“We Don’t” Want To Ruin The Ending

, , , , , , , | Learning | December 16, 2019

I’m in high school just as schools are starting to offer computer science classes beyond typing and basic computer literacy. My school has decided to add a programming class, but they have trouble finding anyone who has a teaching certificate and also knows anything about programming. They end up having to relax their usual teaching certificate requirement and hire someone right out of grad school with a computer science degree and absolutely no teaching experience. She only intends to teach for a year until her husband finishes his degree and they can move out to Silicon Valley. Because of this, she’s made no effort to learn how to teach or how to handle a classroom of teenagers.

The class has to be formatted in a different way than others because the expensive, proprietary software we use is only installed on the computers in that one classroom. That means the class has to be designed so that every student can complete their work during class time. Each class period, the teacher goes over a new topic for the first ten minutes or so, and then we get time to work on the day’s exercises. Since most of us don’t need the full time allotted, we’re left with nothing to do for a good 20 or 30 minutes at the end of class. The teacher allows us to do whatever we want during this time, so long as we’ve finished our work and aren’t disrupting other students.

Within the first week, a group of rowdy boys comes to realize that the teacher isn’t going to enforce any part of that rule. They start playing a multiplayer FPS game together and shout at each other the whole time. Eventually, they stop bothering to do their programming exercises. If it gives them a chance to have a LAN party every day in school, they all gladly accept that they’re going to fail the class. A few weeks in, they even start to play while the teacher is still teaching, pretty much drowning out everything she says.

The rest of the class hates this. Even if we didn’t care about finishing our work, it’s annoying to have to listen to these boys scream insults at each other for an hour. It’s even worse for me and the one other girl in the class, as much of what they say is violently misogynistic.

One day, the teacher finally decides she’s had enough and says they’re going to get a punishment for their behavior. The rest of us are relieved… until she announces the “punishment.” The entire class, not just the disruptive ones, will have to write a one-page essay answering the question, “Why do you deserve this punishment?” It’s due the next day.

Obviously, the rest of us complain. We haven’t done anything, and this isn’t even going to affect the ones causing the problem. The essay counts for just a single assignment grade, and the troublemakers already have long strings of zeros in the grade book that they don’t care about. Not one of them is going to bother writing the essay at all, while the rest of us probably will to avoid our grades taking a hit.

The teacher doesn’t listen to reason and quickly types up an essay prompt so there’s a record of the assignment. She passes it around, and most people stuff it in their bags right away. I take the time to read over it.

I come to realize that it’s the holy grail of essay assignments, the type only heard of in the school’s urban legends and never actually seen. There are no restrictions on font, font size, line spacing, or margins. The only guideline is that it has to be one page long. I look around. No one seems to have noticed yet.

Knowing that a golden opportunity like this will likely never come again, I decide I have to go for it. That night at home, I type up my essay. Here it is in its entirety:

“We don’t.”

It is in landscape orientation, bold font, and the largest font size that will fit.

The next day in class, the teacher calls us up to turn in our essays. I make sure I’m at the end of the line and watch as all my classmates who actually did the assignment turn in essays written in Times New Roman, 12-point font, double-spaced. Then, I reach the teacher’s desk.

When I put my “essay” on the top of the pile, she stares at it for a moment. She glances up at me with a disbelieving look; I tend to be quiet, well-behaved, and studious, so she probably never expected me to be the one to try this. Then, she pulls out her copy of the essay prompt and reads it over very carefully. When she’s done, she nods, writes “100%” on my paper, and gestures for me to return to my seat.

In case anyone’s wondering what happened to the LAN players, they were forced to settle down, eventually. Their parents and the school administration got wind of what was going on when our first progress reports showed them all failing. The parents worked out a deal with the administration where the boys could turn in their late work for partial credit, so long as they completed all of it as well as all the extra credit exercises. There was also a stipulation that they would be kicked out of the class permanently if they became disruptive again.

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