Lack Of Empathy Trumps Anxiety… Or Reality

, , , , , , | Learning | August 4, 2020

We all have that one teacher: the teacher that is completely horrible, has no empathy for your situation, and just does everything to make your life a living Hell. I had one of those. 

She was the type of teacher who would assign a lot of homework every day. It didn’t matter if it was the first day of school or the day before leaving for Thanksgiving break, Christmas vacation, or Easter vacation. Not only that, but we all also had huge projects to do every month. Papier-mâché a planet, create a dragon for Chinese new year, even a complete project of one of the fifty states. She also made plays that we would have to perform on top of that.

The worst part was that she would assign the homework and then teach us about it the next day, so we had to figure it out before we were actually taught it.

I was a special needs student, so I was only supposed to have a set amount of homework every night. She still expected me to do all of it, no ifs, ands, or buts. If I didn’t, I would still have to do it the next day for one letter grade less. My parents complained; she didn’t care. Cue anxiety attacks.

The last straw came in the second week of June. We were cleaning out our desks one Friday when she announced that she had tonight’s homework: two sheets of English, a sheet of math, and a sheet of science.

That’s right; she assigned homework on the last day of school. And once again, it was stuff we hadn’t even learned yet. Also, we had already turned in our textbooks the previous day so we were up a creek without a paddle.

Here’s another thing. We were at an American elementary school on a US Air Force Base in England. Half the class had a parent who was getting transferred either to another duty station internationally or back in the United States. They couldn’t turn the work in because they weren’t going to be there. She said we couldn’t mail it; we had to physically hand it in.

When we students mentioned to her that there was no real way for them to hand the work to her, she said, “I don’t care. Turn it in on the first day of fifth grade, or I’m not passing you. You’ll repeat the fourth grade again.“ Our pleas fell on deaf ears. 

Since it was a half-day on the last day of school, I mentioned this to my mom and she and I bolted back to the school to complain to the principal. It turned out that no less than ten other parents were already there, including my best friend’s mom and my crush’s dad. 

My mum had the loudest voice there, saying that I have had high anxiety the entire year because of the amount of work she forced on me even though I wasn’t supposed to have it. I had never seen her so pissed off at anyone that wasn’t either me or my two older brothers. 

We had just gotten home when we received a phone call from the principal. He told us that we didn’t have to do the homework and that the teacher would be dealt with accordingly. Hearing that, I was so relieved that I didn’t have to do any summer homework.

When I showed up the first day of fifth grade, the principal came up to me and told me that our teacher was removed. He apologized for the amount of stress I had the previous school year, and he made sure that I had one of the more popular fifth-grade teachers who knew how I was. 

My fifth-grade year went a h*** of a lot better than my fourth-grade one.

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Math Skills! Ooh Ha Ha!

, , , , , , , | Learning | August 3, 2020

I am a private tutor. To make math more fun for my students, I often play a modified version of a Pompeii-themed boardgame with them during our lessons. For every question they answer correctly, they get a certain number of moves — depending on the question’s difficulty — to help their pawns escape the city, which gets increasingly consumed by lava as the rounds continue. For every wrong answer, they forfeit their turn and I get to move my pawns instead. The person with the most escaped pawns by the end of the game is the “winner”.

To try to instill a habit of always checking their work, I’ve also created a rule that if they don’t read over their steps or at least double-check the question again when they get to their answer, I get to just take one of their pawns and pop it straight into the volcano in the corner of the board. I am brutal with this and it has worked tremendously well; I don’t usually have to punt a pawn into a volcano more than once or twice before double-checking their work becomes an automatic process. 

I am playing this game with one of my fourth-graders — age nine. After giving him a two-digit multiplication question, I look over and check his answer once he’s finished — and double-checked!

Me: “You missed something in your addition there. Check that last column again.”

Student: “What do you mean?”

Me: “That shouldn’t be a zero. Check it again.”

Student: “No, that’s a nine!”

I take the whiteboard back from him, at which point I can see that he indeed wrote a nine, not a zero; I missed the “tail” of the nine from the angle I was viewing it from and the fact that he’d written the answer right on the edge of the board. But he got the right answer, fair and square.

Me: “Whoops, you’re right. It is a nine. Sorry, I thought that was a zero. My bad.”

Without skipping a beat, the student wordlessly takes one of my pawns off the board, and, without breaking eye contact, puts it straight into the volcano.

Me: “…”

Student: *Deadpan* “You didn’t double-check.”

Okay, kiddo. You win this round!


This story is part of our Best Of August 2020 roundup!

Read the next Best Of August 2020 story!

Read the Best Of August 2020 roundup!

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Franc-ly, That Teacher’s A Jerk

, , , , , , | Legal | August 1, 2020

Back in 1964, when my brother was in fourth grade, he did so well in French class that the teacher gave him a French franc as a reward.

Since he is not a sentimental person, he and my other brother took it to the bank down the street to find out how much it was worth.

They came back all upset. They announced that the bank manager had said it wasn’t worth anything and he was kind enough to take it off their hands.

Imagine swindling a fourth-grader.

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Unreasonable Teachers Make Us Sick

, , , , , | Learning | August 1, 2020

I’m a high school senior at the time of this story. I’m in my school’s audition-only choir. One morning, I wake up with body aches, a cough, and fever of 104°. The problem with this is that we have our winter concert that evening, and our director is strict about missing performances. You have to bring in a doctor’s note if you miss one; otherwise, he docks your grade.

I set up an appointment with my doctor for later in the morning, call in to school sick, and leave a message on my director’s line. I tell him that I am sick, I’ll be going to the doctor in a couple of hours, and someone in my family will drop a doctor’s note off in the main office since I’m in no shape to come to school or sing that night. Please note that I’ve never missed a performance.

I crawl back into bed until my appointment. I wake up to a voicemail from my director.

Director: “[My Name], this is Mr. [Director]. Tonight is the winter concert, and it’s fifty percent of your semester grade. If you are actually sick, I want that doctor’s note today, hand-delivered by you. Otherwise, you fail for the semester.”

Again, I’ve never missed a performance, and I have been a student leader in my class for a couple of years, so I’m unsure why he’s doubting me. I decide that if he wants a note personally delivered, he’s going to get it.

I go to the doctor, where he diagnoses the flu and writes a note excusing me from “all school events” for the next week. My school is just a few minutes down the road. My timing is perfect; my normal class has just started when I shuffle in. I look just like you’d expect someone with a 104° fever to look.

My classmates stare at me, and our director stops conducting mid-song.

Director: “Uh… [My Name]? You look awful.”

I wave the note in the air.

Me: *At full volume* “I have the flu! Here is your stupid doctor’s note!”

This triggers a coughing spasm. I attempt to hand the note to him while covering my mouth with my other hand. He steps back.

Director: “Ah… no need. I believe you. Your parents could’ve dropped it in the office.”

Me:No! You said in your voicemail that I had to hand-deliver the note today, or else I fail for the semester. You are going to take this note!”

Director: “I didn’t mean—”

Me: “That’s what you said to do, and you know I always do what I’m told. Take it.”

He groans, takes the note, drops it on his stand, and immediately heads for the hand sanitizer. I hear a few of my classmates laugh.

Me: “And I’m excused from tonight? I won’t fail?”

Director: “Correct. You won’t fail and you are excused. Now, please go home before you infect the whole class!”

Me: “Gladly!”

My friends waved at me as I shuffled back out. I did not fail, but he didn’t talk to me much for the rest of the year.

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Welcome To Boss-Underling Relations The World Over

, , , , | Working | July 30, 2020

I’m an elementary school teacher. Our building is very old and has stairs going to the front door with no wheelchair ramp. Disabled students have to be dropped off in the back, as do deliveries that require carts.

I research grants and find a place that will provide the materials for a ramp for free. I contact the high school’s vocational prep teacher who says his students can build the ramp free of charge. But when I submit the grant to my principal for approval, she denies it, saying a ramp would interfere with pedestrian traffic when parents drop off their kids. Our students in wheelchairs continue to have to use the back door.

Several years later, the school was renovated. The board’s plan included a new ramp at the front door. Since it was built by a construction company, I’m sure it was quite pricey. 

I guess some things are bad ideas when an underling suggests them but great ideas when they come from your bosses.

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