Thursday, May 4, 2017

Interesting Recollections

So, one of the cool things that happens in teaching in general, and teaching abroad in specific, is that you have lots of interesting and somewhat random stories to tell. I usually try to write these posts on a specific topic or to tell a specific story, but that's a little bit difficult for telling these interesting stories because they are too short to make an entire post about each one, but also not really closely tied to each other to be one post. Nonetheless, I'm going to group them together today under the title "Interesting Recollections."

When I first returned to work after having surgery my students really made me feel good. First of all, every morning I get greeted in the hallway by choruses of "Good morning, Miss  Cannon" and other similar refrains. On my first school day back I not only got the standard greetings (which by the way come from many, many students, not just the 26 I currently teach) I also saw a lot of faces light up as students exclaimed, "You're back!" One student walked into the chemistry lab and saw me there and said, "Yes!" with a first pump. That definitely made me feel good.

Today as I was walking down the hall I heard a really loud roar coming up behind me. I turned around and saw one of the 10th grade classes coming down the hall. I indicated with my hands that they needed to lower the volume by taking both hands palms out and lowering my hands down. Several jokesters in the front of the class then lowered their bodies down. A moment later another student in the class shouted, "power walking." All the other students immediately went, "shhh!" They had all understood what I meant, but the one student (whom I had taught how to power walk yesterday) hadn't caught on...

One day in class I was working with a group of students when all of the sudden one of the students I was working with exclaimed, "我太帅!" (I'm so handsome!) When I replied (in English), "Really you're too handsome?" he just looked at me in shock. The rest of the class grew silent. I then said, "Why are you guys so surprised? You know I speak Chinese." One of my students then piped up with, "my mom returned home [from parent-teacher conferences] and declared, 'your chemistry teacher doesn't need a translator. She's the only teacher that doesn't.'"

One of my colleagues broke his hand a while back. As a result he was out for several days in a row and I covered his 6th grade classes (he also has 7th grade). The second day the students had me they started to wonder what happened to their teacher. When I told them that he had broken his hand they began to tell me that they were the trouble. They had already had 4 teachers that  year and this was the second one to break their hand (actually the first one injured her shoulder) and that one of the students had also broken her hand (I suspect from the story it was actually her arm). At the end of class I told them they had an additional homework assignment, not to break any bones over the weekend. Several students in the class then told me that they cursed me and I would break a bone over the weekend. I laughed and told them, "Get out of here." When they didn't leave the classroom, "No. Seriously. Get out of here. Class is over." When I saw them the next week I told them, "Look your curse failed. I didn't break any bones."

My favorite lesson plan in chemistry class is a limiting reactant lab where I give the students a recipe and a box of ingredients. I've already measured out the ingredients and using the recipe the students have to figure out which ingredient they will run out of first, how many cookies they can make, and how much of each ingredient they will have leftover after they are finished. Then they get to make the cookies (and eat them of course). Afterwards they have to write a paragraph analyzing how effective the analogy of stoichiometry to a recipe is (if you don't understand or don't know what stoichiometry is that's not important to this story...).

This is a fun lab and is usually the favorite with my American students, it was even more fun in China. In China not only are cookies not really a part of the standard cuisine, but people don't usually have ovens. Thankfully, the school has one in the teachers' lounge. As a result, this lesson became not only a chemistry lesson, but also a culture lesson and an English lesson. I had to explain terms like cream the butter and sugar together. I also showed them how to properly measure flour and other things. The students had a blast (and so did I), but they also made it more interesting. A couple of my students brought things to add to their cookies. One brought sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. Another brought marshmallows. The funny thing is they were making different kinds of cookies (more or less randomly assigned by me) and the students happened to each be assigned cookies that their extra ingredients rather worked for. The student with the marshmallows had chocolate chip cookies (using M&Ms rather than chocolate chips because M&Ms are widely available whereas chocolate chips can only be purchased at import stores). The student who brought the seeds had peanut butter cookies. Some of the cookies had problems (not enough flour, too close together, too salty etc.), but most were still tasty and a good time and lots of learning was had by all.

Can you see the marshmallows on
top of some of the cookies?
peanut butter cookies with sunflower seeds,
sesame seeds (black) and even a few M&Ms.
Obviously these are only a handful of examples of the laughter and enjoyment that fills my day. As with an teaching job there are of course things that sadden, frustrate and upset me, but I chose to linger on the happy memories. I hope you enjoyed these recollections.

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