Sometimes teachers can be more creative than they intend to be and sometimes their best laid plans do go asunder. There was one student teacher from Bob Jones University who had her students create flash cards to assist her student’s review of material for an upcoming test.

Questions were written on one side with the answers on the other. This is something that most teachers do to assist their students as they learn new material. I only mention that she was from Bob Jones University, a fundamental Christian university, because quite a few of their student teachers were not very…well…worldly. Most became exceptionally good student teachers once they realized the games that high school students sometimes play.

This one student teacher may have been worldlier than she let on, but from all accounts she was not a particularly good student teacher. As she held an in-class review, the student teacher asked, “This American activist crusaded on the behalf of the mentally insane in the late 1800s, who was she?” After giving her students time to search for the answer, she then asked, “if everyone had their Dix out?” Okay say it slowly and aloud. “Do you have your Dix out?” If you burst into laughter, you now know what her class did.

Early in my career I also tried to be creative. I tried to be creative late in my career but was smarter about it…. Well not; I just remembered making a pickle light up, blowing up hydrogen balloons and demonstrating a potato gun. One of my favorite demonstrations was to show the behavior of metal sodium when placed in water. As I look back on this time, I realize it might not have been a smart thing to do because the reaction produces heat and hydrogen, along with a caustic base, and there is a potential for an explosion and therefore some danger.

I would drop a ridiculously small, bee bee sized amount of sodium into a lab sink with a small amount of water. Everyone would be wearing safety googles as we watched the sodium spark and smoke as it ran around on the surface of the water like a “scrubbing bubble.” If we were lucky, the spark would ignite the hydrogen and would cause a small “pop” that might get a few people wet. All of this was strictly monitored by yours truly.

I had to quit doing this demonstration when a group of student lab assistants decided that they would recreate this demonstration in the sink located in the chemical storage room. Using the logic that kids and not so bright adult, Southerners sometimes employ, if a little is good, then a lot would be great.

Instead of dropping a bee bee sized amount of sodium into the water they dropped a golf ball sized amount. As the reaction progressed all was fine until one of the other science teachers walked in on them. To cover up their crime, they pulled the plug in the sink to dispose of the evidence and this is where the dangerous fun began.

All plumbing fixtures in a science lab are made of glass to prevent chemical reactions involving corrosive acids and metals. They are also connected to each other. When the sodium hit the trap, it had nowhere to go and exploded. Luckily, no one was injured but the same could not be said for many of the interconnected glass traps. Also, a few students standing near to lab sinks got unexpected baths in what could be described as a toxic brew of water. While no one was injured, the old saying that “it is all fun and games until someone loses an eye” still applied.

Another of my favorite activities was the end of year “water rocket” project. Who knew that a two-liter soft drink bottle with fins and nose could fly so far? Filled with water and pumped with a bicycle pump to eighty or so pounds of pressure, we had one fly from the front lawn of the school, over said school, and to the far side of the football stadium. Granted, there was a stiff wind blowing but the designer was smart enough to cut his fins in such a way to impart spin. It flew and flew and flew.

Most didn’t. Quite a few just barely got into the air, which was the one requirement to receive a passing grade. Get off the pad for a ‘D’! For a dozen or so well-designed rockets, you might have thought of the movie “October Sky.” Because we flew them from the front lawn during the late day classes, parents waiting to pick up their kids in the car line were given a show, and many left their cars to have a better view. The parents loved it and the flights became an unexpected public relations coup for me as they praised my creativity and innovation.

They would stand in groups, applauding every liftoff and cheering for those who cleared the launch pad. Most of the good ones flew a hundred or so feet and then crashed harmlessly onto the lawn or at worst the top of the school. That was until a change in wind direction brought them crashing down into the car line. I don’t think my parents realized that they could move so fast, and the scene reminded me of film from World War II. Well, so much for scoring the public relations coup and all my creativity with it.

Excerpt from “Winning Was Never the Only Thing….” which can be downloaded on Kindle or purchased on Amazon at http://goo.gl/UE2LPW


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