This Conversation Just Became Priority Number Two

, , , | Learning | July 2, 2020

I am a junior primary teacher teaching year two — seven- and eight-year-olds. My class is on Free Activity, playing quietly in the classroom. I take a phone call from the principal. We are having a serious discussion about the consequences for [Male Student’s] recent behaviour.

Female Student: *Running up* “MISS [MY NAME], I NEED TO POOP!”

Me: *To the principal* “One moment.” *To the student* “Okay, [Female Student]. Please go to the toilet.”

Female Student: *At top volume* “I NEED TO POOP! IT’S COMIN’ OUT!”

Me: “Okay, just stay calm and go to the toilet—”

Female Student: “I’M HOLDIN’ IT IN BUT IT’S COMING OUT!”

Me: *To the principal* “I think I need to handle this.”

I hung up. The student needed some persuading to stop yelling and go to the toilet. She was fine and didn’t need a change of pants. In fact, she came back in with a huge grin and a thumbs-up! Later, when I went to see my principal to continue our discussion, he and the vice principal were having a big giggle about what they’d heard through the phone.

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A Teacher Devoid Of Common Sense

, , , , , , | Learning | July 1, 2020

A very long time ago — in the 1970s — I was taking a general science course called “Physical Science”. This was a required course, so the classroom was very large and packed full of students, most of whom were only present because it was required.

The instructors of two adjacent Physical Science classrooms frequently opened up the temporary wall between the classes and held joint class sessions, especially when reviewing material for examinations. The instructors had very different teaching styles; [Popular Teacher] was popular with students and always cheerful, while [Strict Teacher] was very formal and was widely reported to have never smiled. 

Even in my early teens, I was very interested in science. I frequently read science and engineering journals at the school library — which irritated the head librarian as those journals were intended for the teaching staff. As a result, I was usually bored to tears in the Physical Science class. The material presented was intended for a general audience of people unfamiliar — and often uninterested — in science, specifically to give students a basic understanding of what science was. I was enrolled in [Strict Teacher]’s class and often clashed with him when he put out material from the required curriculum which was outdated and/or inaccurate. 

“There are three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas,” [Strict Teacher] explained.

“Excuse me, Mr. [Strict Teacher]?” I interjected. “I read an article in Scientific American which says plasma is a fourth state of matter.”

“I read the same article,” the teacher explained, “but I have to teach what is currently in the course textbooks.”

Since I was usually right, we would have a brief discussion in class about the new information which hadn’t made it into the course materials, and my grade never suffered for challenging his authority.

[Popular Teacher], on the other hand, did not enjoy being questioned by students. He was popular with most of his students because he encouraged those with no interest in science to tease and mock those who wanted to learn. Oddly, [Strict Teacher]’s students tended to have higher test scores in all manner of scientific subjects than the students in [Popular Teacher]’s classes.

During one of the joint class sessions, while discussing scientific terminology, [Popular Teacher] mentioned that the suffix “-oid” was used to describe something similar to the root term. A couple of students asked about hemorrhoids, which [Popular Teacher] said didn’t count. Another student asked about asteroids, at which point [Popular Teacher] began to mock the students questioning him, calling them “nasty kids.”

[Strict Teacher] went rigid with anger, because [Popular Teacher] was belittling students who were at least interested in the material, encouraging their uninterested classmates to bully them. Because he was unwilling to confront [Popular Teacher] in front of the students and thereby diminish [Popular Teacher]’s authority in the classroom, [Strict Teacher] held his tongue, but he looked annoyed.

I raised my hand, and [Strict Teacher] called on me.

“Excuse me, Mr. [Popular Teacher],” I said. “’Hemorrhoid’ is a medical term adding the ‘-oid’ suffix to the Greek word for ‘vein’. ‘Hemorrhoid’ basically means, ‘little vein.’ So that was a valid question.”

“All right, smart guy,” said [Popular Teacher]. “What about ‘asteroid’, then?”

“Also valid,” I confirmed. “’Aster’ is the Greek word for ‘star’, so ‘asteroid’ means ‘little star’.”

[Popular Teacher], slightly taken aback, just said, “Okay, whatever.”

As [Popular Teacher] tried to get his lesson back on track, I noticed [Strict Teacher] turn quickly away from the class… to hide his smile.


This story is part of our July 2020 Roundup – the best stories of the month!

Read the next July 2020 Roundup story!

Read the July 2020 Roundup!

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Boys Will Be Boys, Right?

, , , , , | Learning | June 30, 2020

I work as a tutor at an “academy” whose programme was specifically created to help kids learn English through reading. It’s important to note that the programme was created in South Korea and is licensed out to business owners who are mostly also native Korean speakers. This mostly isn’t a problem, but sometimes…

One of my students is a particularly bright ten-year-old whose English is excellent and who reads at quite a high level. He tends to be assigned longer books as a result.

Me: “Hey, buddy, how’s it going? What did you read this week?” 

Student: *Looking worried* “Uh… Lord of the Flies.”

Me: “I’m sorry? Did you say Lord of the Flies?”

Student: “Yes.”

I know that some literary classics are published in abridged and expurgated versions to make them more accessible for younger audiences. I wouldn’t think this treatment would work for “Lord of the Flies,” but maybe?

Me: “Can I take a look at your copy of the book?”

He produces the book. Nope, it’s exactly the same edition I read in high school when I was seventeen.

Student: “You know, um, I don’t think this book is for kids. It was really scary.”

Me: “You’re definitely right about that.”

After his session was over, I went to my boss and suggested that this particular book not be assigned to kids younger than about fifteen. She seemed baffled at the idea that a literary classic that’s ABOUT children might not be FOR children — “It’s on the programme list!” — but I eventually persuaded her not to assign it to any more preteens.


This story is part of our Book Lovers roundup!

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This Student Is Not Paralyzed By Fear!

, , , , , , | Learning | June 28, 2020

I’m in the third grade, about eight years old, and due to birth defects, I have to use a wheelchair. 

Not only am I fairly independent, but I’m a bit of a daredevil. I’m not one to stay on the asphalt playing four square or tetherball; I love the monkey bars.

We have a new teacher as a playground monitor, and she seems to think of me as a delicate flower or something. It’s the first day of school, and at recess, my friends help me wheel over the grass to the monkey bars.

Cue the playground monitor running at full speed, blowing her whistle, and yelling at me to get down before I get hurt.

As she arrives in a panic, we explain that I climb all the time. One of my friends tells her, “Even if [My Name] falls, he’s not going to get paralyzed-er.”

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Adject Horror

, , , , , | Right | June 25, 2020

I am an upperclassman running the freshman orientation. As an icebreaker, we’ve decided to play the adjective name game, where each person thinks of an adjective that starts with the first letter of their name.

Me: “Everyone think of an adjective that starts with the first letter of your name and share it when it’s your turn!”

Freshman: “What’s an adjective?”

Who knows how she got into college!

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