Saturday, 29 October 2011

Crusty Senior Sass, Antacid Rockets and DANCE PARTIES!!!!

Those classes that suck.
I truly adore teaching but there are those days/classes that SUCK BUCKETS.  Those moments where Miss Lame wants to scream at the top of her lungs… RAAATTTTTTSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!
I know, so far, Miss Lame has had all positive things to say about teaching and life here in London England, but there are those pooptastic, downright exhausting days too.
I hate feeling like I failed to deliver an effective, engaging lesson.  These moments knock me down a peg as I over analyze and over personalize my rough interactions with students and the overall disorganization of the classroom. I despise feeling like I couldn’t quite gain the respect and attention of my students. 
During these arduous classes I grow to loathe the sound of my own voice.
Ladies, I’m waiting for some quiet please.
Like a broken record, stop and go, stop and go, constant interruptions, students completely consumed in their social banter, I fight to stick to my guns. Stay calm.
Not wanting to raise my voice.  I wait… waiting… still waiting... for students to discontinue talking so that I can deliver what could be a brief, 30 seconds of instructions, but instead takes at least 15 wearisome minutes to convey. Exhaustive. Boring.  
Pausing and waiting, an exasperating attempt to demonstrate the concept of being respectful to others and listening when someone has something to share. We call it “character building” in the world of teaching.
 The bell.  Little to nothing achieved, voice hurting, a dull ache creeping up my neck and nagging at the back of my head. Students begin to pack up and Miss Lame can’t bring herself to stop the flow towards the classroom door, to make a final statement to set the tone for next day. Nothing left. Rats. 
I turn up in the Science Department office, heart sunken and my posture and drawn face clearly reading “completely dejected”.  My arms are full of books, handouts, teaching supplies, my thermos and keys, all dangerously propped, one on top of the other and squeezed tightly against my breasts, threatening to crash into a disorganized mess on the floor.  I waddle awkwardly toward my desk space and begin lowering my armful of goods, slowly, carefully to the table, fighting ferociously not to impose further stress on my already damaged ego.
The Miss Lame way, in my elegant, rust colour vintage dress, classic brown leather boots, I execute a cumbersome, highly unflattering squat, contorting my body into angular, unnatural positions. Sacrificing grace (which isn’t a problem, nor a rarity for Miss Lame) I ultimately successfully manage to safely place my pile and pride on the desk.  Free of the dangerous load, I rotate my body, squaring my bum up with my chair seat and drop heavily into it. Toast.
The Crusty Senior Sass:
I find it is the crusty senior girls in particular that are most stressful to manage during these over personalizing, busy-brain times… Most of the time I am entertained and rather enjoy their “spunk” (that’s right, I said it), but some days I just can’t seem to let the sassy attitude roll off my back.
Miss Lame = Human.
Senior girls are on the cusp of young adulthood, growing more and more emotionally and mentally independent. They have so much to say. I love this. At the same time, many of these young ladies also still retain the highly self-centred focus of youth.
A deep desire for complete independence, coupled with the struggle to see outside of themselves results in what Miss Lame likes to call “Crusty, senior sass”.
Afterschool Detention…
Student: “Miss, I am going to be late for the cinema, which I pre-bought tickets for and it’s going to be your fault.
Miss Lame (thinking): “Don’t be such a self centered dickhead. You fucked up the class for everyone today.
Miss Lame’s ACTUAL response: “It’s not my fault you are here. Your behaviours and interruptions in class today affected the movement of the lesson and your classmate’s learning. It may not feel fair, but your behaviour wasn’t fair to you, your classmates and myself. Now you have to deal with the consequence and make up for lost class time.
Miss Lame learnings
During these taxing teaching times my ability to think positive is disrupted. My ability to acknowledge the baby steps and the small, yet crucial successes is drowned in my over anxious, over analysing, anal retentive brain.  Miss Lame has some stress management learning to do. 
Luckily, in the teaching world, if you are a reflective person (as teachers should be), self-learning and growth can occur quickly.  Successful teaching approaches, behaviours and mental states are met with instant gratification- student learning/engagement, a sense of organization. While ineffective approaches are met with a poop experiences. It is apparent, changes are to be made.
It’s important for Miss Lame to recognize that there are a number of factors contributing to a pooptastic class/day of teaching. Not soley due to her failures... 
A successful day/class of teaching = Kickass lesson plan + Hours of sleep for Miss Lame + Miss Lame fed and caffeinated + Energetic and confident Miss Lame mindset + Student hormonal state/mindset + Student group dynamics + Day of the week/Time of day    

Twenty-something goggled year 9 students standing around the schools 10 x 10 foot patch of green space, staring excitedly, tentatively at the 3 little film canisters set across the middle. Waiting for the punchline, the reaction.  A minute passes. The canisters are static. Steadfast. The girls start to fidget, their energy and smiles starting to fade, chatter picks up. They start to question the effectiveness of Miss Lame’s demonstration.
Miss, how long is this supposed to take? Did you try this out before hand? Are you sure you used the right ingredients?”
I encourage the girls to hold their horses just for a bit longer.   It’s gotta work!...” I said hopefully, a slight waver towards the end of my conviction…
1min 30seconds, still waiting.  As we approach the two minute mark I too begin to lose faith in my demonstration. My facial expression reads “dejected”.
I think out loud, “I don’t know why this isn’t working. Maybe I did miss something… 
The girls see my disappointment, some giggle, many begin throwing suggestions and words of encouragement my way.  The chatter escalates as we stand there, contemplating… “WHAT NOW?!”… Conversation begins diverting in all directions while I sit there fretting, feeling completely mentally constipated, stuck on the thought “WHY DIDN’T IT WORK!!!???!”
Chatter, Miss Lame brain constipation, 2min 30seconds... “POP!”  The film canister lid rocketed 10- 15 feet in the air!!!
The girls cried out with surprise and excitement, catching only the tail end of the "lift off"! The attention and eagerness of the young learners was instantly restored.  We all stare keenly, expectantly at the remaining two film canisters, not daring take our gaze away out of fear of missing the explosion again.  After observing the other two canisters explosive take off, I could feel the buzz of my students creative, energetic minds as they start firing ideas at me:
"MISSSSS! What if we add MORE acid??? What about FIVE antacid tablets instead of one??????"
Miss Lame's Super-dork science facts- What did the film canister rockets demonstrate?
The year 9s are learning about different types of chemical reactions (Metals with Water, Metals with Acid, Metal carbonates- alkaline/basic- with acid)... For this demonstration we were looking at the chemical reaction between metal carbonates and acids.
The general reaction equation is:
Metal Carbonate + Acid --> Salt + Water + Carbon dioxide gas
(*a neutralizing reaction*)
I wanted to give the students real life examples of this reaction/equation...
-Example 1: FOR DELICIOUSLY FLUFFY PANCAKES two KEY ingredients (REACTANTS) are required...
1. BICARBONATE OF SODA (Metal carbonate)
These two ingredients/compounds should be mixed right before cooking as the reaction will begin taking place... THE KEY PRODUCT that results in FLUFFIFYING of the pancakes is CO2 GAS!!!!
-Example 2: Stomach acid and antacid tablets such as "Gaviscon" etc... ANTACID ROCKETS!!!!!
1. Hydrochloric Acid (HCl) was poured in the film canister (experimented with various amounts). This is to emulate the stomach acids that proliferate when there is a lot of fat digestion taking place in the stomach...
2. Antacid Tablets, which I inform the students are used to neutralize or calm down the over active stomach acid.
The film canisters that have "male" style fitting lids are fairly snug and stay on the canister as the chemical reaction takes place and the byproduct, CO2, builds and builds. When the pressure becomes to great, the lid explodes off the top of the canister, rocketing high up into the air! Explosions = fun!
The follow up student questionning... "Miss, if I took an antacid would I explode too???
"Yes. Yes you would."
Dance Party???
After a great class, Miss Lame likes to wrap things up with a moment of dance.
The popular song of choice (student vote):
These brief dance parties have been known to result in a giant, full class dancing trains...  Delightful!
NOTE: Any words that are bolded, italicized, underlined and in red are suggested/preferred words by Mom. She doesn’t like me saying words like fuck, shit, ass (etc) on the internet… I feel these words better illustrate my feelings as times, so just imagine them in there if you will.


  1. Excellent writing! You're a good storyteller, with insight, humour and evocative language. Yes, teens on the brink of adulthood...

  2. Gary,

    Thank you so much for your comment! I am touched that you noticed and enjoyed my writing!

    You and my other readers encouragement has really kept me eager to post and keep writing despite how busy things have gotten! :)