7th Grade Project

Originally published in Saturday Night Reader in February 2015 (link)

Dear parents and students,

This is a note regarding your child’s project for the summer break. This is
the fifth project of its kind and because last year’s still didn’t go quite
as expected, I felt compelled to write this message to all of you to make
sure none of the mistakes reoccur and that everyone is on the same page.

First things first: I know you are aware that time-travel is extremely
expensive. Opening the portal takes energy and time. However, our school is
privileged enough to be at the top of NASA’s sponsorship list for these
kinds of programs. Your child will time-travel for the project and you will
be reimbursed by the school. I know that this still means that you have to
pay the initial fee and be reimbursed (less a small processing fee), but
the opportunity for time travel is something that is definitely worth your
while, I am sure that you will agree. If your child doesn’t behave and must
restart his trip several times, you will be penalized and additional
amounts will be added to your tuition.

As some of you may have never had the opportunity to time-travel before, I
will give you a few general rules. If you want to read more, please refer
to the Wikipedia entry on time travel which has been recently updated.

Since a lot of people have difficulty grasping this concept, let me spell
it out for you: time-travel is not memory. Do not come with a thesis about
what your cat did yesterday. It’s cute, but not appropriate. Do not write
about the fantastic life of your grandfather; I don’t care if he was a Mars
miner, storytelling is not time-travel. This is about going back in time
way past your own birth date. Remember that. Also, anyone who describes
their own birth in detail will not pass my class. I get at least two or
three of those. It was okay once, but it’s not funny anymore.

If you are worried, I want you to rest assured that this trip is very safe.
As a time-traveler, you cannot die. If you were to be killed in the past,
you’d just jump back to the current time, but you will not have any
recollection as to what happened and you will have to start again. However,
I feel compelled to let you know that you can get hurt even though
you cannot get killed. Case in point, Frank Rugierro last year decided to
go back in time and fight Chuck Norris. Frank Rugierro is not a fighter so
he spent most of his summer in multiple casts. He did get an A+ in my
class, but he failed gym. So, be smart.

To be sure you succeed and don’t have to repeat your experiment, I suggest
you create a timeline and mark the periods and areas you should avoid. For
starters, I’d avoid any of the 5 world wars – your chance to survive,
especially during the nuclear holocausts, are remote. Most people also
avoid the big epidemics like plague, cholera, influenza, or, closer to our
time, the big Ebola breakout of 2015. But if you want to test it out, by
all means, go ahead, but rest assured that you cannot get sick. Actually,
you can, but when you return to your time, you won’t be carrying any
foreign bacteria or viruses.

Try to refrain yourself from taking objects from the past. You’ll only be
creating paradoxes that will have to be fixed by the schools
administration. Don’t alter anything, especially people. It’s just more
work for us. Just so you understand, here are some of the things people
have done in the past, which are totally frowned upon: shaved Saddam
Hussein’s mustache in his sleep, appeared to Moses and told him that “thou
shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife” should be removed, replaced Napoleon’s
clothes with the same ones, only 3 numbers larger, removed Gorbachev’s
birthmark over night with modern day laser technology, and so on. All fun
and games, but they won’t get you a grade in my class.

Here are some examples of what you could do: if you like music, go back and
befriend Beethoven as a teen. Get some insights into his life, something
that we don’t know yet. Are you an engineer type? Go back to meet Leonardo
da Vinci as a young boy. See how he was, what he was doing, what was he
thinking at that age? Into politics? Try to meet the first woman president
of the United States, Sarah Palin; meet her before she got into politics,
see if you can find out why she had to be committed to an insane asylum
only three months into her term. Give us something interesting, something
we don’t know. Be a true time-traveling reporter. Side note here: don’t
forget to load yourself with the proper language package, depending on the
area you target. And make it era-appropriate. A Brooklyn accent in the
Tudor period’s England got several students seriously hurt.

A final note: Keep in mind that these portals are only opened temporarily
for our school and our students and all time-travel will be diligently
scrutinized by the TTA (Time-Travel Authority).

This counts for 50% of your grade, so take it seriously.

Timmy was here. Blah. Blah. Blah. School is stupid.

As you can see, I left Timothy’s stunt in here, just to give you an
additional example of what not to do. Tempering with your teacher’s work is
not appropriate for this project. Timothy will be expelled and his family’s
time-travel credits will be confiscated. Be wise and use this project and
its resources responsibly.

Contractually I also have to mention that your trip is insured by the
American Empire Time-Travel Fire Insurance Company.

Thank you and see you in the fall!

Daniela Rothchild

7th Grade Teacher