Some people shouldn’t be allowed to teach
This was recalled by someone much earlier telling tales of scientists doing stupid things.
For my sins, I am a science teacher in what would be politely referred to as a ‘Comprehensive’ school. Seeing as we’re in the near-vicinity of several grammar schools, we are in fact more of a bottom-feeder. Needless to say, any illusions I once possessed of being a cross between Mr Chips and Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society have been crushed under the sheer weight of imbecility I have to deal with while attempting to be inspirational.
Most of the teenage twunts I have to deal with aren’t permitted to go near glass or tweezers, let alone Bunsen burners, because of their incessant need to attempt to burn, lacerate or throw things at each other, rather than carry out the carefully-planned and sterile experiment I had in mind. The aforesaid seem to be very contented with the ‘turn to page 152 and copy this diagram’ style of teaching. It keeps them out of my hair while I sit at my desk and read b3ta and my email under the guise of ‘writing reports’.
But every now and then, I get a fresh intake of wide-eyed youngsters who are pretty well-behaved and I feel inclined to show a bit of practical work to. So the first thing we do is a little Health And Safety exercise. I say ‘little’ – this can often drag on for several lessons. We’re talking here about youngsters who will look straight down into a lit Bunsen to ‘see if it is working properly’, and take a sip of sodium hydroxide because they weren’t sure what it was and thought their gustatory senses would be better able to cope with it than the complicated business of reading a fecking great big label with ‘caustic soda – harmful’ written on in child-friendly 50-point Comic Sans.
So, eventually, we work our way round to ‘safely handling glassware’, for which I have to demonstrate the use of a test tube rack. I make sure to warn the little chitterlings not to put anything containing glass on the edge of the bench and never to put an empty tube straight onto the bench, because it will roll straight off and break. I also deliver a stern lecture on the perils of broken glass, not trying to clear it up themselves, and making sure they don’t have more contact with it than necessary. I tell gruesome, and largely fictional, tales of what happens to people when fragments of glass get into the bloodstream or the digestive system. To be honest, I terrify this bunch of 11-year-olds about as much as amorphous silica ever could do.
And then I lean over to the sink to carefully rinse out the tube I had been showing them. I had neglected to wear my lab coat for this bit of the lesson, as it’s bulky and smells of cats’ piss, for reasons that I’ve never been able to identify.
The corner of my suit jacket catches in a tub of 50 test tubes which I had, against my prudent advice, left on the edge of the bench. 50 test tubes shatter on the floor. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much broken glass. The floor of the lab ceases to be pristinely swept and now more closely resembles the shoot-out scene from The Matrix.
Every pupil in the room instantly flattens themselves against the back wall, terrified in their new knowledge that they might “inhale some and rupture their pulmonary blood vessels” (why did I tell them that? Why?!). The inevitable cynical kid, that even the nicest class always contains, is pissing himself laughing. The words “Oh Cock” have unavoidably escaped my lips and the Teaching Assistant, who is a firm Catholic, is standing there mortified and already composing a letter of complaint to the Head.
As I tell the youngsters not to worry (so much), I shift slightly towards my trusty dustpan-and-brush and realise that a large shard of hitherto test tube has somehow entered the top of my shoe and is burrowing along my instep, apprarently intent on severing any tendons it may encounter. The blood is already oozing out of my tasteful grey sock. Several pupils are then further alarmed by my bellowing like a werewolf with his goolies trapped in a vice.
I bend down to remove the offending glass, headbutt the bench on the way down, and collapse in a heap on the floor. Only the certain knowledge that there will be chaos if I pass out stops me going for a little sleep right there and then.
Trying to regain what’s left of my composure, I lever myself up on the side of the desk, and address the class: “OK. Now you need to open the textbook to page 152 and copy the diagram”.
Length? A full page of your exercise book, and don’t forget to label with a pencil and a ruler.
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