Home. Work.

Source: Wikipedia

There were a couple of kids on the bus doing homework and I felt a tinge of envy, not because they were doing homework which I’m glad I don’t hae to do, but because they get to ride the city bus. They must go to the school for the gifted which is downtown so if they ever want to cut class they have access to all the cool stuff in that area. And I kind of envy them being able to do their homework on the bus. I had to ride one of those dumb yellow buses where everybody was too busy throwing books to open one and besides the ride was never more than fifteen or twenty minutes, not enough time to finish any homework, although there was one time I tried. It wasn’t academic homework exactly. I’d gotten in trouble for something and had to do what we called write-offs even though they meant writing on and on and I got an extra hundred when I asked if I could deduct them from my taxes. You know the opening of every Simpsons episode where Bart has to write some phrase over and over on the chalkboard? I had to do those too, but not on the blackboard–I had to do it on sheets of notebook paper and it had to be done after, or before, school. What I had to write five hundred times on this particular occasion was I will never… or maybe it was I will always… which just shows how effective a learning tool forced repetition is, but that’s another story. And since I got them on Friday, which in retrospect seems like entrapment because I was excited about the weekend, I had two whole days to do them. So of course I waited until late Sunday night. I wasn’t too worried since I’d learned a trick from one of the Danny Dunn books: I wrote “I” all the way down the page then “will” all the way down the page and I quickly learned that Danny Dunn had led me astray and writing the same word over and over didn’t make write-offs go any faster. It didn’t matter how fast I worked, though–by bedtime I was short by about four-hundred and fifty lines. So on the bus the next morning I worked as hard and fast as I could and kept going while we were waiting for school to start, although the last three-hundred or so I filled in with ditto marks. I was nervous when I handed them in but my teacher just took them, looked at the number of sheets I’d given her, and threw them away. And that’s when I learned the most valuable lesson of all: not even teachers like having to deal with homework.

13 Comments

  1. Grace

    Ah sentences!…. While I don’t remember any of the exact words I was forced to write over and over, I do remember the agony of doing so, and also the “cheating” by writing I all the way down the page

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ve gotta say “sentences” is a much better term than “write-offs” since you were being punished and therefore sentenced to write the same bullshit over and over and over. Fortunately I only had to do that a few times and the only thing it ever taught me was don’t get caught.

      Reply
  2. BarbaraM

    I recently read an article about today’s kids not being able to read cursive writing and wonder – could they even use this as a punishment anymore? And what a waste of paper and ink/pencil!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’d heard that cursive writing was no longer part of the curriculum in many places, but if they can’t read it anymore how do they deal with the cursive font that comes in so many word processing programs? I guess they just don’t use it and go with Comic Sans instead–purely to be ironic, of course.
      It’s interesting, though, that I work on a college campus and see almost all students taking notes or even filling out tests with paper and pencil, so handwriting is still alive and well. And it probably keeps them from skipping to the internet to look up answers.

      Reply
  3. Jay

    It’s an odd punishment that can never really have convinced anyone it had any effect, right? I rode a yellow bus too, for an hour out into the country where my school was surrounded by 3 cornfields and a graveyard. Nowhere to go.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Putting schools out in places where there’s nowhere to go is, I think, part of a longstanding tradition of trying to keep kids out of trouble, or at least stop them from skipping school. The junior high and high schools I went to were in the middle of residential neighborhoods so I never figured out why anyone would bother to cut class unless they had a car. To this day I envy the kids who go to a particular school here in Nashville that’s across the street from a mall and next to a doughnut shop. Now there’s a place where I’d be cutting class all the time.

      Reply
  4. Ann Koplow

    Keep writing on and on here, Chris. Please. And thanks for reminding me about “Danny Dunn and the Homework Machine.’

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It doesn’t surprise me that we both grew up with the novels of Danny Dunn. Someday I’ll write a tribute to that young scientist and we can reminisce about his many adventures.

      Reply
  5. BarbaraM

    Please read comment I left for you on MUM REVISED today. There’s something ‘wonky’ going on with your connection to the last comment (Ann Koplow). Any click takes me to the following:

    Your connection is not secure
    The owner of freethinkersanonymous.com has configured their website improperly. To protect your information from being stolen, Firefox has not connected to this website.

    Learn more…

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Reply
      1. BarbaraM

        Thanks for the update. Information I did not have.

        Reply
  6. mydangblog

    I never had to write out lines but I had to stand in the corner once for laughing. Such strange punishments they had when we were young!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      The more I think about it the more I realize that the stranger the punishment the worse the teacher. Good teachers found ways to discipline–I hate to use the word “punish”–in ways that were creative and educational. I’m sure that’s the kind of teacher you were and that you never made anybody stand in the corner.

      Reply

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