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Her Alignment Is Chaotic Good

, , , | Learning | June 26, 2021

My mum is a science teacher. A chaotic one. Once, she suspected that some of her students had been smoking and she didn’t waste her time preaching about how unhealthy it was.

Mum: “You know that overpopulation is a huge problem these days, right? Keep smoking. Keep smoking and you’ll help to solve it.”

Another time, she was explaining the evolution theory.

Student: “Teach, I don’t really like the idea of descending from monkeys.”

Mum: “Well, every living being descends from a common ancestor. If it makes you feel better, you can think you descended from clams.”

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Linda Belcher Did A Stint As A Teacher

, , , , , | Learning | June 24, 2021

Back when I was in middle school, a group of boys apparently decided to start having “peeing contests”. In other words, they were trying to pee into the urinal from as far away as they could and were making a gross mess in the process. Initially, the school freaked out because they thought there was a leak, but the plumber they hired couldn’t find anything — a big financial hit, given how small the school was.

I’m not sure how, but eventually, one of the teachers figured out what was happening and our principal asked all of the teachers to make an announcement about it in their homerooms.

Teacher: *Very sternly* “Now, we don’t know who all is involved with this, but we know that some of you boys are playing a little ‘game’ in the bathroom, and it needs to stop immediately. It’s incredibly gross and you need to put your pee where it’s supposed to be!”

There was a slight pause and the tension in the room immediately dissolved as she realized the accidental rhyme she had just said to a bunch of very immature and now snickering eleven-year-olds.

Teacher: “Ah, jeez… You know what? You know what? I’m going to recreate that Uncle Sam poster and put ‘Put that pee where it’s supposed to be!’ on it and stick it over the urinal.”

And she did! It stayed there for the rest of that school year, and we never had another urine-related incident while I attended that school.

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What’s Latin For “Whoops”?

, , , , , | Learning | June 22, 2021

I switched high schools midway through my first year and found that, unlike my old school, my new one taught Latin. As another student also joined the school at the same time as me, she and I were given separate lesson plans to the rest of the class to try and “catch us up.”

I was generally very polite and quiet at this point in my life, particularly toward authority figures, but my outward behaviour didn’t always reflect my internal monologue. 

One day, the teacher reprimanded the other later starter because her textbook was closed and she wasn’t even pretending to be working. I, however, was nearly finished with the assignment. For some reason, though, the teacher then brought me into it.

Teacher: “What about you, [My Name]? Are you Superman and able to read your book through its cover?”

Me: “Yes, of course, I am.”

A few moments later as the class erupted, I realised with growing horror that I had actually said the thing I was thinking.

Teacher: “Oh, that’s hilarious, [My Name], very funny. Do you know what else is funny? Saturday morning detention.”

I didn’t have a great home life and my parents had very strict ideas about respecting adults, so frankly, I was terrified about how I would explain this to them. I spoke to the teacher after the class, apologised profusely, and explained that my inner voice had gotten away from me and that I had actually finished the lesson so he caught me by surprise. He thanked me for apologising but explained that he had actually been joking, too. Looking back on it now, I’m not sure if he just saw how panicked I was and took pity on me.

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This Is Why We Need Black History Month, Part 2

, , , , , , | Right | June 18, 2021

It’s 1988 and I have been with the library for not quite a year.

Black History Month is upon us and children of all shapes, sizes, colors, and cute smiles are looking for information on various famous people.

But they clearly do not know what or who they are looking for.

Child #1: “I am doing a report on a famous black singer. Her name is Martha.”

Me: “Oh, good choice. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were a great singing group!” 

Child #1: “There’s another Martha? My report is on Martha Luther and her Kings.”

Next child:

Child #2: “I need a book on a famous black man who got his leg shot off during the war.”

Me: “Um, I am going to need more information than that. Which war are we talking about?”

Child #2:The war.”

Me: “Honey, there have been lots of wars over the years. Was it the Civil War? The American Revolution? World War II?”

Child #2: “The Revolution! Yes, the revolution! When the people came here from England to fight the Americans to free the slaves.”

We finally figured out we were looking for Crispus Attucks, though I don’t remember him getting his leg “shot off,” only that he was among the first killed at the start of the Revolution.

And then there were the inventors. Not Lattimer or McCoy or Madame C.J. Walker. No, we are talking about the well-known John Doe. Mary Smith. Lotta Peeples. Who “invented” THE comb. The hairbrush. THE washing machine. And of course, the kids needed at least five books on each of these people.

No surprise, there were none. Cue child sobbing because they have to write an eight page paper on this person.  

We had to start writing a form letter to teachers (which soon became known as the Dear Dummy letter) explaining that back in the day, many, many, many people created and patented a new version of the hairbrush or the comb, or created and patented a different version of a wringer for a hand-cranked washing machine. Or new buttons. Or corsets. Shaving creams…

We had to explain that these people were black, white, Hispanic, or Asian background, and that the only reason we know they existed and what their race was is because the forms for the patent office included a little box for this. ALL we know about the inventor is his or her invention, their name, the number assigned their patent… and their race.

Regardless of their race, there are not five paragraphs, let alone five books on each person.

Imagine having to send that out daily with an extra line scrawled at the bottom saying, “Please allow [Student] to choose a new topic so he won’t flunk your class.”

Every year for closing in on ten years, the head of the tech department where patents were kept would contact teachers and explain that we could not supply five books on the life of a citizen who happened to try making something new for an already existing device, so please don’t ask kids to write a ten-page paper on them. Every year, the teachers would say they understood… and then send the kids in to research the same obscure people anyway.

And of course, my favorite kid was the one who came in with his dad. The child darted across the floor to the desk, leaned against it, and crowed, “Hey! Where your dead black people at?” His father — both were African American — did a facepalm and shook his head. He said, “Son, they aren’t keeping the bodies on ice out back. Tell the lady who you want to read about.”

That exchange had the dad and I laughing for most of the exchange. I miss those days, as the demand for writing reports has fallen off. I just hope I never have to explain to another child that the singer she wants to report on is actually a Civil Rights Leader.

Related:
This Is Why We Need Black History Month

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Graduating To A New Level Of Stupid

, , , , , , | Learning | CREDIT: Brandilio | June 18, 2021

Back in 2013, I was a senior at a high school I had just transferred to. I had moved earlier in the year because my parents got divorced, and I made the deliberate choice to leave my old high school and move in with my dad, attending a new high school.

Normally, switching schools isn’t a huge deal, but it was sort of an abrupt move; I wasn’t able to take any of the AP classes I normally would have taken because they all had mandatory summer projects that I wouldn’t have been able to do in a week.

Additionally, a week into the school year, we were told about this stupid senior project they wanted us to do. In a nutshell, there was some acronym — IMPACT or something — and each letter represented a value of the school. They wanted us to write about how IMPACT had influenced us in our time at the school. We were then told that, should we NOT do the senior project, we wouldn’t be able to walk for graduation. Oh, no!

I heard this and thought it was stupid for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that I had only just gotten there, so their dumb acronym didn’t mean anything to me. I brought this concern up to the lady telling us about the project, and her response was that I just “figure something out or don’t walk.”

Well, okay, then.

I brought it up with my dad, asked if he gave a hot s*** whether or not I walked for a high school graduation. He did not. So I just figured that I wouldn’t do the project. End of story, right?

Wrong.

You see, a few months into this senior project, they did a checkup on every senior. We just lined up in our homeroom to talk to some lady from the principal’s office and told her how close we were to being done. When I walked up, I told her that I wasn’t doing it.

Lady: *Confused* “You’re not going to do it? You have to. It’s non-negotiable.”

Me: “No, it’s not. I don’t have to do it.”

Lady: “But you won’t walk if you don’t do it.”

Me: “Yeah.”

Then we just sort of stared at each other, and she wrote my name down and shooed me away. I correctly assumed that this would not be the last interaction I had regarding this non-issue. Several weeks later, my suspicions were confirmed when I was pulled out of class and brought into the main office.

They ushered me into the vice principal’s personal office, where she made a bit of a show of pulling out some papers. She told me that the meeting was regarding a misunderstanding I may have had regarding the senior project. She was apparently told that I didn’t know what to do for the assignment and I had chosen to boycott the whole thing as a result. I quickly corrected her.

Me: “I very clearly understand what you want me to do, but I think it’s stupid and I’m not going to do it. I understand the penalty for not doing it and I’m fine with that.”

She, like the first lady, seemed confused by this course of action and just let me leave, since there wasn’t really much of a conversation to be had.

A few more weeks later, I got pulled out of yet another class for this same thing. Again, I was brought up to the vice principal for a one-on-one. When I got there, she looked like the cat that ate the canary.

Vice Principal: “So, I know you were in here a while ago, and you said you didn’t want to do your senior project—”

Me: *Interrupting* “No. I said wasn’t doing the project.”

Vice Principal: “Well, we had a chat with your mother over the phone earlier this week. She told us that she really wants you to walk at your graduation.”

I was quiet for a moment.

Me: “Um… I live with my dad.”

Vice Principal: “Right, but your mom said she’d like to attend the ceremony and see you walk.”

Me: “I don’t think you get it. I live with my dad for a reason.

If ever there were an expression that perfectly exemplified the dial-up tone, that’s the face she made. After she collected herself, I was released and headed back to class.

By this point, I was mostly just not doing the project because it was dumb. But them calling a family member to strong-arm me was crossing a line. On top of that, they tried to strong-arm me using a parent with whom I was no-contact. I decided right then that, no matter what, I wasn’t caving into their bulls***. F*** the project, f*** the school, and f*** the weird tactics they were trying to use. However, in my anger was also confusion. Why did these people care so much about one guy not doing an optional assignment? I had made myself very clear, so was that the end of it?

Spoiler: it wasn’t.

A few more weeks later, I got pulled into the actual principal’s office. The principal, for reference, was one of those guys that tried to make a show of being overly friendly and goofy but to the point where it came off as superficial. When I got to his office, he was his usual extroverted self, greeted me, and sat me down.

Principal: “I’ve heard about this whole senior project problem you’ve had going on. And I get it. Trust me, I really do; you’re new here, so our motto hasn’t had as much of an impression. So, after talking about it with the folks grading the projects, we think it’d be just fine if you had a modified project. Just do a project on one letter of IMPACT, and you’re golden.”

He gave me a big warm smile.

Me: “No.”

Principal: *Smiling* “Sorry?”

Me: “I’m not doing it.”

His smile was slowly fading now.

Principal: “But you only have to do one letter. It’s really not that much.”

Me: “Yeah, I got that. I’m still not going to do it.”

Principal: “But you won’t be able to walk on graduation day.”

Me: “Yep.”

Principal: “So what’s the issue, exactly?”

Me: “You called my mom.”

His mouth was open like he was going to say something, but I guess nothing came to mind, as we sat in silence for a good twenty seconds — him trying to formulate an argument and me staring back blankly.

Me: “If that’s everything you need to talk about, I’ll be heading back to class.”

He didn’t protest, so I just left.

It was after this meeting that I eventually got some context. Apparently, California schools will shuffle principals around every few years for some reason that probably makes sense, but I don’t care enough to research. Our principal was going to be switching schools after the 2013 semester had ended, and one of his big plans was to leave that high school with 100% participation in the senior projects that would otherwise not affect any final grade.

He used the threat of preventing students from walking at graduation to bully everyone into doing the dumb project — almost everyone. I stuck to my guns and refused to do it. And sure enough, after the deadline had passed, they made a big deal about how happy they were that 99.6% of students completed their senior projects, even though they were hoping for 100%.

And the absolute dumbest part about this exercise in stupid? After everything was said and done, I was called in one last time to the VP’s office. She told me that, despite my refusal to do the senior project, they were still going to let me walk, and they gave me five tickets for friends and family. I laughed, walked out without the tickets, and didn’t attend my own graduation.


This story is part of our Best Of June 2021 roundup!

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