Friday 24 June 2011

Things My Students Learned From Me

Last year (for some reason I didn't do any this year) I regaled you all with the things I learned from my students. It is now the end of term, or near enough - I don't expect to see the BTEC students in next week as they've all handed in their work, and in fact as this post is published I am sitting down to dinner with the class I've taught for two years and their tutor. The A2 students are all done bar those insane enough to do A-level physics, who have their final exam on Monday. And the AS students have had quite enough Intro to A2, and hopefully are defoliating trees to do the leaf margin analysis I set them as summer homework.

Occasionally I am reminded that my students learn things from me. Obviously one would hope that the key points of the syllabus are the major things they learn, but sometimes they say something that lets me know they were listening to an off-the-cuff remark or brief aside.

The word "misanthropic"

In an attempt to wear me down at the start of the year, whenever I asked a student of non-white heritage to move seats (I asked a lot of students to move - many of these were not white!), a couple of my absolute favourite students shouted out "Racist!". My response to this was "I'm not a racist, I'm a misanthropist - I hate everybody equally". The outcome of this was one of my A2s taking that word as a lifestyle choice, and Misanthropic Network was born (fortunately they haven't posted anything since April as they are all far too busy revising for exams). You should check it out - the "Walking With Humans" video is very funny.

Skinner boxes

One of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching GCSE biology last year was a brief section on animal behaviour, including classic and operant conditioning. The students, being bloodthirsty little boys and girls, really responded to the idea of electrocuting rats and pigeons, and thought it should be a central aspect of college discipline.

Skinner box scheme 01

Some of those students are now in my AS class, and if any of the others misbehave, or if I am trying to encourage attentive and responsive behaviour in class, one of my former GCSEs will pipe up "Get the Skinner box, miss!".

The true nature of pollen

When talking about plant anatomy to a load of students who really don't give a shit about anything that isn't human biology, it sometimes helps them if I make the connections between the organs and tissues. This means I really labour the point about flowers being plant genitals, for example.

It made my day when I heard a student sneeze in my class and then squeal "Stupid tree sperm!" - something embedded itself in her memory.

When to say "bastard" in polite company

Why, when you're referring to the bastard wing or alula, of course!

We have a swear jar. It's 10p for "shit", "fuck" or "cunt". If I drop an F-bomb I have to put in 20p as I'm a teacher and I should know better. The A2s have to put in £1 if they mention the word "germ" during the immunity topic. Some of the little darlings tried to get me to say "bastard" in an attempt to extract 20p from me for the swear jar, by retrieving one of the pigeon wings and asking me what the label said. They got part of their wish, for me to say "bastard", but they also got a long lecture on why it was called so and why that was not a swear word.


I rest my case.

It might be worth taking action against AGW

I scraped the surface of climate change on Tuesday with the Intro to A2 class. They saw the evidence, but were a little sceptical still. So I showed them this video:

Usually some of them zone out if I bung on a video, but they fixed on the screen and watched intently for the whole 10 minutes. They even said that it was a really good video. And then they said I'd ruined their summer for them and made them really depressed.

So I reminded them that there was still plenty that could be done and that they could go some way towards doing those things, and I bid them on their way for the summer.

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