Time To Vacate The Classroom

, , , , , | | Learning | July 23, 2019

(I go to a private school. All of my classmates come from rather affluent families except one girl, whose parents came to Austria during the Yugoslav wars. Her mother is a groundskeeper at the school and so they are exempt from the tuition fees. However, any extra school activities — museum visits, language travels, skiing trips, etc. — are not covered by these fees and have to be paid extra. Since the first year, there has been an understanding that our parents will split her share amongst them so she can come with us. All the teachers and the headmaster know this and it is never discussed publicly to avoid embarrassing her. We are now one year before graduation, and in this year, every class produces a school newspaper which is sold to alumni, at school functions, etc. Traditionally, either most or all of the money made is given to a charity the class decides to support. We have decided to use the money to pay for our classmate’s “Matura travel” — after graduating, the whole class goes on something similar to spring break, the last time everyone will be together before heading to university. As class president, I handle the finances of our newspaper. I have just dropped the money made at an alumni meeting at the headmaster’s office to be deposited in our account when I run into my German teacher who has supervised making the newspaper. She asks me if we have already chosen a charity and I tell her we will give it to our classmate so she can go on the trip. The following takes place during the next German lesson, which is not part of the newspaper activities.)

Teacher: “I spoke to [My Name] yesterday and he informed me that you will not support a charity this year and will keep the newspaper money for yourselves. I have to say that I am very disappointed with your decision. We here at [School] pride ourselves on giving back to the community.”

Me: “Ms. [Teacher], we chose how we would like to spend the money unanimously.”

Teacher: “[My Name], please let me finish. I’m sure you had good intentions, but maybe you have not considered all the options. I brought some flyers from charity organisations, especially this [Animal Charity] which I can vouch for personally. [Her Husband, also a teacher at the school] and I are on their board and it is a very worthy cause.”

(Our classmate is obviously embarrassed by now and staring at her desk.)

Me: “Madame, I’m sure all these causes are worthy but we made the decision for our class community.”

Teacher: “Well, you obviously don’t understand what community means. [Classmate], don’t you want to say something? You are the reason we have this discussion in the first place.” 

(We are all furious by now; as I said, our classmate’s financial status was never publicly acknowledged, including trips organized by this teacher.)

Classmate’s Best Friend: “Madame, there is no discussion. It is our money! Period.”

Teacher: *ignoring her* “[Classmate], I still would like to hear from you. Is your vacation really more important to you than helping those poor animals?”

Classmate: “I don’t know. I would love to go with you to Greece, but I understand if you want to donate the money.”

Teacher: “Thank you, [Classmate]. See? I think we are getting somewhere.”

Classmate’s Best Friend: “No, we are not. You come with us and that’s it.”

Teacher: “[Best Friend], silence! I will not have you interrupting when I speak.”

Me: “Ms. [Teacher], we can have another vote. Everyone who wants [Classmate] to come with us, please raise your hand.”

(Everyone except [Classmate] raises their hand.)

Teacher: “No! I will not accept this. There is too much pressure. We will have an anonymous vote. Everyone will find me during lunch break, tell me which charity to support, and I will give you the results of which charity we support tomorrow.”

(There is some loud disagreement.)

Teacher: “I can’t believe you. Those poor animals and you think only about yourselves. No community spirit.”

Me: “Madame, you are out of line. This is a class decision and you have no part in it. We have voted on it twice; please accept that.”

Teacher: “[My Name], we will see about that. I did not put all the work into the newspaper just so you guys can get drunk and parade around the beach in your bikinis.”

Male Classmate: “But I look so hot in a bikini.”

(The class loses it.)

Teacher: *screaming over the laughter* “[Male Classmate], to the headmaster’s office, and you can take [Best Friend] with you. This will teach you!”

(The class is immediately quiet and they both start getting up.)

Me: “I’ll come with.”

Teacher: “You certainly won’t.”

Me: “As class president and member of the pupil-parent-teacher-council, I absolutely can be present if disciplinary actions are taken against one of my classmates. It’s in the school bylaws. Why don’t you look them up sometime?”

(This is true but normally it is only enacted for really serious matters like expulsions.)

Teacher: “How dare you? All of you to the headmaster’s office!”

(The whole class gets up.)

Teacher: *screaming* “Only you three!”

(She rushes out of the room and we follow her. [Male Classmate] and I are looking rather bemused and the best friend looks like she is about to explode. All the way to the office the teacher is throwing angry looks at us but remains quiet. Once there, she rushes by the secretary directly into the headmaster’s room.) 

Headmaster: “Ms. [Teacher], what’s wrong?”

Teacher: “I can’t teach like this. These three have been interrupting my class, making fun of me, and insulting me. Also, they have coaxed the whole class into keeping the money from our newspaper. I want them to be officially reprimanded.”

Headmaster: “Mr. [My Name], I have to say I am rather disappointed. I thought highly of your class and your choice when you told me you would use the money so Ms. [Classmate] can come along.”

Classmate’s Best Friend: “That’s what we still want to spend the money on, but [Teacher] tried to force us to give it to some animal charity.”

Teacher: “I didn’t force you. I just felt you had not considered every option…”

Headmaster: “Wait. Ms. [Teacher], this doesn’t happen to be your animal charity, does it?”

Teacher: “Yes, it does. And I still think if they gave it a fair thought they would find it at least as worthy as going on vacation.”

Headmaster: “I see. [Teacher’s First Name], I know you feel very strongly about your charity but it is the pupils’ money. They earned it, they get to choose how to spend it, and you have to accept that. And for my part, I think they are setting a great example for the community spirit here at [School]. Now, is this resolved, and can I send you back to the classroom?”

Teacher: “Yes, I guess so.”

(We all returned to the class and the teacher had us read our textbooks silently. The following lessons were rather awkward, but luckily, this happened shortly before the summer holidays. I wonder what it will be like with this teacher next year. I also should mention that our classmate told us that the teacher apologized to her in private.)

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