The Most Successful Babysitter in The World: YouTube

I have found that many parents and babysitters have been using a revolutionary 21st century tool to manage children. This tool has also been used by private babysitter services as well. Imagine having a child who has never seen Youtube before coming home and asking for it. It is not surprising since Youtube has made many adults glued to the screens. As such, it should not be surprising that young children will be hooked to it as well.

Now before I continue any further, this may not be something you want to hear. Thus, please do note that these opinions are mine and mine alone. I welcome discussions, but please don’t go Molotov-cocktailing my house.

Benefits of Using Youtube

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Youtube can be a rather effective educational tool. Let’s face it, with it being the second-largest search engine in the world, you can use Youtube to illustrate practically any topic in the world.

Also, I can imagine the convenience of keeping the children occupied with Youtube. I think any parent here would agree that getting a few minutes or hours of kid-free time is pure bliss. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but as a parent, your responsibilities encompass everything else around the house and work. There are also times where you just want to unwind. After all, the walking dead is on its tenth season.

However, aside from being an effective educational tool and its large repository of videos, Youtube has been linked to some problems faced by parents these days.

Problems With Youtube

Children are easily influenced and their behaviour can be easily moldable depending on their surroundings. As such, if videos are inappropriate, you can be sure that this will eventually affect the attitude of the child as well. I remember a friend speaking about how the autoplay function on Youtube was an excellent tool as it keeps the child entertained.

This was all good until some parties managed to game the system. They manipulated Youtube’s algorithm to play their own videos with inappropriate content. Of course, you could easily mitigate this by pre-downloading the right videos for your child. But consider this, how long should a child be allowed to watch Youtube videos?

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If you are a teacher or have observed any classrooms lately, you will find that children these days are a little more active than the children of the previous generation. There are many reasons to justify this. However, the amount of screen time has been attributed as one of the causes. With studies stating that the younger a child is and the more time a child spends on screens, the more it impedes their mental development. This is the case with allowing children too much time watching Youtube. So how much is exactly too much?

It’s hard to say unfortunately, some claim that no more than 2 hours a day is fine while others claim that a few minutes is adequate. What is clear however is this, moderation is key. Of course, when in doubt, introduce screen time when the child is much older.

But No Screen is Tough

I understand and acknowledge this. There are days when I do feel like just letting Youtube do all the babysitting for me while I run off to do my work. However, we do have to persevere. As such, a lot of time is spent entertaining our children with books and toys. It takes up more time, but it helps them better especially in their speech development. The same applies to their ability to focus as well. This does not necessarily apply to every child.

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However, here is a different perspective. If screen time is introduced as a way to keep them occupied, too much screen time would eventually become a norm. Thus, if it is taken away, how would you think the child would react? From experience, children who are used to too much screen time will get extremely bored and unfocused when their screen time is taken away. It becomes somewhat like a drug to keep them going, kinda how coffee works for me. As such, just like coffee, shouldn’t its intake be limited as much as possible? Or like a popular sticker once said,

Who is raising your child? You or Youtube?

Do let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

My Experience Training a Group of Policemen

I was given an assignment the other day to train a group of policemen. Truth be told, it sounded like a pretty daunting task, especially since the topic was on public speaking. The daunting part comes in the form of discipline. You see, I knew trainees, especially adult trainees would be less than thrilled to speak in public. Some will even revolt when the language they have to speak in is English.

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I Overprepared…

Since it was a class that I felt I was not prepared for, I did what any teacher would do, I overprepared. The problem was that all the overpreparation was all for naught. I had no idea how proficient the participants (the policemen) were. Furthermore, I had no idea how they would react to the lessons.

So, I loaded up on games, activities, and anything that I could use to capture the attention of the participants. Just in case, I also prepared ten hours worth of slides. The day of training the policemen came and boy was I in for a surprise.

On The Day of Training

On the day of training, I went in and introduced myself and started the training. 15 minutes into my session, my participants started falling asleep. Perhaps some of them were on night patrol and I wondered what I should do. My teacher instincts dictated that I wake him up. An evil thought crossed my mind, I could throw a whiteboard marker at them. That would wake some of them up. But, they were the ones with the guns. So I had to come up with another idea.

At this point, I decided to throw my ten-hour powerpoint slides out the window. I switched immediately to the games and activities that I have prepared. Perhaps something that more stimulating would keep them awake. But then, I ran into another problem, some of the policemen started protesting. It was not a strong protest, but more of a “please don’t make me do this because my English is bad”.

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It was at this point that I realized that it was not the lesson, nor defiance that made them fall asleep but fear. One of them even noted that he was not academically qualified to speak well. He said that he was only a high school graduate and thus was not able to speak in English.

Time For Plan B

I started encouraging and getting the policemen to share anything at all. All they had to do was speak for 30 seconds. They reluctantly agreed and started speaking. Their speech was riddled with grammatical errors but they gave it their very best. At the end of the activity, I went up shared a story.

The story was about a time when I was teaching a university class. In my class, they were many undergraduates and postgraduates. They were much like the policemen as they were not very proficient in English. However, these students were defiant. They crossed their arms and refused to speak a word of English, claiming that the language had no relevance to them. I told the policemen that the only similarity between the policemen and the students was their language proficiency.  Also, I told the policemen that I knew that speaking in English was difficult for them, yet they tried. I also told them that it was a joy in teaching such a professional group of students.

Furthermore, I told them that it did not matter if they were university graduates or high school graduates, what mattered was their attitude. After that, the entire atmosphere in the class changed. They became more participative and at the end, most of them even spoke in front of everyone for at least 5 minutes.

Conclusion

For that final activity, I had the organizer take a video of each of them speaking in front. For most of them, it was their first time speaking in English, in public. The video was distributed to each of them. I told them that one day if they were ever called to speak in public, all they had to do, was look back at the video. This is because the first time is always the hardest, but because they were willing to step out of their comfort zone, the second time would be a breeze.

 

The Unreliable Yardstick: Exam Grades

One of the goals that many parents strive for is a good education for their children. The definition of a good education often means obtaining good exam grades. While that is not something bad to strive towards, good exam grades have become a form of measurement, a yardstick that is unreliable.

Good Grades = Good Future?

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Now, if your goal is to get an “A” for every paper your child sits for, then you can stop reading right now, this article is not for you. However, if you intend to use good grades to secure a good future for your child, then read on.

You see, good exam grades may not necessarily guarantee you a good future. Yes, it gets you through the door of a good school and eventually a good university. However, there will come a time when an “A” or a high-grade point average is just not enough.

This is because more and more students are being trained on WHAT to answer to get good exam grades. However, most of them are not trained in HOW to do so. On one hand, being trained on WHAT to answer can merely be a regurgitation of facts. However, knowing HOW to do so will teach the child not just facts but the ability to be persistent and self-directed.

This can be achieved by teaching the child how to analyze their weaknesses and strengths in completing a particular paper. Conventionally, whenever a child does not do well in the exam, they are given the right answer. However, this often creates a reliance on the child to the teacher, making them unable to think for themselves, let alone being aware of why they made the mistake in the first place.

Good Students and Independent Thinkers

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I believe that future employers will be looking for those who are not just great academically but those who are critical, creative and independent of thought. In order for them to do so, they should be taught how to be persistent. This means never giving up no matter how tough things get. I remember seeing some college students with extremely good exam grades in school giving up on a course when things got a bit too tough.

In addition, a good student should be someone who takes the initiative academically and in their work. In order to do so, they should not merely be trained on how to answer all the right answers but know how to analyze why they fail or how to do better. This is a skill that can only be learned through failing.

In order for that to be achieved, failing should be encouraged. Not necessarily just in exams, but in the students’ tasks, homework, and activities. Through this, the students will hopefully learn how to evaluate their own work better. This would eventually lead to students taking more ownership over their learning and future. As seen in this article here.

Conclusion

Preparing a child to do well is not an easy task and should not be measured merely by good exam grades. As such, we have to prepare and equip the children with more than just the ability to score well but the ability to persist and be independent in their studies and in the future, their work.

Are We Grading Our Students Wrong?

I was working for an education startup looking to change how we teach our students. We have become such an exam-oriented society that we seem to have forgotten why we learn. The owner of the startup claimed that one of the biggest challenges towards educating the students was to educate the parents.

 Giving The Children A Grade

The term giving children a grade is something used when we are giving children a grade for their results. However, the founder has a different idea for this term.

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He started noticing that parents and teachers alike have started branding the children with certain terms that resemble a grade. You may have heard of such terms before. Some parents and teachers would label the children as, ‘slow’, ‘clever’, ‘stupid’ or even ‘naughty’. Some may even compare between the children in a particular class.

Over time, these children get relegated into groups where we label them by a particular ‘grade’. A-grade students are generally students who are well behaved and academically inclined. C-grade students are students who are disruptive and are not able to keep up with the lesson in school.

The problem with such grading is that the child knows about it as well. The founder lamented that learning has degraded to a state where everyone is graded according to an archaic system that is not relevant to the world today. As he saw in an article, we are using 21st century tools in 20th century learning environments with 19th century learning styles.

In such a system, the benchmark to grade the students is the use of exams. Sadly, exams do not take into account many things that would determine the success of the children in the future.

What We Should Be Doing

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One of the things that I am working with this founder is to change the parents’ mindset on exams. He wanted parents to focus more on how the children have been learning instead of what they have been getting for their exams.

Although exams may sound like an excellent way to grade students, it actually is not. This is because exams are generally pen and paper-based tests. As such, this assesses the writing and reading skills of the child. However, what about problem-solving and practical skills? These items are at times not graded.

Furthermore, exams require the children to get it right the first time. As such, even if you are not at 100% on the day of the exam, your grade is supposed to represent how good you are.

Finally, the many 21st century skills  are often not evaluated in exams. Thus, we may be doing a disservice when using exams as a benchmark. As such, we should be focusing on this through practical hands-on activities. Of course, we must also acknowledge that all children are unique. Some may be bad at exams but perhaps they will find success in areas that better suit their strengths.

Conclusion

I have always been passionate about this subject because I grew up in an academic-worshipping-environment. Academic excellence was the focus and the ultimate goal that many strive to achieve. However, with our ever-changing world, perhaps we have to rethink how we approach learning. Or else, we may risk preparing our children for a future with skills that are better suited for the past.

I Wonder If I Could Program My Children With Pavlov’s Theory

When my daughter was about 6 months old, I had a brilliant idea. My plan was to utilize Pavlov’s theory on behaviorism to make parenting easy. I have always wanted to try out Pavlov’s behaviorism theory on my children. Imagine how well I could control my children from throwing a fuss.

Just a recap, Pavlov’s behaviorism theory stems from his experiment with his dog. The gist of it is that you can condition certain behavior using a certain stimulus. You can read all about it here.

In Pavlov’s experiment, he would ring a bell whenever food is served to the dog. After an extended time, even without any food being served, once the bell is rung, the dog would still salivate. This gave me an idea of ‘programming’ my child to act a certain way whenever she misbehaves.

The Snap

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My first idea was the snap. In theory, if I were to snap my fingers whenever she laughs, I could condition her to laugh whenever I snap a finger. Pretty cool, right? Although I am pretty sure there are certain psychological side effects from this, but anything to stop a crying baby.

So I set out doing so, rather inconsistently, and after a few months, I put my theory to the test. One day, my daughter had a meltdown and so I thought, this is it! The defining moment where my snap would calm her down.

I snapped my fingers. No change. She continued crying louder. I thought, maybe she did not hear me, so I snapped my fingers louder. No change. As the crying got louder, I thought that my experiment had failed. So I picked her up and calmed her down.

I was not willing to give up, so I moved on to the next plan.

The Bell

Perhaps I needed something a bit closer to the source material. As such, I thought I should have used the bell instead of the snap. I started ringing the bell for fun whenever we have food. It was amusing at first, then it became commonplace.

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After a while, I put the theory to the test. I prepared a meal with loads of vegetables, you know because it is healthy. Also, I knew my daughter would not be happy about it.

My daughter then started throwing a fuss and I thought that the bell would help. I rang the bell and nothing happened. In fact, she cried even harder. Once again, I have failed and I had no choice but to give in to her. I picked her up and held her tight.

That is when I realized that perhaps the research subject was not my daughter. Perhaps, I was the one in which Pavlov’s behaviorism is being employed on.

Wait… Who Is Being Manipulated, I Wonder

Looking back, I am the one who has been manipulated by my daughter all along. Her cries were the stimulus and the desired behavior is whatever she wants me to do.

All along, she just had to cry and I would do whatever that she does. Ah well, I suppose she is a smart one. Now, if you would excuse me, I need to tend to her as she is crying now.

How to Survive Your First Day Of Teaching

So you have just started your career as a teacher, congratulations and good luck! It is truly a fun time ahead. However, teaching is a profession wrought with perils. One wrong step, and the parents/students/your boss will eat you alive. I’m joking, you’ll do great!

However, just in case, here are a list of dos and don’ts that you may want to consider.

1) Establish Clear Boundaries

Repeat after me:

“I am the students’ teachers. I am not their friend.”

On the first day of school, you will need to establish very clear boundaries with the students. Never be too nice to them that they assume that you are their friend and not their teacher.

However, you can always be nice to them individually. Listen to them and speak to them outside of the classroom. In the classroom, bear in mind that you will have to command the students.

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2) Set Your Rules/Desired Behavior

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the kind of behavior you want your students to show in class. Do you want your students to raise their hands before asking a question? Perhaps you want them to say please and thank you in class?

Once you have an idea of what type of behavior you desire, you will need to set clear rules and rewards to encourage or discourage those behavior. However, any reward or punishment needs to be enforced consistently.

As such, you may hate punishing your students, but remember you are doing so to make them better individuals in the future.

3) Never Get Into Any Verbal Exchange In Class

While this may not happen, you may get one or two rather interesting students who may decide to test how far they can push you. To that end, never ever get into a verbal exchange with any student who decides to challenge you in the classroom.

If you do, remember that having a long verbal exchange with that student in the classroom may slowly evolve into a long heated argument. Furthermore, you don’t want to argue with children, would you?

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My suggestion would be to end the argument there with these words, “I’ll see you after class.” You can ignore everything else the student may see after that.

4) No One Gets It Right On The First Day

Finally, remember that very few of us manage to crush it on the first day of class. Most of the time, you will not manage well on the first day of teaching.

However, after you have found your groove after the the second or third week, you will find that teaching gets a bit easier. As such, stand strong and take on your class. While you are at it, remember to have lots of fun.

Conclusion

I hope you have found these tips useful. Many of these tips come from my experience supervising teacher trainees. Hopefully, you will not make the same mistakes that they have through these tips.

Would You Fail A Mother?

I have been called an academic snob by some of my colleagues. The reason is that I teach one of the most dreaded papers in college. That is academic research. As such, I hold all my students (and colleagues) to a high standard. I demanded perfection from my students. However, there was a time when I had to wrestle with myself and decide whether my standards were worth it.

My Side Of My ‘Snobishness’

I was one of the academic lecturers involved in writing the national module on academic research for my college. I believe that holding my students to a higher standard would better prepare them for their career. You see, teaching in my country demands that teachers not only teach but be academicians as well.

This means that every year, they are expected to write academic research papers. While I do not agree with this policy, I will not be doing my job to its fullest for not preparing my students too. As such, I try my very best to prepare them well. Some of my colleagues do not think so. They feel that many of my students have suffered enough in college and should have an easier time writing those long academic papers.

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I suppose they have a point, but I would not want to be blamed for not preparing the students. However, that notion was challenged when I was given a new class of students.

Supervising Two Mothers

The powers-that-be suddenly had this great idea. They decreed that all teachers without a degree need to head back to college to get one. As such, many teachers who have been teaching for years were forced back to study or suffer the bureaucratic consequences.

I was asked to teach the academic research paper for the students. However, I was asked to supervise two older ladies. One of them is a mother of four while the other, a mother of three. After some pleasantries, our interesting journey in academic begun.

Everything was fine at first but it wasn’t long before these mothers had to juggle between academia and motherhood. I remember a time when I was guiding one of the mothers with her thesis when she seemed lost. I asked if she was alright and she asked to be excused. The reason was that she had to breastfeed her children who were waiting for her in the car.

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I was mildly annoyed but excused her. It was not long before they were unable to commit to their work because they were busy with their family matters.

Judgement Day

After a very long journey with these two mothers and much wrestling with their mother duties. They submitted that long, thick binding of paper, their thesis. The thesis was supposed to represent the sum of their academic commitment and their teaching skills. But the work was badly done.

I was then faced with a choice. I could fail them. There were many reasons to. They would then be asked to return the next year and continue this academic nightmare again, juggling between being a mother and a student.

Or, I could lower my standards. I could allow them to pass and be done with something that was not their choice but was forced into. Besides, they have tried their very best but being a mother and studying at the same time can be a daunting task. Oh, and did I mention that they were not excused from their day job too?

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In the end, I passed them. I just could not bring myself to fail two mothers who have tried so hard to juggle between work, studies, and family. The look on their faces during graduation day was priceless.

This experience reminds me that many a time, not everything is black and white. There are certain times when bending the rules or lowering certain standards is necessary. It takes a little wisdom, but it can also be about whether one is ok living with the end results. This time, I was happy with the choice I’ve made.

 

 

Three Tools To Help You Ace Your College Writing Assignments

We all have been there. You were given a college writing assignment a few weeks back and it is due tomorrow. As you stare at the assignment task, you wonder, how on earth are you going to complete a 1000 word academic essay by tomorrow? You wonder if this is it, that if you are going to fail your assignment for sure and retake the entire semester. Thankfully, we live in a time where there are so many tools available to us. Tools that could help you write a great academic essay packed with relevant references in a very short period of time.

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GOOGLE SCHOLAR

Google Scholar is an excellent tool that solves two major problems. First off, it has a large library of articles and papers compiled from almost every major journal on the internet. This should help you in finding evidence for your arguments in your academic essays. However, that’s not the best part.

In the advanced search section of Google Scholar, you will be able to narrow your search down to specific phrases. For example, if you are writing about a comparative study between two cases, you can type in the exact phrase that you want to appear in the studies you are searching for. After compiling the different studies that fit your topic, discussing it should be easy. This is because you would have many studies that are related to the topic of your assignment. Now comes the most tedious part. Referencing these articles.

It can be a pain to manually type out every single reference which you have cited in your article. That is where Google scholar comes in. The second major issue that Google scholar solves is automatically generating a reference for you. Just click on the cite button located next to the star under each article. A pop-up window will appear and you can copy and paste the reference into your work.

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OATD

Using Google scholar is great if you have an idea on what to write. However, what if you have no idea how to even start your essay. This is an issue for year-end dissertations and theses. Often, we may ponder for days on end and have absolutely no idea how to write an academically acceptable thesis. That problem can be solved via OATD which stands for open access theses and dissertations.

You can access the site via oatd.org and search for published theses and dissertations of your field. From there, you can reference and emulate the ideas and structure of these published work. I find that after reading through a few of theses, I would have a better idea of what to write. Often, studying the theses and dissertations on OATD is much more productive than just staring at the computer screen.

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GOOGLE DOCUMENTS

If you have found Google scholar and OATD to be unhelpful, it is time to request for reinforcements. Now, pick up your phone, scroll through your contacts and pick a good friend who is great academically. Chances are, that friend of yours would have already completed his written assignment.

Now, start telling that friend how awesome he/she is and ask if that friend would help you co-write your assignment. You can then start a Google document for free and share this document with your friend. Make sure to grant that friend access to edit the document. I find this method effective because if you have problems starting, that friend could help by starting the essay off for you. With your friend’s help, you are more likely to complete your work at a faster pace. This is because if you were to hit any mental roadblocks, that friend would be there to help you pick up from where you left off.

You know what they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed. Just be sure to buy that friend a cup of coffee later.

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CONCLUSION

Those are my three tools to help you ace your college writing assignments. As a college lecturer and a doctorate student myself, I have gotten myself out of assignment troubles more than once with the methods above. I am sure that if you were to use the tools above, you will likely pass your written assignment.

Faith? Trust? Stupidity Or Something Else?

I am with the opinion that we should always give our children the benefit of the doubt. I believe that we should always allow children the freedom to explore. However, I do think that some parents have taken this to the extreme. Let me explain an incident I saw the other day.

Faith? Trust? Stupidity?

A mother brought four of her children to the pool the other day. The pool was reasonably deep and the children did not seem like proficient swimmers. She gave them a string and left them to go swimming. I was having a swimming class nearby and my spider senses or rather paranoia started tingling.

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You see, the mother sat there while all the children started running into the pool. Before they started diving in, they were given a rope. This rope was meant to pull their siblings in, just in case, they were to drift too far into the pool. The pool was too deep for them and they could barely touch the bottom of the pool.

Needless to say, my swimming class was interrupted. Not because they were running around, but because every time they jumped in, I was afraid that they would drown. Luckily, one sibling was always around to reel the other in. It wasn’t long before that got a bit boring for them.

That was when they started jumping into the pool while holding a rope. The pool had no lifeguard on duty. As such, I shot the mother a judging glance. I did not know how my glance was supposed to look but basically, I hope my glance would convey the message “Are you stupid?”

Or Something Else?

I was hoping that perhaps my look would sway her from leaving the children at the pool. I started recapping how to do CPR in my head but something about the mom’s look caught my attention. I glanced back at her again. She looked tired, soulless even. I suppose she was just exhausted. Looking at her children running around like they were high on coffee, I was not surprised.

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My mind wandered and I started picturing how her weekend was like. It was likely that the children were up super early and started bouncing on her bed. She was probably tired from the night before, nursing her baby to sleep. Then it was a whole long day of keeping the children entertained. I suppose she must have tried all kinds of activities until finally, she decided to take them to the pool.

At this point, I started feeling bad. Perhaps, I was too judgemental and perhaps sending her children to the pool was the only time that she got to have a break. At this point, I suppose I will just keep an eye out for her children. Hopefully, she would be rested well enough to go through the week.

Teacher! My Brother Was Scratching His….

So this has gone down as one of the most awkward classes that I have had in a while. So it was a normal class where I was teaching two brothers. Both of them were fine until they started fighting. Since I was around, they have resorted to a mere war of words.

The exchange was quiet and civil initially. Just mere exchange of words like every sibling. However, the younger brother was losing this particular exchange. It wasn’t for long before things got rather out of hand.

The older brother started using his talents with arguments to slowly humiliate the younger brother in front of the class. The younger brother was angry, fuming actually. He thought of a comeback but had none. Then, he decided to hit under the belt, and I mean, way under the belt.

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The younger brother then decided to blurt out his brother’s dirtiest and darkest secret to the entire class. Now, bear in mind that the younger brother is no younger than the older brother. However, he was a lot more ‘innocent’ than the older brother.

As such, he immediately stood up and pointed at his brother shouting out all the things that his brother did in his private time. He shouted how he saw his brother ‘scratching himself’ while ‘watching girls on the computer screen’. As if to let it all sink in, he repeated this several times in front of the class revealing the frequency of his brother’s recreation time.

At this point, the class was a mix of confusion and shock. We all had no idea how to react. By ‘we’, that includes me as well. As such, I had to calm the younger brother down and made everyone resume their work. It was not easy, but I think everyone would have rather deal with their homework instead of the entire awkward situation.

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As for the older brother, he was quiet for the rest of the class. He just buried his head in his work. As much as this was a very awkward class, this quickly turned into a very quiet class as well.

When class was over, everyone could not leave fast enough. However, I walked the older brother out of the class and asked if what his brother said was true. He denied all of it. I assured him that if he ever wanted to talk I would be around.

Conclusion

It has been a rather interesting class but this has got to be a new one for me. As much as I hoped that the older brother would sit down and talk things out with me, I suppose it is a journey that he has to go through on his own.

However, I do think that the biggest loser in this story could potentially be the younger brother. I wonder what revenge his older brother is planing for him. I guess I will find out in the next class.