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High School Student Requests Transfer After Zoom Call Gone Wrong

By Asher Hancock:

At a Philadelphia High School, a 16-year-old student recently endured a trauma unlike any other. He has since tried everything from changing his schedule to going to therapy, but he cannot seem to shake it. He has finally made the choice to switch schools altogether. You may ask, what could this young man have gone through to result in such a drastic choice? He has released an anonymous statement retelling the ordeal which you can read below:

“Hello. I would like to keep this statement anonymous, because I don’t want its release to bring any more attention or pain to my family. A few weeks ago I had a traumatic experience, one that is difficult to even write about and one that will likely haunt me forever. Like many students my age, I have been attending classes remotely through Zoom, a video call platform. One of the classes that I attend on Zoom is Spanish, a subject that I am not very good at. Up until the incident, fewer and fewer kids had been attending the Spanish classes, with the average audience going from about 30 kids to about 10 kids. This clearly bothered my Spanish teacher but she wasn’t allowed to force people to attend, so she made do with the students that came. For me however, my parents were very insistent on me attending all my classes, so I reluctantly did so at the expense of a few extra hours of sleep.

On the day of the incident, my Spanish class was scheduled for 12:00, so I woke up at 11:00, had a bowl of cereal, and checked to see if any of my friends would also be coming to class. Nobody responded in the Spanish group chat when I asked who was going but that was pretty much normal so I didn’t question it. I texted a few individual people and they mostly said maybe or no. Although I knew my parents would be mad, the lack of people going made me consider skipping. One of my better friends told me he was planning on attending and his unintentional deception made me decide to go to class. I waited until 12:02 to join the call because I didn’t want to be the first one in and have an awkward interaction with my teacher. Lying in bed once again, I clicked on the link and the loading screen appeared on the call. The moment the teacher popped up I knew I had made a mistake. I was the only kid on the call. Just me and my teacher.

I momentarily panicked at the potential awkwardness but my teacher didn’t seem to notice I was there. The only real solution seemed to be to leave the call, because I wasn't prepared to have a 45 minute one on one session with my teacher. I went to click “leave meeting” when I was startled by the sound of something breaking in my home. Before I knew it my hand had slipped and I had accidentally turned on my camera, an act which caught the attention of my teacher. She began aggressively speaking to me in Spanish, a language that, I may have mentioned, I don’t understand very well. After rambling for two minutes she realized I did not understand what she was saying and began yelling at me in Spanish, which (surprisingly) did not increase the amount I understood. Her husband came into her office to see what was wrong and she unsuccessfully tried to mute herself to talk to him. I could then hear her telling her husband that “no-one else came to my class but the stupid kid, I don’t know what to do anymore. It’s like trying to teach a deaf gerbil”. As I am writing this I realize that I was the stupid kid she was referencing, so perhaps she was correct. I also realize that everything she had said in Spanish up until now had been her attempting to teach me rather than her scolding me. I apologize to her, for I know now I am unteachable when it comes to Spanish. Maybe they will have pig latin at my new school.

After she had finished speaking with her husband, a conversation that also included some very disturbing information about their evening plans and her husband’s performance issues, she came back to the call. By this point, I was balled up, holding my knees to my chest, rocking back and forth and repeating the only Spanish phrase I know, “La biblioteca está en la basura”. I thought that it meant “please make it stop” but turns out I was just saying “The library is in the trash”, which, given my Spanish abilities, was surprisingly close to the correct translation. Rather than comforting me, she continued her lesson by continuing to yell various phrases at me and draw pictures that all appeared to be of a blob-shaped aquatic creature. With 5 minutes to go, she got extremely frustrated and began trying to leave the call. When she couldn’t figure out how to do it, she got a hammer and started smashing her computer. Somehow even this didn’t end the call and I was too unresponsive to be able to end it myself. The call only ended after 3 more hours of her wailing and me rocking, when my sister came in, saw my condition, and ended it for me. It took me a day or two to snap out of it but when I finally did it was clear that I was forever altered. My parents have agreed that I never have to go on a Zoom call again and we are looking into a new school that exclusively uses walkie talkies for remote learning.


We wish this student the best of luck and hope that his efforts to transfer work out. We will try to keep you updated on the story, but we are told the student’s family will also be going into hiding and will be limiting any contact with the outside world.

1 Comment

Elliot Ginzburg
Elliot Ginzburg
Jun 23, 2020

Excellent piece Asher! Poor kid. I look forward to hear more about this developing story.

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