(This’un’s long, kids.)
The stupidest thing I ever got from a teacher was in 5th grade.
I was one of the top students in the class, and in fact I was one of those bland “teacher’s pet” types. My 5th grade teacher was one of those idiots who felt that discipline was much, much more important than any actual learning, because the most important thing of all was for her not to have to exert herself. I say this now, but I hardly realized it at the time.
So: one day, she announces that she’s going to be gone for a day (I can’t recall why), and that we will have a substitute. She then shows us a sheet of paper and explains that she’s going to ask the sub to record the names of anyone who “makes trouble”, and that they’ll be punished when she comes back, by having to copy out a sentence 500 times.
Now, when the sub comes in, the first thing he says is that we are not to talk. At all. All day. He then hands out a bunch of worksheets and tells us to get to doing them. (Classroom discussion? What’s that?) We break fo lunch, and he specifically tells people that there will be no talking there, either (idiot :mad: ). Nonetheless, while we’re sitting down for lunch, a friend of mine says “Hi” to me, and I respond to him withanother “Hi”, which, anywhere but in my fifth grade class, is the polite, decent, correct thing to do. The sub hears it; my name goes on the list, although he never informs anyone that he’s putting them on there, let alone why.
Now, as soon as our regular teacher gets back, she makes a big point of announcing everyone who went on the list. I’s more than half the class, which is a sure sign that discipline was not the problem. I’m on the list; I’m expected to accept wrist-cramping punishment for the crime of responding politely to a friend’s greeting.
For the first time in my life, my moral sense starts grinding away, calculating what’s going on here. I was pretty much a drone back then, so I almost couldn’t fathom any course except blind obedience.
“But wait,” said my brain. “If punishments are intended for people who act badly, and you haven’t acted at all badly, then the punishment is wrong.” I was 10, and I honestly hadn’t considered that before. I ended up simply not doing anything. I never wrote it out, never submitted it, and never brought attention to the fact that I hadn’t completed my assigned punishment.
Fast forward four months, and it’s almost the end of the school year. Next year, I’m not just out of this stupid teacher’s class, I’m out of that school entirely. Except…
My teacher calls to talk to her after class. She tells me that she knows I never completed my “writing exercise” from four months ago. Despite the fact that I’m passing by a very large margin, she tells me that if I don’t complete the punishment, she’ll fail me for the year, and I’ll have to repeat. When I get pissed, she arranges a meeting between my mother, herself, and the principal, and the principal essentially backs her up! Mom comes home and tells me that I had better go ahead and do it.
When I do, my stupid, stupid fifth grade teacher tells me she’s rejecting about half of my copied sentences for "bad penmanship. I have to copy them over.
believe it or not, I’m somewhat grateful to my fifth grade teacher. She taught me, through direct experience and philosophical deduction (and at 10 years old!) that arbitrary authority is a horrible thing. I’ve kept that lesson ever since.
Plus, I have deliberately horrible penmanship