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It Really IS The Magic Word!

, , , , , | Learning | November 23, 2021

I walk into class to see several classmates gathered around the teacher’s desk. There are several packages of animal crackers on the desk, and my classmates are trying to cajole the teacher into letting them have some. After a few moments of consideration, I decide to make an attempt, as well.

Me: “Could I please have some?”

The teacher promptly grabs a package and hands it to me. My classmates are shocked and begin whining, begging, and so on. I just eat my crackers happily while I listen in on their further attempts to get some for themselves. One classmate pauses for a moment.

Classmate: “Could I… please have some?”

The teacher handed him a package. Because of the way that classmate had emphasized the word “please,” the others quickly figured out that the way to get the crackers was to ask politely, and soon the teacher had handed them all out.

Iguana Teach You A Language Lesson

, , , , , , | Learning | November 21, 2021

This was back in 2002 when I was in eighth grade. My science class had a pet iguana that lived at the school. He had free range of the classroom. My teacher was retiring and wouldn’t be able to care for him anymore. She brought him to a pet store that promised to find a good home for him. The name of the pet store has been changed.

Classmate: “What pet store did you bring him to?”

Teacher: “A place called Renault’s Pets in [Local City].”

It bugged me because she pronounced it “Rey-nawlts” when it’s actually pronounced “Rey-nose”.

Me: “That’s not how you pronounce that name.”

Teacher: “Yes, it is. How else would you pronounce it?”

Me: “‘Rey-nose’.”

Teacher: “You’re wrong.”

Me: “No, I’m not.”

Teacher: “Don’t talk back. It’s ‘Rey-nawlts’.”

Me: “You’re saying it wrong.”

Teacher: “What makes you the expert?”

Me: “My great grandfather opened that store in the early 1940s.”

Academic Distractions, Demolished!

, , , , , , | Learning | November 17, 2021

I have ADD and am relatively smart. This combination can be difficult, because the symptoms for ADD and the symptoms for a smart child who finds school boring and not challenging enough are very similar, and they exacerbate each other.

As a young child in elementary school, I particularly hated tests because they never challenged me, but they did require me to sit still working on them for an entire class. With other assignments, I usually finished them early and got to read a book, and with lectures, if I was bored, I could disengage and start daydreaming; I was very good at living inside my own head. But tests needed just enough attention that I couldn’t start daydreaming, but they were not interesting enough to hyperfocus on, resulting in being the most boring task in school to me. 

To make tests a bit more tolerable, I tried turning them into a game. I had all kinds of rules as to how questions should be answered and the order I did them in, and I even kept “score” of how well I was sticking to the rules. It’s been too long for me to remember all the rules, but the result was that I skipped around the test answering questions in seemingly random order while tracking points on the side of the paper in a way that I’m sure looked a little crazy to an outside observer, but it made things at least a little more interesting to me.

We ended up having a substitute teacher one day when we had a test. A little after the test, she came up to me while I was reading a book; I’d finished the assignment ahead of time and had free time. She originally started talking about my book and the fact that it was a few reading levels above my grade before transitioning to talking about the test.

Substitute: “I noticed you were moving around a lot during the tests.”

I felt a little embarrassed at being “caught” at what I realized was a pretty silly game, but I tried to act as if it was normal.

Me: “Yeah, I do that sometimes.”

Substitute: “Why did you do it?”

Me: “It’s kind of like a game to make the test more interesting. I know it’s silly—”

Substitute: “Oh, no, there is nothing wrong about it. I was just curious. You reminded me a bit of my daughter.”

Me: “Oh?”

Substitute: “She’s smart and likes reading like you, too. But she used to drive us crazy; whenever she had a test, she would sit and try to read her book without even looking at the test for the first half of class before she would start it, and she wouldn’t tell us why she did it!”

Me: “Oh, yeah, I could see doing that.”

Now the substitute sounded surprised that I didn’t think that was odd.

Substitute: “What? That makes sense to you?”

Me: “I assume the test was too easy, so she wanted to make it more challenging by needing to rush to complete it in time. It would be kind of fun, but my dad would be mad at me if I tried it.”

Substitute: “Wow. I wish I had you around a few years ago to explain that to us! We had to take her to a fancy psychiatrist just to figure out what she was doing.”

It was a random little conversation, but it’s stuck in my head for decades because it was the first time that it really occurred to me that my brain and my ways of doing things were just a bit different from how “normal” folks did it. The fact that something as “obvious” as the substitute’s daughter’s motivations wouldn’t make sense to a “normal” person made me realize that I, and presumably the substitute’s daughter, might just see the world a bit differently than most did.

Luckily for me, I didn’t necessarily mind being different, so it wasn’t a bad memory. Over the years, I’ve actually grown increasingly happy that I’m a bit odd. I see so many people doing downright foolish things in the effort to seem normal that I’m kind of glad I’m not normal and peer pressure doesn’t tempt me to join in with the foolishness just to fit in. Still, this was the first time it really clicked in my head that my mind really doesn’t work quite the way others’ do.

Your Snores Serve To Prove A Point

, , , , , , | Learning | November 15, 2021

I was told the details of this conversation after the fact.

Math Teacher: “I don’t really care how much you pay attention in class so long as you display an understanding of the material on homework and tests. Take [My Name], for example; I don’t think I’ve seen them actually awake in this class, but they’ve got an A. Isn’t that right, [My Name]?”

I snapped out of being half asleep.

Me: “Huh?”

Math Teacher: “Exactly.”

A Blue Label Has This Scot Seeing Red

, , , , , , | Learning | November 13, 2021

This happened when I was a new high school teacher. Our school had close to 2,000 students and I’m guessing eighty or so teachers. There was one department (geography) that had two teachers: the head, who was a tall, gentlemanly Scandinavian fellow, and the other guy, who was a 5’5″ Scot with a short temper and a hugely inflated sense of his importance. [Scot] was what my own Scots parents would call a bumptious twit: smarter than everyone, loved the sound of his own voice and, what’s worse, treated the school secretaries like a lower form of life. When we had our bi-monthly staff meetings, he was one of those who insisted on dragging things out with stupid questions, points of order, and such, while not realizing that most everyone there just wanted to get out and go home. Not a good way to make friends.

It happened that the geography department head took a semester-long sabbatical to take a few courses, which left wee [Scot] as the acting department head. Everyone was going to know about this. In the main staff room, there was a wall of drawers where all our mail, memos, and so on were placed. Each was labelled with those old-style plastic labels — the ones where you spun the dial, clicked to emboss the plastic strip, and then did the peel and stick thing. Everyone had a blue label except for department heads; theirs were red. The first thing [Scot] did was go around the back and make himself a red label because he was now important.

I would usually arrive early, pick up any mail, and book it up to my department office — new guy always has to get the coffee ready. One day, an older teacher stopped me.

Teacher: “Hang on, take a seat. This will be fun.”

About ten minutes later, [Scot] came in, looked at the blue label on his drawer, and stood there vibrating like his head was about to explode. He tore the label off and ran out into the hall and through the door into the office area behind the mail drawers. We could all hear a frantic “click, click, click” as he made a new label. He stormed back in and put his new RED label on his drawer, stood back, gave it a nod, and then left.

There were some smug looks of satisfaction but nobody laughed out loud.

Teacher: “The first person in always puts a regular blue label on [Scot]’s drawer, and then we all sit back to enjoy the fireworks. We’ve been doing it for weeks just to get back at him for being a d**k for so many years.”