Friday 2 April 2010

Things I Learned From My Students #4: The Easter Holidays

Two-thirds of the way through my first year of teaching, it's time to divulge some more of the little nuggets of wisdom I have picked up from my students.
  1. A surprisingly large number of students like Bon Jovi.
  2. Every group of biology students thinks they're the first ones to ever put the class skeleton into THAT position.
  3. It's really difficult trying to get a lot of very passionately anti-choice teenagers to think objectively about the biology of abortion.
  4. Despite the alleged low attention span of the average teenager, they will sit and watch a video for a whole hour completely rapt.
  5. The Spearman Rank Correlation test will become the Spearmint Rhino test in no time.
  6. Pebble jars with incentives like class trips really work.
  7. Whoopee cushions make great impromptu buzzers for quiz-show-style activities...
  8. ...But they render the student incapable of answering due to an attack of the giggles.
  9. For a teacher, being officially graded is not as important as being asked by the kids whether you will be teaching them next year.
  10. It is really awesome when your kids come running to the staffroom to say they got an offer at University X.
  11. It's even more awesome when you know they hadn't considered a) that university or b) that course until you became their teacher.
  12. The same students who feel queasy about touching a real human bone will not think twice about getting stuck into a sheep's heart.
  13. A "that's what she said" joke can even be incorporated into a dissection class.
  14. Eventually, all the students will enjoy fieldwork.
  15. Students would rather pee in the woods than use a chemical toilet.
  16. Finding a live newt is a big deal.
  17. For some students, touching a newt is the first time they have ever touched a species other than their own.
  18. Bribery and corruption works - extensions on informal deadlines can easily be paid for in Bounty bars (for the Merkins - Bounty is like Almond Joy without the almond).
  19. A-Level Biology may be the only subject where you can discuss whether being kicked in the nuts is more painful than childbirth without it really being off-topic.
  20. Dissection makes people hungry. Fact.


  1. Students would rather pee in the woods than use a chemical toilet.

    You can let your students know that they have something in common with American wildland firefighters (out on the line, they have no choice but to pee on (or behind (lot of female wildland firefighters)) a tree (or (for the males) right on the fire (not recommended for females)). In camp, one of the more annoying jobs of the camp manager is finding and shutting down unauthorised pee zones. I've been in fire camps with 2,000 people, so it can be a major problem.

    Dissection makes people hungry. Fact.

    Not in my high school advanced bio class. Our teacher kept bringing in roadkill for dissection an necropsy.

    And we had advanced bio right before lunch.


  2. "for the Merkins - Bounty is like Almond Joy without the almond."

    Almond Joy have nuts Mounds don't (as per the commercial)

  3. Wait...are there still Bounty bars???? Given my free choice, I would have lived on those things, 'way back in my college days (some thiry-mumble years ago). They're like Mounds, only better.

    I'm off to search the 'Net...gotta score me some Bounty.

  4. Finding and touching a live newt IS a big deal!

  5. I had never seen Mounds before! But Bounty bars come in milk and dark chocolate flavours, and the milk chocolate is the best! Crucially, Bounties are also not made by Hershey, so they lack that awful plasticky aftertaste.

    Zach, wait until you see one of my upcoming Wordless Wednesdays!

    Billy, fortunately for us, we were positively encouraged to contribute to the nitrogen cycle of the nature reserve, as long as we didn't all choose the same spot. The nature reserve was big enough that most groups were at least two minutes' walk from each other, so they were able to spread the urine far and wide!

  6. I'm not sure that pro-choice advocates calling pro-lifers by the name "anti-choice" is going to advance the debate much more than it would if pro-lifers caller pro-choicers by the name "anti-lifers". Surely it's better to characterise both groups by what they are for rather then by the opposite of what the other group is for?

  7. Sure, if this were a reproductive rights blog seeking to engage in a rational debate about the pros and cons of abortion, morally, politically and legally. However, this is my personal blog stating my personal opinions and this is my personal characterisation of people who believe that I should not have the right to consent to or to refuse to consent to medical procedures; people who would present the only "choice" in reproductive rights as carrying a foetus through to full term. Given that they are fully opposed to women having autonomy over their own bodies, autonomy over their own medical procedures, autonomy over their own reproductive cycles and who actively campaign to remove all choice bar one, then my characterisation is aposite.

    Beside which, pro-choicers have been called "anti-life" for years.

    I have yet to meet anyone who is pro-choice who is not also pro-life - ALL life. The fact that in 2008 in the US (and I fully expect similar data for the UK, however ONS do not seem to have a breakdown of this) the death rate for women undergoing an abortion is 0.6 per 100,000 women compared to a death rate of women in pregnancy and childbirth of 7.1 per 100,000 women (Guttmacher Institute, 2008) shows me that in no way can the anti-choice movement be referred to as "pro-life", since they openly advocate the deaths of many more women.

    Pro-choice people are pro-contraception, pro-homebirth, pro-abortion, pro-VBAC, pro-adoption, pro-pregnancy, pro-sex, and far more pro-life than any anti-choicer will ever be.

    Now, Mike, given that you only ever comment on my blog when you want to tell me that I'm wrong, or that I'm offensive, or that you disagree, I suggest you stop and really consider whether this is the sort of blog you want to keep on reading. And when you've done that, be bloody grateful that you will never, ever have to make these sorts of decisions.

  8. "Now, Mike, given that you only ever comment on my blog when you want to tell me that I'm wrong, or that I'm offensive, or that you disagree ..."

    I don't recognise this characterisation of myself at all.


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