Memories of a chemistry teacher

When people discover I’m a chemistry teacher, they feel compelled to tell me about their chemistry teacher. I’ve heard it all: fabulous, complete deadbeat, hyper-smart, totally incompetent, took forever to mark anything, did stand-up comedy . . . More than one woman has told me that she had a crush on her chemistry teacher! Not during the bonding unit, I hope.

Recently, my colleague from Louisiana (woo-hoo!) told me a tale reminiscent of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: his grade 11 teacher made things pretty easy, ostensibly to ensure high enrollment in AP Chemistry, where he promptly put the screws to everyone. My colleague is an English teacher, if you’re askin’.

I have been told of chemistry teachers who recycled tests and exams for a million years — and how it didn’t take students long to get wise.

I used to work with someone who trotted out a 15-year-old old typewritten exam to use as our mid-year paper. Her students totally took advantage of the laziness — and didn’t learn much.

My niece suspects that her chemistry teacher didn’t give her an explanation of an empirical observation because he didn’t know the answer. I see nothing wrong with not knowing, but for Pete’s sake, fess-up. And offer to find the answer. Kids’ BS meters are ultra-sensitive.

As much as I loved Breaking Bad, I found Walter White’s chemistry teaching to be uninspiring. Sure, he’s uber-bright, but as a teacher, puh-leese!

John Mayer CD with the periodic table of elementsIf you like John Mayer’s music, maybe you’ve heard his most excellent CD, Room for Squares. In the liner notes, or whatever they’re called post-vinyl, he thanks Linda Paganini, a chemistry teacher at Brien McMahon High School, who helped him get into the Berklee College of music.1

This is fabulous — a chemistry teacher supporting her student in the arts.

So I’ll end with the question: As a teacher, how do you want to be remembered?


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