Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Periodically Speaking

This post was inspired by a few of my students. Whereas they will once in a while do something that is generally regarded as blog worthy (they are teenagers after all), I try to keep their appearances in the blog to a minimum. The only time they make Banter headlines is in truly exceptional circumstances of idiocy or in regards to sport. This post is about none of that.

Here's the synopsis: I started teaching a new chemistry class this semester. This information in and of itself is neither shocking or newsworthy since I have a degree in chemistry and am a teacher. In fact, given those qualifiers, it makes absolute sense. So, what's the point.

As you may have garnered, the more some things change the more they stay the same. At the beginning of the course I sat down and laid out a plan of attack for the new chemists. I flashed back to my HS chemistry days and recognized that it was an agonizingly horrible experience. I don't think I learned much except for the most useless of facts in a chemist's toolbox.

One of the things we had to do was memorize the elements, including their symbols, for the first 80 or so entries. Mendeleev, who was a triathlete, would have been proud. Now that I'm an adult and in an advisory role, I find that task absolutely, totally, and in all other ways ridiculous. There is not a chemistry lab lacking this list readily available for your viewing pleasure. Why bother memorizing something that is going to be in plain sight? Plus, there's a lot more going on in chemistry than just the elements. There's, you know, compounds, electrons, and other stuff (okay, I actually didn't plan that far ahead).

Like most good teachers, and some mediocre ones as well, I make it a habit of actually talking to my students. They believe it's wasting time. I believe it to be learning about my students so I can better serve them. (They may be more right than me... I'm still not complaining.) I told them about my chem experience and that I actually memorized the names and symbols. They, of course, took it upon themselves to challenge this edict and test me. I, of course, passed with flying colors. I can't remember the kids' names to save my life but I'll be damned if I get an element wrong. Curse you 10th grade chemistry teacher. You took up all of my good brain cells with that useless knowledge.

The kids, sadly, were quite impressed with this feat. I tried to explain to them that it was a useless skill and that I really only had one other, equally useless skill. They were having none of that. This resulted in my kids actually wanting to memorize the elements. Ugh. (The results are not in as of this posting.)

Hopefully, they aren't scarred for life. Hopefully, they know that there's more to life than chemistry (which is not completely true).

For example, there is candy.

Since these kids are HS students, and that they have recently, or soon will have, gotten their driver's license, they'll need a car.

Based on the evidence that they wanted to memorize useless facts, they clearly are geeks in the bunch. Here's one that appeals to their geekdome (of which I may be the overlord).

I admit that not all of them are geeks. Some might actually become stand-up, first class citizens. That'd be awesome. (Except for element #1- definitely misplaced)

And, just in case you're thinking that there's too many. There's not enough time to learn and pronounce all of that, take a gander at this gem. Try and pay attention to some of the images as they flash across the screen. Good stuff in there.

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