Someone Failed Here, And It Wasn’t The Student

, , , , , | Learning | July 7, 2020

In 2014, I was a mature student in my final year of a part-time Computer Science degree. The final year involved a software development project which ran over two semesters and all students were allocated an individual Project Supervisor, who helped us develop the project and gather requirements, etc. We also had a Project Coordinator, who we were timetabled with once per week, and who was supposed to guide us through managing the project and writing our dissertation.

During the penultimate week of the autumn semester, our Project Coordinator was going to great lengths to prepare us for our first milestone, a presentation showcasing our project and the work we had done to date. She repeatedly emphasised that we must not fail the presentation part of the module; otherwise, we’d fail the whole course.

I suspect this was an embellishment on her part, but still.

We were supposed to upload a copy of our presentation to the Online Learning Environment used by the University no later than the night before the presentation, and then we’d do the presentation during class time the following evening.

That week, I finished off my presentation, and on Sunday evening, I sat down and uploaded it to the Online Learning Environment — OLE. The way the OLE worked, when you uploaded something, you’d get a green icon on the screen with a message that said, “Your document, [Title], has been uploaded,” but for some reason, you wouldn’t get an email confirmation.

I uploaded my document and got the green icon as I usually did, so I closed my browser window and went off to do something else. On Monday night, I did my presentation, which the assessors all said was excellent. They even scored me quite highly in it — above 70% — which I was pleased about.

On Tuesday evening, I got an email from the Project Coordinator. She informed me that she had discovered I “hadn’t uploaded” my presentation, and therefore, she was going to fail me. She informed me that “she had told us several times” not to fail the presentation, and that because uploading the presentation was a mandatory requirement, she was therefore authorised to fail me.

I replied to her email and said that, a,  I had been to class on Monday night, b, I had done my presentation, and, c, I had been given a very good mark for it.

She was uninterested. She kept insisting that “she had to follow procedure” and that she now had to fail me.

I was furious. I told my wife, who was also furious. In tears, I phoned my project supervisor, who was horrified. He said he had never, in all his years supervising projects, heard of anything so petty and ridiculous. He emailed the Head Of School and copied me in. The HOS was as shocked as he was, and said that, in his opinion, if I had done the presentation and been given a mark, there should be no reason to fail me.

His advice? To submit an Extenuating Circumstance claim, which would be reviewed during the Christmas holidays.

I did so, and emailed my Project Coordinator to inform her that this is what I would be doing. Her response was frosty: “Do what you like. I have to follow procedure.”

I submitted my EC claim and went abroad with my wife to stay with her family over Christmas. While away, I got an email from the School of Computing to inform me that “The EC committee had reviewed my claim and determined that I was not at fault and should be awarded the mark for my presentation.”

Relieved, I came back off Christmas break and threw myself into my project again, with one slight difference: from now on, any time I submitted assessed work to the Online Learning Environment, I screenshotted the confirmation message and emailed it to both the Project Coordinator and my Project Supervisor.

I completed my project, graduated, and later went on to complete a PhD! The Project Coordinator never said anything else about her intention to fail me. I’m not sure why she took such a notion, and I doubt I’ll ever find out, nor will I ever find out why my presentation didn’t upload.

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We Hope This Teacher Heard The Signals Loud And Clear

, , , , | Learning | July 7, 2020

During my time as a hearing-aid apprentice, I have to learn under a particularly disliked teacher; he makes crude jokes, has a loud voice, and doesn’t allow us to call him “Sir” in class, no “Herr [Teacher’s Last Name] ” in German — only using his first name is allowed! — or he’ll stop teaching for one minute, which is timed on the clock. 

Whenever he asks us questions, no matter how correctly answered or taught earlier by him, he has to add, “Yes, mostly correct, but…”, which can be quite frustrating.

On this instance during class, he asks:

Teacher: “So, [My Name], how do you check each person’s threshold for loud noises?” 

He’s asking how loud things are allowed to be without yet being, or close to getting painful.

I give the textbook answer.

Me: “After instructions, you rapidly increase the noise level, look into their eyes, and stop when you see a face reflex or eye twitching.”

He looks at me, walks over to my desk, sits on it, leans forward — about two handwidths away from my face — and asks:

Teacher: “And what do you do if there is a highly attractive person in front of you, longing to look deep into your eyes?”

Me: *Coldly* “I increase the noise intensity until that changes.”

Things didn’t improve much from then on, but that was the only time in two years that I saw him grinning.

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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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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.

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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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