Overheard in the Halls: Part 14

Mr. Fizz [chemistry teacher]: Just for once, do not do this to me.

Big copier: Thpppppth beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. [Red light flashes]

Mr. Fizz: Arrrrrgh!  [races down to the other copier to see if he can get everything done in time]

Fr. Romanus shook his head. He and I cleared the jams, and he put his stack of originals on the feed mechanism.

Fr. Romanus: You’re such a good copier, you really are. [Presses buttons]. Such a good copier. [Gently pets lid of copier]

Copier: Thpth. Thpth. Thpth.

Fifty collated, stapled, and trimmed copies later, Fr. Romanus departs.


The history and English departments try to coordinate material so the students get the literature and history at the same time. Thus the following exchange:

Mrs. Conjugate [English teacher]: Miss Red, where are you?

Me: Just wrapping up the early industrial revolution. Zola and Dickens.

Mrs. Conjugate: Excellent. Stephen Crane and Poe.

Me: Very good.

We part ways, leaving the commons for out respective classrooms. The students, of course, have been listening. Behind me I hear…

New Junior: Was that in code?

Serious Senior: Yes. That’s how they know who is failing.

N.J. [concerned]: Really?

S.S.: Oh yeah. [Hides behind English book] If they mention your name and Bradbury in the same sentence, you’re doomed.


For Homecoming week, there is a little more leeway as far as dress. So we have things like Manic Monday (plaids, dots, stripes, houndstooth, whatever so long as it doesn’t match), Wild Wednesday (animal prints, the larger and louder, the better) and so on. Last year included “Throw-back Tuesday.” Everyone was to pick a decade and dress like it. A lot of the guys were 1950s (jeans, white undershirt, cuffs rolled, white socks), the girls had more variety.

Fr. Pax (the Headmaster) and Sister Scholastica (aka The Dean) stood in the main hallway, checking to ensure that standards of decency remained intact. No, no hot pants or micro-mini skirts allowed. Brother Vector strolled past wearing his Franciscan habit. And holding a leather-covered mug. With a faux medieval book in his other hand.

Fr. Pax: We failed to specify which century.

I drift by in late Victorian finery, including a hat large enough to block doorways, and a skirt that’s almost as wide.

Sr. Scholastica: Perhaps we should have.


It is October, well into the first semester. I walk through the main doors, nod at the secretary and Mr. Long-Slavic-Last-Name, then began working my way past the gaggle of students waiting to scatter to class. A young woman bursts free of the flock and races toward me.

Frantic Freshman 2.0: Miss Red, Miss Red!

I glance at the clock. It is a quarter till the first bell sounds. In other words, too early, and I have not been fully caffeinated.

Me: Yes, Ma’am?

F. F.: Didyougetmyemail?

Me: [calmly] When did you send it?

F.F.: Twelvethirtythismorning.

Sober Sophomore: [shaking her head]

Me: No. As I said on Monday, I do not check e-mail after nine thirty PM. (This is unofficial school policy. No teacher responds to e-mail after nine or ten PM. We are off the clock, and set our own stop times.)

Sober Sophomore: Teachers need sleep, remember? We don’t. [gives me a look of pity]

F.F.: Canyouanswermyquestionnowplease?

Me: And your question is?

F.F.: Isthepaperduetodaystillduetoday?

Me: Yes.

F.F.: [droops, makes unhappy noise, slumps off]

Sober Sophomore: She’ll learn eventually.

Sr. Scholastica: Ah, there you are. [nods to sophomore, checks name off of list] Don’t forget that you must turn in your calculus work early if you are going on the basketball trip.

Sober Sophomore: [loud gulp] Yes, Sister. [Exit stage left, pursued by a deadline]

26 thoughts on “Overheard in the Halls: Part 14

  1. Snickers. Sophomore exits stage left, pursued by the Furies: Newton, Leibnitz, and Riemann. This must be fiction or a ‘lucky’ bright: a sophomore with differential calculus?

    Did the large hat contain more or less than one dozen fabric flowers? Chuckles at image and student reactions.

    • I took Calculus my junior year. I was a year ahead in math and traveled to the high school every morning to take Algebra/trig in eighth grade, then back to junior high for the rest of my classes that day. Geometry as a freshman, pre-calculus as a sophomore and calculus as a junior. I don’t believe all schools require all those math classes in order, before you can take calculus these days though.

    • This sophomore took summer school to get the prerequisites needed to take calculus. We do have some students who double-up on classes so they can either graduate early, or do an industry internship half-time their senior year.

  2. “If they mention your name and Bradbury in the same sentence, you’re doomed.” Something wicked this way comes, indeed.

  3. For some reason the story of the copiers triggered a long unused chain of synapses. Memories of elementary school will always be suffused with the aroma of blue mimeograph ink. (And no air conditioning).

    • I remember the massive copier in the Head Shed at Mather AFB in the early eighties. There was a place that you had to kick it (with sufficient force) to make it obey and produce. The precise place marked with small, woman-shoe-footprints on the housing at the optimum place for favorable results.

      • Force doesn’t work, threats don’t work, but if you stay calm and pet the copier, it works. It never, ever misbehaves for Fr. Romanus. It’s uncanny. I’ve suggested an exorcism, but was outvoted. If holy water touches the copier and it vanishes in a puff of brimstone, we’ve broken the lease and have to buy it AND the replacement.

        • Fr. Romanus is exercising the gifts of Adam, commanding the creatures and taming them, bringing what is formless into a state of order, and making Earth a garden for the cosmic Temple of God.

          Or he is just better at closing the door.

    • He truly has the patience of a saint, most days. Riding herd over the blend of students and faculty and staff that we have can be a challenge, as well as coordinating with the Board of Trustees, the Diocese, and other interested parties. We are a rather eclectic collection.

    • Sr. Scholastica: Perhaps we should have.

      I literally (true sense of the word) laughed out loud with that. The dogs came to investigate.

  4. Ah, spirit duplicators. I had a professor who made masters from the double-spaced problems in texts. He had a drawer full of them from years of teaching, and used them for tests (mostly). We called them Professor ÷÷÷÷÷÷’s Purple Monsters.

    The Physics department, on the other hand, used a real, electric-spark mimo macine to cut their masters.

  5. My sister, who has since retired, taught science (and for many years she was the only science teacher in the high school) at a small, rural high school for 30 years. I showed her your blog for today and she just about fell on the floor laughing. Apparently it brought back similar memories.

    • I’m glad she enjoyed it. There are some things unique to the school, but a lot of universals as well – the Frantic Freshman, the Jaded Junior, mild mind-games by upperclassmen…

  6. The Better Half retired after teaching secondary science for the past 18 years, in this segment; vo-ag for seven years first. My snickers were about her stories of deadlines missed and late evening emails, from students or parents. Overheard in the halls is a familiar set of tales. I understand Blurt, but reply in Standard English, when judging science fairs.

    Just a thought … the youngsters use Blurt exclusively when using their shiny boxes. I wonder if lack of breath, ptch, and tempo control with SB also contribute to degraded soprano singing?

  7. Every year, a certain local riding club throws a Halloween match, at which regular dress rules are relaxed and riders may wear any costume of their choosing. Most of the costumes are conventional – medieval knight, movie character, skeleton, ghoul, etc. A couple of years ago, however, one guy came in a 1970s leisure suit.

    I believe he won best costume for the day.

  8. Speaking of photocopiers…. Way back in the 1970s, I was working as an electronics tech at a large company. To use the large photocopiers (which were way cruder back then than their modern kin), each department had an electronic “key” that would plug in to a socket on the copier. The key had a stepping relay that updated a mechanical counter, and the company that leased the copiers would read the number on each department’s key at the end of the month to bill for the proper number of copies for each department. Well, seeing as my department was full of electronics techs, it was child’s play to reverse-engineer the mechanical key. We could then plug our faux-key into the copier, make our copies, and not get billed. (The copiers would not work without a key plugged into them.) I’ll probably have to spend another six months in Purgatory for that one!


    • We all have a number access code, mostly to keep the students out of the big copiers. No one thus far has dinged anyone for over-copying. Thus far. Yet.

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