● The elephant’s toothpaste demonstration — used for the puking pumpkin in the October issue of Chem 13 News (page 20) — is truly a favourite demonstration of mine. Interestingly, 30% hydrogen peroxide appeared on our school board’s list of chemicals to be reviewed. Other school boards have already banned its use. It has not been banned in our board thanks to teacher input on how the chemical was being used in the classroom.
I believe that safety for our students should always come first. As such, I reserve certain chemicals and demonstrations for teacher-led presentations where students can safely watch with the necessary precautions, such as the use of a fume hood or other protective equipment. A recommendation for school boards would be to differentiate between chemicals for student use and teacher use so we do not lose the opportunity to have demonstrations like the elephant’s toothpaste.
Waterloo-Oxford DSS, Baden ON
● I have been hearing a lot about “class leveling” and the positive effects of high performing students “rubbing off” on lower-performing students to the benefit of all. What we are really doing is homogenizing education into mediocrity. We have to face the hard, cold, unpleasant fact that at the high school level, the die has been cast and may have been so since middle school. There are of course exceptions but they are very rare and must be student driven. We need to be alert, receptive, supportive and dedicated to those rare “born again” students, whom I applaud, but we cannot sacrifice academic excellence and rigor that we owe to the majority. We cannot educationally malnourish the majority or we will all be malnourished. We, as teachers, are not responsible for the factors of home life, social disruption, poverty, or emotional upheaval, but we are responsible for providing the most education for the most students. Just as in athletics, some lose and some win and nobody argues. That is the way it is, and we must accept it.
Canton HS, Canton MA
[To add to this conversation, listen to the podcast “Back to School” on This American Life, a weekly public radio show in the USA that uses narrative journalism. This worthwhile podcast — especially for teachers — is about how schools should be working on more than just cognitive skills.]