You Think Finals Are Hard?

, , , | Learning | August 12, 2020

I am a secondary education major in college. One of the requirements to get into the secondary ed program is to write an essay on why we want to be a secondary ed teacher. Our advisor has to sign off on the essay before we can submit it to the education department for our final approval to join the program.

Because of the timing of the program and the semesters, I only have about three weeks during the end of fall semester — on top of fall semester finals — to get the essay written, signed, and submitted before everyone goes home for Christmas break; secondary ed program classes start with spring semester.

After reading through my essay, this is what my advisor says.

Advisor: “This is really good. Definitely good enough to get you into the program. But… I still think it can be better. I’m not going to approve it yet; I want to see what you can come up with to make it better, and then I’ll read it again.”

As disappointed and stressed as I am with everything else going on at the time, I scramble to rewrite the essay. I end up using the most boring “why I want to be a teacher” cliches online and turn it back in to him. He rifles through the pages without actually reading a single word… and then signs off on my ORIGINAL essay.

Advisor: “I just wanted to see what you would do. Being a teacher means being prepared to change your plans at the last minute and come up with a whole new lesson plan, so I’m just giving you a taste of what that feels like!”

Fortunately, that was the last time I really needed anything from him as my advisor, beyond mandatory check-ins on my grades once every semester, so I was largely able to avoid him for my last year and a half of school.

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To Heck With Your Feelings!

, , , , | Learning | August 11, 2020

I’m about thirteen years old. Though I now have an autism spectrum disorder and anxiety disorder diagnosis, at that time I only had the anxiety disorder one. My class consists of only thirteen people including me. I am not a popular person and have never been. 

This occurred in biology, with a teacher I have since gotten to know as completely ignorant of teenage sociology. He is setting up a small group assignment. He won’t set the groups himself. Instead, he calls students to the front, one by one, to ask who they want to be paired up with. I am dreading this as I can see everyone in my class is already pairing up. Unluckily enough, I am called to the front to pick a partner. I know the only four remaining people have already paired up and I can see their dislike of the situation in their faces. My anxiety gets sky-high and I shake my head, unable to speak. He pushes me a bit more, causing me to almost break out in tears. Instead of finding out what the problem is with this clearly distressed young girl, he sends me out of class. 

Keep in mind that I’m normally a really well-behaved girl and have never gotten in trouble with teachers before. Being sent out of class is something really negative in that school. I tear up outside the classroom and cry. 

At some point — I can’t remember whether it is the end of the day or the end of the class — I have to return to him. By this point, my anxiety has dropped and has become anger. I am given a few sheets to copy in my own writing. It is this absolutely horrendously finger waggling set of rules, both normal and moral, and it gets me even angrier. 

Granted, I am a little rebel and decide to just write unreadable squiggles instead of what was actually written — not that far off from my handwriting then — but I still feel like I have done nothing wrong. 

In the end, I am stuck with that particular teacher for five or six years of biology. There isn’t a year without incident with that teacher.

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Something Doesn’t Add Up Here

, , , , , | Learning | August 7, 2020

When I was in middle school, my math classes required a graphing calculator. My older brother and I were both math geeks, so he showed me how to use the “programs” feature of the calculator to do some cool stuff — not related to class.

Eventually, we learned the quadratic formula in class. After finishing the unit and passing the quiz, I had the bright idea to create a calculator program to do the formula for me. I then showed the program to my teacher, expecting the teacher to be impressed by my ingenuity, but instead, the teacher told me I wasn’t allowed to do that. I tried to point out that the mere fact that I had created the program was evidence that I had mastered the formula, but my teacher wouldn’t hear it. So, no time-saving shortcuts for me.

Looking back on it now, I wonder if the teacher didn’t believe I had created the program myself, but I’m still annoyed; as I said before, I had already passed the test on the formula itself, and using my calculator for the formula should have been no different than using it for basic arithmetic.

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Rowing Your Way To An Entire Mess

, , , | Learning | August 6, 2020

The professor in this is one of my favorites to this day. I took many of his classes. He was my mentor, gave great advice, was funny, and made me strive to be the best I could be, and I visited him a few times in grad school to catch up. But this one story still gives me anxiety to think about.

In my junior year, I take [Professor]’s class that requires all students to go on a mandatory field trip as a group during spring break. However, I am attending university under two separate scholarships, one academic and one athletic for rowing. Every year, spring break is dedicated to three-a-day practices and is extremely mandatory; it’s a big deal.

I approach [Professor] on the first day of the semester after he speaks to the class about what to expect for the required field trip.

Me: “[Professor], I’m really sorry but I can’t do the field trip. I have spring break training every year and it’s mandatory. Can we find an alternative option?”

Professor: “Then you’ll get an incomplete in the class.”

Me: “…”

Professor: “…”

Me: “I… I’m not really sure what you want me to do here. I can’t go, and this class is required to graduate. I can’t have an ‘incomplete.’ But I can’t miss spring break because of my athletic scholarship.”

Professor: “Can’t you talk to your coaches? They need to know that this field trip is essential.”

Me: “With all due respect, so is spring break training. It’s the final race prep before racing season begins and because it’s such a team sport, if one person misses, it messes everything up.”

It doesn’t matter a ton, but the position I usually sit in the boat sets the rhythm and pace for the whole boat, and I try to explain that to him. Also, for those thinking, “Well, the field trip will set you up for your career,” I already know I don’t want to go into that particular field, and I am going to an additional five-week field course this summer anyway, also required in order to graduate in that major.

Professor: “What if you take this class next year and take the field trip then?”

Me: “That’s the same issue; we have spring break training every year. And I’ll be a senior so that would be even worse to miss.”

Professor: “Well, then I need you to ask your coaches to bend the rules for this. This is extremely important.”

I agreed to ask but warned him it would be a no-go. I did ask earnestly because I respected him and knew I was missing out on something valuable and fun, but I was right about their response.

Thankfully, after some back and forth between [Professor] and my coaches, he agreed to let me skip the field trip and assigned me an independent project that I would need to turn in before finals in order to avoid an “incomplete” in the class. All seemed well. My team had a great racing season — my boat placed first in conference championships — and I dove into the project.

Fast forward to the end of the year. I turned in the project with plenty of time for the professor to grade it before grades were due. Then, I waited. And waited.

As the deadline was approaching and I saw my other professors posting their grades, I still saw my grade for [Professor]’s class listed as “incomplete.” I bugged him and he assured me that he could change it after the deadline passed, and it wouldn’t matter in the long run if it said “incomplete” for a week or so. So, I stopped pestering.

Then, a few days after the deadline, when I was already home for the summer, I got a stern email from the university saying I had lost my academic scholarship because I had an “incomplete” in a class. Turns out, even just having that there on my record for a short time triggered a cascade of problems.

After a panicked email, [Professor] quickly posted my grade and apologized because he didn’t know that would happen with my scholarship. But after several weeks and calls to the administration, no one could help me sort out why I wasn’t able to get my scholarship reinstated.

I eventually called my coaches and had to escalate the issue up in the athletics department because I would not be able to cover costs without both scholarships. I had to get them to intervene and get someone to actually fix my issue in administration and get the records and scholarship cleared.

Say what you want about whether college athletics are overrated or not, but I was grateful to have those resources to help me. To this day, I still don’t know what the holdup was. Maybe it was because it was summer vacation, but that’s not a great excuse when a student is uncertain about whether they can return and pay tuition and rent in the fall.

Thankfully, everything worked out and [Professor] presented me my diploma the next year. He even wrote in my grad school recommendation letter, “She excelled in school while being a varsity athlete; imagine what she can do if she isn’t rowing.”

I took it as a compliment and commendation, but still, it seemed like tough love. Also, I’m still rowing and have even been a coach at times. You shouldn’t have to compromise your passion for your career… though I recognize that’s said from a place of privilege!

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Teachers Aren’t The Only Ones Teaching Lessons

, , , , , , , , | Learning | August 5, 2020

I was in an advanced class in high school; we were supposed to be the “smart” guys.

The new teacher had the habit of stomping into the classroom for every lesson. He would noisily stomp onto the short podium and forcefully throw his books on the teacher’s desk. I assume he did that to assure he got our attention.

The class quickly became fed up with the teacher’s repeated displays. Some of the students moved the teacher’s desk so the front legs were just barely on the front portion of the podium.

When the teacher next arrived, he did his usual attention-getter, making plenty of noise and throwing his books on the desk. The front of the desk fell off the podium, and the angle caused his books to slide off to the floor. None of the students laughed. All stared at the teacher.

The expression on the teacher’s face was priceless. He looked at the staring faces and shouted, “Who did that?”

There was no answer, just more stares. He then raised the desk back to its proper position and went on with the lesson. He never tried the stomping and throwing again.

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