Houston, You Have A Problem?

We were at the dinner table one evening, talking school with our boys. Thankfully, this has always (up to now at least) been a thoroughly pleasurable experience: They do like to talk about school and 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.

Mission Control. Houston Texas

Our eldest told us this about his Year 9 (That’s ‘Third Year’ in £ S d) 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 NASA. Mission Control: “Houston we gotta problem”) when she thinks they are stuck. She likes a challenge.

Year 9 Science classroom

Well, 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)

The kids carry on writing … then it slowly began to dawn first on one or two…then a few more. Lazily, the import of what she had actually said, coupled with her directness began to make  itself apparent to the class – and then, it was the end of the lesson. Bell went, students departed. So it wasn’t until outside that the real fuss began, with pupils scurrying down the corridors hurridly cramming books into bags (the Boys’ voluminous enough to carry a full set of the ‘Encyclopaedia Britannica’ the Girls’ about the size  of a postage stamp) “Did she really say what I think she said?” “I think so …” “Hey Shellie, guess what our Science teacher’s just 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 our eldest’s laugh is the most infectious ever..Oh God , I was in bulk…) Well, I was horrified and impressed in equal measure. He had, in fact already told his Mum in the car after she’d picked him and his brother up for the Home Run. She nearly went off the road in hysterics; they thought she was having a fit, she eventually pulled up.

As we got to hear more and more stories about Miss Houston, it became clear that this was completely in character. Our eldest chose to study Chemistry, her subject at GCSE level (however not necessarily because of her, though I will strongly encourage his brother to do so too.)

Another example  from a GCSE class, again, courtesy of our eldest. 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’s 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 our eldest’s year 11 parents’ evening and we had such a laugh (much of which was at his expense I’ m ashamed to say) she didn’t know I was a teacher and I didn’t let on. We were however, on the same wavelength immediately. He will never have any trouble remembering, or explaining what ‘bonding’ is or how it works. As for scrotum…

One very cool (if still slightly dotty) lady.

 © Andy Daly  2010

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