Houston You got a problem?

We were at the dinner table one evening, talking school with the boys. Thankfully, this has always been a thoroughly pleasurable experience: They do like to talk about school especially since they have both been at secondary – they tend to ‘bounce’ stories off each other. Occasionally, you get some utter gems, such as this one.

Ian told us this about his Year 9 Science teacher ‘Miss Houston’. Miss seems a bit dizzy from what he’s already told us. You get the feeling that she’s not really fully in control. She is Greek, apparently, talks in a high-pitched singy-songy voice, and asks the kids “Houston gotta problem?” (As in Houston, Texas, Mission Control: “Houston we gotta problem”) when she thinks they are stuck.

Well, it comes about it’s a hot, tedious afternoon, almost time for home, but that bell is just far enough away to make it feel like an eternity. They are studying human reproduction and are labelling diagrams in their books as she points out for them the various key features. They are scribbling away with the parts of  the male reproductive system. They get to ‘Scrotum’ which she points out on the diagram and as they continue to write, heads down, suddenly, and to no-one in particular, she announces:

“Ahhh! ‘Scrotum’ I love the way it rolls off your tongue!”

(I swear this is true: we had the tale independently verified…)

The kids carried on writing, then it slowly began to dawn on…. first one or two…then a few more: what she had actually said. However, because of the directness with which she said it, coupled with the fact that the import of what she had actually said had only slowly made itself apparent to the class, right at the very end, there wasn’t a big fuss over it in the lesson. Many of them were packing away or had left the class, before someone or other said “Did she really say what I think she said?”

Well, after I’d recovered my composure (it was one of those cases where eventually you get to laughing at other people laughing. and Ian’s laugh is the most infectious ever..Oh God , I was in bulk…) Well, I was horrified and impressed in equal measure. Ian had, in fact already told my wife in the car after she’d picked him and James up. She nearly went off the road in hysterics, James thought she was having a fit, she eventually pulled up.

Well, as we got to hear more and more stories about her it became clear it was completely in character. Ian chose Chemistry, her subject  (however not necessarily because of her, though I will strongly encourage James to do so….) For example, she taught them about the ‘Bonding’ of atoms, by getting people from the class to act out scenes from a nightclub where each participant was an atom, the majority of who were out for a few drinks and a laugh, but basically to bond with another. Then there were one or two ‘kinky’ ones who wanted to bond in twos and threes! I began to wonder. Is she a dizzy, daft old moo who doesn’t know whether she’s coming or going, or is she (and this is where my money was going) actually a very canny teacher who was using language, key words, vingettes, play-acting, kinaesthetic learning to make it fun, interesting and easy to remember.

I finally met her at his year 11 parents’ evening and we had such a laugh at Ian’s expense (she didn’t know I was a teacher and I didn’t let on) but we were on the same wavelength immediately. Ian will never have any trouble remembering, or explaining what ‘bonding’ is or how it works.

One very cool (if still slightly dotty) lady.

 © Andy Daly  2010

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