Motoring Right On Through To Your License

, , , , , | Learning | June 1, 2020

When I am twenty-two, I decide to get a license to drive the second-largest motorcycle, which is the best I can do at the time. (A2, for you EU-citizens out there.) In drivers’ ed for a normal car, I had teachers that I would classify as “meh” at best, but for the motorcycle lessons, my teacher is awesome and knows exactly how to motivate his students.

While I love the driving lessons, the thought of taking the practical exam makes me very nervous as I failed several times when getting a license to drive a car. My teacher has already asked which spot I would prefer for the driving exercises as he has the possibility to make a suggestion to the examiner — unofficially, of course.

One thing that I am scared of most is one of the basic exercises: driving in a perfect circle. It’s not that I can’t do it technically; it’s just that the radius isn’t marked on the ground and I am terrible at guessing how many metres I am from the centre. This goes for motorcycling, biking, or horseback riding — I just can’t do it.

My teacher knows this and tries to calm me down by explaining that the examiner can choose from several exercises but he can only choose one, which means that if I am tested in, for example, stop-and-go, I won’t have to do the circle. I am good at stop-and-go, so I really hope we will do that one.

Fifteen minutes before the exam, we stop at a gas station to fill up and check the tyre pressure. Nervous as I am, I do something stupid and fall down with the motorcycle, hurting my knee — but not so bad that I couldn’t continue — and breaking the clutch lever! I can’t drive like this safely so we stop at the motorcycle dealership and my teacher calls the examiner to tell him we will run late. While the lever is being replaced, I am standing outside in tears. This is about as bad as it can get.

My teacher tries to calm me down. “Okay, so that is done now; it’s over,” he says. “Now you can focus on the exam and pass it.”

“I can try,” I say, shakily.

My teacher says confidently, “No! We’re not here to try. It’s far too expensive for that. You’re gonna do it!”

Cheered up only a little, I start the exam. For the base exercises, my teacher makes sure we go to the place I know best. Now comes the part I am so scared of; will the examiner make me drive in circles? I try to tell myself how unlikely that is when I hear my teacher over the radio making a subtle suggestion to the examiner.

“So, which exercise should we do first? Stop-and-go or—”

“Yeah, yeah, do that,” the examiner says.

I immediately cheer up over the little trick my teacher pulled, even if, on second thought, the examiner probably knew exactly what was going on.

And that’s how my teacher chose the perfect spot for the exam, saved me from the possibility of circle driving, and later even told the examiner that a line I illegally crossed was absolutely impossible to see with the wet surface of the road. I passed on the first try!

To this day, I think he is the perfect teacher and if I ever find the money to do the license for big motorcycles, I will definitely go to him! Even if I still have a guilty conscience about denting that motorcycle.

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I Always Knew Gym Teachers Were Out To Kill Me

, , , , , , | Learning | May 30, 2020

I had major back surgery during seventh grade. I was out of school for three months having the surgery and then doing in-patient physical therapy and occupational therapy to learn to walk and do things like dress myself and use stairs again. I still had to do schoolwork, which my teachers sent in monthly packets and which I worked on daily for four hours in a “classroom environment” at the hospital.

Before my return to school, there was a meeting with my principal, vice-principal, teachers, and mother. We checked that I was caught up in all of my classes and then discussed the plan going forward. One of the teachers present was the gym teacher, and the principal explained that since I was still having trouble dressing myself and took a long time, and because I was forbidden by my doctors from doing anything physical, my PE grade would be purely attendance-based. I merely had to go in and sit down on the bleachers. I was told that I was welcome to bring a book and read, so I did that for the rest of the year.

At the end of the year, grades came out, and I’d been given a failing PE grade. I went to my teacher to ask why, since I’d only missed two days — which were excused, as they were follow-up appointments with my doctors. She snottily said, “You did nothing all year! You sat and read and didn’t participate! You didn’t even dress out!”

I reminded her of what we had discussed at the meeting and she said, “That didn’t happen.” I had to go to the principal to get my grade changed, and the teacher ended up being fired from the middle school.

Because I had a 504 plan for my accommodations, her attempt to ignore it was an ADA violation. Under her terms of employment, that resulted in an automatic dismissal. It was not something I requested at all.

Unfortunately, on my first day at my new high school, guess who I saw in the hallway! That summer, my doctors had given me documentation to excuse me from the state’s high school PE requirement completely, as it consisted primarily of contact sports. I had gone through the process of getting the documentation signed by the county superintendent and filed with his office and with the office at my high school. So, while I saw the gym teacher around occasionally for four years, we never interacted.

Three weeks before graduation, I was called into the principal’s office and there was the gym teacher with a smug look on her face. The principal said they couldn’t graduate me because I’d never taken the required blocks of PE. I reminded him that I had paperwork on file that showed that the superintendent had personally waived the requirements based on information from my doctor. He didn’t remember, so they pulled my file and there it was. The principal apologized and said that he would have my graduation approved.

The gym teacher tried to murder me with her eyes all the way out the door. Nearly twenty years later, I will never forget that look of pure hatred.

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You Could Also Blame The Parents

, , , , , | Learning | May 24, 2020

Twenty sixth-grade students from a specialized interest school — in this case, aquaculture — are touring the library in general and the children’s area in particular.  

Most of the kids are well-behaved, but there are four boys who just don’t want to follow the rules. My colleagues and I are not supposed to chastise kids if they are with their (theoretically) responsible adults. We try to guide them back into the activities but they are determined to jump on tables, run up walls, and climb up on the backs of chairs to get at our windows.

I have had it. After I catch one of them trying to pull apart a large stuffed animal that is our mascot, I round the four of them up and march them into the little kids’ room.

“You will sit there, mouths closed, until your bus comes. And if I see you move again, I will get your names from your teachers and you will be banned.”

This is a pretty empty threat as I am a lowly junior librarian, but even my boss doesn’t say anything because she is sick of them, too. They aren’t perfect, but at least they aren’t destroying public property anymore and they aren’t putting any more sneaker treads on the walls.  

It is their teacher who ultimately gets my goat, though.

She comes over with a big smile.

Thank you for talking to them,” she says. “I was getting annoyed with them, too, but it wasn’t my place to say anything.”

I stare at her in disbelief, and then my boss says, “Why not?

“Oh,” says the teacher, “it’s your library, not mine. It’s not my place to discipline them in your space.”

“It might be our space,” says my boss, “but they are your students and your responsibility.”

The teacher just waltzes off with another group of barely-behaved children.

It was a long time before my boss ever allowed that school back for tours and programs.

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Presenting A Confusing Climate

, , , , | Learning | May 21, 2020

During my junior year of high school, my school decided to invite a scientist of some sort that studied the effects of climate change to come to talk to all of us. Sounds cool, right? That’s what we all thought, especially since they took up an entire class period’s worth of time for it, but we were all so wrong. This presentation went wrong on so many levels.

For starters, I’m not sure where the presenter was from, but he had a very thick accent and monotone voice and that, combined with the echoey-ness of the gym my whole school was crammed into, meant that we could barely make out a third of what he was saying.

Second, of the words we could understand, a lot of it was jargon that was quite a bit above most of our high-school brains and he had complete paragraphs on his slides you could barely read from a distance that also used a lot of the same jargon.

The most interesting part of the presentation was when the guy’s slides stopped working and IT had to come out to troubleshoot.

The next day, the administration apologized to us and praised us for being so good throughout the assembly. I’m still honestly not sure if they realized half of us fell asleep during it, which is why we were so “good.”

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Smoking Out The Bad Instructors

, , , | Learning | May 21, 2020

I’m in driver’s ed, and my instructor is severely addicted to cigarettes. The practical portion of the course consists of hour-long driving sessions with two students and the instructor, each student driving for a half-hour.

The instructor can’t make it the full hour without a cigarette. Since he’s not allowed to smoke in the company vehicle, he insists on taking a ten-minute break when switching drivers. He’ll have us pull into a fast food place to practice parking and then tell us to go buy a snack if we want while he smokes outside. All the students are happy with this arrangement because we get the chance to buy a milkshake, but it’s not technically allowed under company rules.

One thing that the instructor teaches us that isn’t in any of the course materials is that we always have to keep the driver’s window cracked open, no matter what. He claims that it’s for safety reasons, but we all suspect it’s because he always has a cigarette in his own car and doesn’t want to marinate in the smoke.

I have a driving session one day when the weather is bad, but not bad enough to cancel. It’s 45°F (7°C) and absolutely pouring, with the rain sometimes blowing sideways. I have just gotten into the backseat, with the other student in the driver’s seat. The instructor has her go through all the normal pre-driving stuff, and then this happens.

Instructor: “All right, the only thing you’ve forgotten is to crack open the window. Go ahead and do that now.”

Student: “But it’s raining!”

Instructor: “So? I told you, it’s dangerous to drive with all the windows closed.”

Student: “I’ve literally never heard that from anyone else, ever. Everyone I know drives with all the windows closed, unless it’s a nice day, maybe.”

Instructor: “Then they’re doing it wrong! See, if you have all the windows closed and your tailpipe gets blocked, exhaust will fill the car. I knew some boys who had that happen way back when. They backed too far into a parking spot, not realizing they had the tailpipe flush against the wall, and sat in the idling car for a while. And guess what? They all died!

Student: “Um… I’m sorry to hear that, but that doesn’t seem likely to happen right now. We’re going to be driving, not idling.”

Instructor: “You have to get in the habit of being prepared! If those boys made sure to always have a window open, they’d still be alive today! Now put the window down!”

Student: “Could it at least be the one no one’s sitting next to?”

Instructor: “No, it has to be yours so you’re always aware it’s open.”

She certainly was aware it was open the whole time, since she got rained on almost constantly. And then, after we switched drivers, I went through the same thing. We were both pretty miserable by the time the lesson was over. 

Our parents weren’t exactly pleased to find their children soaking wet on one side only and shivering when they came to pick us up. On the way home, I ranted a bit to my mom about the window thing and blamed it all on the instructor’s cigarette addiction. I mentioned in passing the ten-minute cigarette break he was taking in the middle of every lesson, which my mom was very interested in.

At the next lesson, I found out that the instructor had been fired after both my mom and the other student’s mom called to complain about the breaks and him letting us get soaked and freezing because of his own weird belief that the company did not share. The new instructor was confused when several students opened the window a crack even though it was a cold day.

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