Monday, May 21, 2007

My Chemical Romance

I subbed for a chem teacher today, and it was a disaster. A toxic fumes, caustic chemical, shattered glass disaster.


Teachers have "prep periods", one period a day where we ostensibly are able to prepare for the rest of our day. Leaving alone the absurdity of being able to prepare for five fifty minute periods--that's two hundred and fifty minutes (I'm a math teacher!)--in fifty minutes. Yes, that's ten minutes per class, in which to do our grading, call parents, chase down problem children, plan engaging new lessons, write tests, grade tests, file old paperwork, and maybe get a cup of coffee. For each class. (Yes, the cup of coffee for each class too. You think it's easy to be at work at 7:00 each morning, facing teenagers?)

Ahem. Leaving that aside.

By contract, that fifty minutes is our own. (Unless, of course, some other teacher, condemned to the hated "traveling teacher" realm takes over your classroom during your prep, and then your prep is only sort of your own. I've been a travelling teacher, it sucks, but it also sucks not being able to use your own damn room during your own damn prep.)

Ahem, again.

Anyway, that fifty minutes is our own. Sometimes, though, there's a need for a sub (note to anyone in southwest Washington: desperate need for subs!). Since my prep is first period, I often get the call to cover for late subs or late call-ins. It's an extra $30 each time I do it, so hey, free money! Plus I get to see other teachers' rooms, other classes styles, it's interesting. Plus, $30!

But today wasn't awesome.

The teacher who made the late call... he's not good. I mean, he's a great teacher, but dude's had a rough rough year and I can't talk much about it, but I don't think he's doing so well. Mentally. So it's a bit heart-breaking to see him kinda sorta falling apart.

So there I am taking over his class. Chemistry. Not just chemistry, but advanced placement chemistry. And what does he leave me with, as a sub plan? A lab. And not just any lab, but one involving hydrochloric acid, and zinc, and sodium hifuckyouupate and technotronic burnoffyourskinate. And heating things up and then burning shit up.


So I'm just sorta, you know, haning out, because I can describe significance levels and p-values and student t distributions, but ask me about chemical compounds and I'm all drooly and "Whaaaa?" But I'm noticing that I'm coughing and feeling kind of burny in the back of my throat and I'm thinking, um, this can't be right...

These are AP kids, and five of them I know from my little geek squad, so I said a few things like, "Should that be smoking like that?" and "Maybe you should be heating these caustic chemicals under the vent hood sucking oven thing?", impressing them all, I'm sure, with my wicked smarts.

And then I hear, "Wait! How stupid ARE you?"

Never a good thing to overhear while heating things that end with "-ic acid".

And then I hear the glass shattering. And I see the "-ic acid" stuff going everywhere. Apparently one of the other students poured cold sulfuric acid (?) on the heated zinc solution (?) and caused the glass dish to, um, well, break into a bunch of pieces.

One of the students turns to me and says, "Um. Maybe we need a real chemistry teacher in here?"

Ya think?

I go off in search of a real chemistry teacher. He looks at me and sighs through his nose. "You know," he says to me, weaving through the hall to get back to the classroom, "we think that AP kids can handle more, but that means we sometimes forget something." He looks at me. "They're still kids." He heads into the classroom to decide which things can be touched by human skin (not much) and which will cause extreme pain when touched (most surfaces), and orders the kids to clean up.

And then the bell rings.

I'm an awesome sub!

1 comment:

kati said...

I totally pasted this in an email to Ben. As a former Chem major, he was quite amused.

You, by the way? Are an awesome teacher.

That is all.