually don’t have opinions formed before seeing a child. But sometimes, even we get fooled by experiences from the past.

A mother asks if her thirteen-year-old son can join the swimming club. They just emigrated from an Asian nation. They speak little Dutch and a bit more English. It’s not much of a problem, so our contact person asks if he has any swimming diplomas. 

The boy has none. That country doesn’t do swimming diplomas, nor do they teach swimming classes. So, how did he learn? He taught himself! This usually sets alarm bells off because we have had plenty of parents who’ve said their angel children could swim like fish and all they could do was barely avoid drowning. 

Our first plan is to let him start at level zero as a beginner, which means, for him, knee-deep water. But, since there’s a global health crisis going on, that class hasn’t started again yet. 

The mother asks if we can please, please, give him a chance. She knows it doesn’t sound good, but he really can swim well and if we only gave him a chance, if he wasn’t good enough, she would never bother us again. Since something just feels… different from the other entitled parents, the contact person arranges a test swim. 

Seven teachers are present, ready to jump in if needed. The boy is shy and nervous, but he also looks happy when he sees the pool. One teacher will act as his “primary teacher” for the day and she asks him to show what he can do. 

Our jaws drop. Of course, he’s not an Olympic champion but… he’s good! Considering his technique, I mumble that he probably watched Olympic swimming videos as teaching material. 

It turns out that he did!

The teacher then asks him to dive. The boy looks confused; what is diving? The teacher shows it with poses — teachers are not allowed to swim yet — and the boy tries to dive. It is a good dive. He has never swum on his back before, and he does, including the backstroke! He picks it up immediately. 

Then, our most senior teacher arrives. He’s approaching ninety and has taught for around sixty years; keeping him away from the pool would be torture for him, so we’re very careful around him. “Hey, new kid?” he asks us. “So, which class will he be in? Level five?”

After class, I see the boy waiting outside. He walks up to me and asks, in broken Dutch and English, when the next class will be. I tell him to send an email to our contact person and please, please, please come back, because he swims wonderfully! A shy smile appears on his face and when I get home, I contact our contact person to say that the boy seems interested in returning. 

Due to experiences in the past, we expected someone at less than level zero. We got someone close to level five. We hope he will return — if he wants to! — because he can grow into a wonderful swimmer, perhaps even a champion!


This story is included in our Feel-Good roundup for July 2020!

Read the next Feel-Good Story here!

Read the July 2020 Feel-Good roundup!

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Exhibit 498752 In The Case For Vaccination

, , , , , | Learning | July 5, 2020

This story takes place a few years before the first whooping cough booster is released in the USA. The initial vaccine wears off in your teen years, and you are susceptible to pertussis again.

This happens in an English class discussing the historical context of a story. The atmosphere is very laid back.

Teacher: “…but diseases like whooping cough aren’t around anymore, so nobody can get them. They’re all gone.”

Me: “That’s actually not true. We’ve only ever eradicated smallpox, but you can still get whooping cough and pretty much everything else. I had whooping cough this past spring.”

Teacher: “You probably had ‘barking cough.’ It’s similar, but it’s not as bad.”

Me: “No, I’m 100% sure it was whooping cough.”

Teacher: *Condescendingly* “And how do you know?”

Me: “Because the [County] Board of Health came to our house and stuck swabs up my family’s noses and tested them for whooping cough, and then they put us under semi-quarantine for a week after starting treatment.”

Teacher: “Oh.”

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Sounds Like Denial Number Three

, , , , | Learning | July 3, 2020

I work for an online university with a ridiculously high acceptance rate. In the year I’ve worked there, I’ve only had two students ever denied out of the hundreds I have worked with. In order to get accepted, all you have to do is complete an attestation form which confirms that you have a high school diploma or equivalent. 

The form is completely free and takes about two minutes to fill out, but for some reason, many students refuse to complete it. We understand that it can be annoying, especially if someone has transfer credits from another college which proves that they graduated high school, but again, the form is free and they usually spend more time arguing about it than it would take to fill the thing out. Most people are understanding when I explain why we require it… except for this guy.

I get a notification that this student has been reassigned to me, so I go to his profile. I see he hasn’t been contacted by us in over a week, so I check the notes from the last call to see what was discussed. These are the notes from the call, copied and pasted verbatim:

“Wanted to know if he was Accepted. Let him know we’re missing an Attestation form and transcripts on file. 

“Escalated immediately about that we were requesting him to complete an Attestation form. Explained as part of admission requirements, we verify high school diploma or equivalency is completed. Said he spoke to his local congressmen and they said since he is over forty-five years old, he doesn’t have to provide that information to us. 

“Threatening to contact his lawyers to sue us if we need his diploma. Let him know the form only needed his information about where he graduated on there. Still was refusing to complete form; let him know we need that to move forward. 

“Wanted to speak to someone else ‘higher’ about this. Put on hold to try to find a TL. 

Disconnected after putting on hold.”

Basically, this grown man was so angry over having to take two minutes out of his day to complete a very simple form that he called his congressman and threatened to send a lawyer after us.

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