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Remember the ‘just like twins’ in “Of Slugs V” posted on 9/30/2020?
Charlene was transferred to my sophomore applied math class at second quarter.

She was late to the first period class on her first day and I’d already sent the attendance report to the office. Policy required students five or more minutes late get a pass from the attendance office for admittance to class. She didn’t have one and asked me to just mark her absent. I told her something like, “If I see you, you’re here, but tardy. I have rules to follow also.” She said the reason she changed classes was because she was tardy half of the days in the class from which she transferred.

I spoke to the girls’ counselor and was told her mother had agreed that the vocational applied math would be a better fit than general math. She settled in and seemed to enjoy the class and the curriculum concept. She was tardy several more times during the waning quarter but with the attendance office pass. Then she came in near the end of the class and asked for assignments for several days in advance. I explained there was lab work involved and she’d have to make them up at lunch time or after school before the end of the semester.

I got the rest of the story.

Charlene couldn’t be in at lunch time because she had to go to the school nursery/daycare to nurse her baby. And her being late so often was for the same reason. Then she told me coming in after school was out too because dropped off the baby at her mother’s she had a part time job to augment her welfare allotment.

Her mother was a mother at 15 and a grandmother at 30.

Sadly, she dropped out at the end of semester and I never saw her, her mother, or her sister again.


My Own Tools

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This didn’t happen in my class.
But the student was in one of mine.

Mal Content was in my third period technical drawing class. I knew him from when he was in my junior high general shop and mechanical drawing classes. Even then Mal had very little few positive comments about anything. His auto shop class was the period before my technical drawing session. Several times over a period of a few weeks at the beginning of the year he complained about the auto shop class.

The auto shop teacher had loaner tools for students who wanted to work on their cars evenings or weekends. One of Mal’s complaints was that there weren’t enough kits to go around and Mr. Otto just didn’t understand his need. Mr. Otto encouraged his students to have a purchase plan for their own tools. And told them about getting his first tools with earnings from doing engine minor work for family and neighbors.

Mid-week I asked Otto if Mal had been in his class the prior two days because I thought I had seen him before school on Tuesday and he missed my class then and that morning. Otto told me Mal was in juvie (juvenile detention).

The rest of the story:

Sometime between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon Otto’s truck had been broken into and his toolbox was taken. On Monday morning, Mal announced to other students that he had his own tools and wouldn’t need to check out loaners. Mr. Otto hadn’t told his students about the missing tools, but one who was his neighbor knew. That student told Otto about Mal’s brag sometime before the end of class that Monday.

Otto set a trap by saying something like, “So I can make up better loaner kits, I’d like to see what individual tools you need supplement your personal tool kits. And I can make suggestions for what tools you might need to add to your own. Tuesday morning each student who had tools spread them out on one of the benches.

As I was told, Mal puffed up a little and said, “Finally, I have my own tools.”

A small logo on each of the tools Mal displayed told Mr. Otto who had broken into his truck.


Knowledge v Wisdom

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Knowledge without wisdom is like water in the sand
Or 1internet research attributes the former and latter to more than one originator
Knowledge without wisdom is a load of books on the back of an ass

One of the first questions I was asked by someone in the high school basic electronics class I taught was, “Mr. Benson, can you make a bomb?”

“‘Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?’ The shadow knows!” This introductory line from the 1930s-1940s radio show The Shadow seems fitting here.

Being honest, I confirmed that I learned when I was in the Army Security Agency during the Berlin Wall era.

The story is on I, JMB Say

The next question was easy to anticipate, “Will you teach us how?”

My answer of course was a resounding, “NO!”
The vocational class was focused on both theory and practical applications, so one of the optional projects I had for them was to build a car alarm. The option was a hit with several boys and one girl who had just become drivers of their own car.

Well, anyone understanding the wisdom level of a teen boy wouldn’t be surprised with an adaptation of his newly gained knowledge. In this case, I was a little startled, but not at all surprised when I heard horn blasting in the hallway during class change. My first thought was that the boy was just showing what he had put together for his car. But the horn kept sounding after the tardy bell rang.

The boy had put the trigger device in another student’s locker, the electronics in his own locker, and the horn in still another. The custodian with vice principal opened the horned locker first and disconnected the horn. A hall locker inspection ensued, and the first suspect was a girl in whose locker the trigger switch was found. She wasn’t in my class, but her boyfriend was. He got suspended for a week.

The VP told me I would get a letter of reprimand because I taught students how to assemble a disruptive device. My counter was that he should also reprimand the boy’s elementary teachers because they taught him to read well enough to follow the kit building instructions. I also suggested he confer with the parents about teaching a little wisdom. I didn’t get a letter.

Although similar in perception, there is considerable difference in knowledge and wisdom.


Applied Math

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Students are sometimes permitted to bring goodies to class for special occasions.
One occasion in my class had nothing to do with special events.

I taught an applied math class to sophomores after I moved to the high school. The applied math principle was to go from real life situations to theory instead of the other way around.

I brought in commercial bakery goods for a lesson in calories. Students were tasked with using a scale, a recipe, and a table of ingredient calories per weight unit. When they showed me their calculations for a good estimate, they were allowed to eat the treat.

Calculating the calorie content of home baked treats was included in the series of lessons. I gave the class a recipe for brownies, provided some calorie references for raw ingredients and assigned them to do the calculations as a homework assignment. They also had an option to use a favorite family recipe but had to supply it with their homework.

One girl who had been in my all girl English class at the junior high school asked if she could make the brownies and bring them in with her completed homework. Another said one batch wouldn’t be enough for the class and said she’d bring in a batch too.

I agreed.

Eating wasn’t generally allowed in classrooms, but like I said, I was teaching applied math which was based on activities followed by theory. The girls told me that they actually did the baking together and just made a double batch. Since it was homework, I allowed the class to finish the product of the project while I introduced a new lesson. I set my ‘teacher size’ brownie to the side planning to eat it with lunch.

The vice principal came to me at the end of third period class and asked what the kids had to eat in my math lesson. He knew about what I’d been doing with the bakery goods, but not the brownie assignment. Then he said some of the students my class were reported as being goofy or sleepy after class and one was sick.

I told him about the brownies. Then he said one of the boys told him the same thing and added they had cannabis baked in but wouldn’t say who brought them. I gave him mine for analysis and the two girls spent two weeks suspended.

Ironically, the one who got sick was one of the bakers. Applied math provided an unexpected lesson for her.


Smarter Than You

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Many don’t share a drummer with the rest of us.
My first year of teaching electronics at the high school level wasn’t a first encounter with students at the very high end of the bell curve (“Skifoot and She”, Dec. 9 and 12). However, remembering this event reminds me that Young Sheldon Cooper and Beverly Goldberg type characters existed in real life before the TV shows.

Gene Euis (obviously a fake name) entered the classroom at the back edge of the audible indicator to be in class. I had previously explained my rule was be seated by the end of the bell unless having had to walk from the stadium where spring and fall PE classes were often held.

The freshman gave me a look and said something like, “Technically, sir, being in the room not only implies present, but means present in the context of attendance. Even had I still been in the doorway, I could argue that I would still be able to acknowledge my presence for role call. I’ll give you that if the door were open, I’d be physically tardy, but still able to respond.”

I was taken back, but he was technically correct. I wasn’t in the mood for banter in front of the rest of the class and disregarded their quite snickers saying only, “take your seat.”
There were only 17 students in the beginning electronics class and lab stations were designed for only two students. I devised a method of rotating a different single student to work by him or herself on labs. Gene Euis seldom completed a lab when alone and I observed that neither were many labs completed when he was partnered. His scores on tests and quizzes, however, were usually near or at 100%.

Gene Euis earned a C+ for the quarter. I met his him and his outraged mother in the vice principal’s office before school the day after report cards went home. She wanted his grade changed declaring that her son had never been given less than an A in any subject.

I don’t know how comfortable the VP was with the rest of the conversation, but he was mostly silent. I was armed with my grade book and the printed class criteria. I showed her the zeros and explained that lab scores were 50% of the grade. Her counter was, “he’s smarter than you and most teachers and his IQ test proves it. Test scores should be the only counters.”

I explained that in many vocational classes lab work counts for even more. I asked if she’d read the class criteria to which she said, “No.” I told her the students were given the one-page document to read and take home on the first day of class.

A formal petition was filed and my having the pre-set criteria was sufficient to keep his grade as given.

As a senior, Gen Euis took my vocational applied physics class to augment his college prep physics so he could experience considerably more lab work.