I teach science. Science words are to some middle school students a new language. It always makes me laugh when I’m talking along in the classroom and the kids are writing the notes down or are hypnotically staring over my head when I say a word that may make them come to life.
Here is a list of those potential word alarms: Hermaphrodite, sexual reproduction, Area 51, flagella, anus, and schist.
Now some of these words just make the kids giggle. I love when I look out into the classroom and catch someone who cannot keep the laughter in. Middle school kids think that certain words are funny. To this day my own kids who are now 22 and 24 can crack up or at least they cannot keep a smile back when I say these 4 words to them, poo poo pee pee. When they were little and in a bad mood I would always tell them that I could make them laugh and all I had to do was say those four words and they instantly came to life and the smiles came out. These words do the same thing in the classroom. Why? I do not know but its always better to see someone smile. Try it!
When I teach I like happiness in my classroom. I always tell the students that things are funny so laugh about it. I cannot tell you how many people tell me that I am a funny person. Maybe I am but I do find humor in about everything.
I laugh when people fall, I laugh when people have funny mannerisms, I laugh at good and bad jokes, I have caught myself even laughing in church. Laughing in a place where you are not supposed to laugh is the worst of all. I seem to laugh even more then. You cannot think bad of me because of this and you know why? You cannot because God made me this way!
So now let’s go back to the laugh making science words.
Hermaphrodite – When we start the Animal Kingdom section in 7th grade Life Science we start with the Phylum Porifera, the Sponges. When I first mention the word hermaphrodite some think that it’s Aphrodite’s relative. No really, some do! I go on to explain that it means that the sponge is both male and female. The kids then want to next talk about Sponge Bob. That’s OK because now I know that I have their attention and I can now ruin their childhood. We discuss why they think that a sponge has to be both male and female. I then ask who does watch Sponge Bob. Hands will go up in the air and then I tell them that Sponge Bob sometimes has female traits right? Quietness will hit and then they get it. Sponge Bob is a sponge and because the creators know that and they have learned their biology they have made him theatrically correct! Kids get it now and they understand the word hermaphrodite.
Sexual Reproduction – Once we start talking about the sponges I settle them down and tell them that we now have to learn about the sexual reproduction of the sponge. I tell them that we have to watch a video showing this and after saying this I have had kids that turn red from embarrassment. Once I describe it and we also get past the words sperm and egg they are seasoned veterans in understanding the reproductive aspect of most animals. They can even talk about most of it without cracking a smile. Well maybe that does take a couple more sayings to stop the giggles.
Area 51 – When I teach Astronomy in 6th grade I tell the kids that there is so much out there in the universe that we live in that we do not know half of its secrets. Try explaining to an eleven year old how the astronomers know all that they do and how do they do it to prove it all exists. We talk about all of the planets and how I will never go to Mars until there are proper bathrooms on that planet and on that two year flight. We then talk about Area 51 and I explain to them that it is located in Nevada. We watch a video on the great You Tube channel and they are in disbelief why no one is allowed there. Why do I show them this? I show them to help them to understand that there are mysteries here on Earth still as well as in outer space. Then I tell them, bye, have fun on Mars, I am staying here! I scare them just a little and then I make them laugh. It balances out the emotions very well.
Anus – Just like the word sperm, we all have to learn that anus is the technical word we now will use to anatomically describe the body part that releases waste in all animals. Laughter abounds with this word. They laugh until they learn that some animals, like the jellyfish, use their mouth as their anus. The laughter stops, the wheels in their brains start turning and then the laughter may return or a gag reflux may be seen. Nervous laughter is also laughter. It happens.
Schist – This is simply a metamorphic rock. It once was shale, pressure on this shale transforms this sedimentary rock into schist. The problem with this rock is it’s name. Say it the first time in front of the class and all heads pop up thinking that you, the Catholic Science Teacher just said the word sh_t! So then I have to repeat the pronunciation again and I have to spell it out in front of them, S-C-H-I-S-T! Schist! Schist I did it again! If you ever get to see a real piece of schist it is beautiful, its very sparkly and its just a pretty rock, you may even say that it is one nice piece of schist.
This rock leads us to the best schist story. The kids that I teach are also funny. I love that!!
So we were learning about rocks and minerals in the 6th grade at St. Mary’s. I do it in a way where I get all of the rock and mineral specimens out, they then have to draw each rock or mineral and they have to describe every detail about that specimen. They need to tell me its hardness, if it has a streak, does it have a smell, and some they even can lick. You haven’t lived until you have licked a rock!
So we were on day two of our rock identification lab and the kids were talking and working and every time that someone would get to the schist I would hear bits of laughter. Finally I told them that if they used the word schist correctly that was fine, even in pun form, but once they were out of my room and if another teacher heard them use it in an ugly manner well just do not use me as their excuse. Think before you talk.
So the talk keeps going and finally I say to the class, “I cannot believe that no one has taught you anything about all of the rocks out there before me.” From the center of the room comes the response from quick thinking Daniel, ” Mrs. LaBolt, they haven’t taught us Schist!” I responded, “Used correctly, you get one point!” See rocks are funny too!
Next we go to clean up and after everything is put back another student walks up to me and I notice that his side pant pockets are bulging full. I ask, “Kieran, what is in your pockets?”. Kieran replies, “Oh, I have a pocket full of Schist!”. Once again, schist used correctly.
School is fun. To this day I do not understand teachers who frown upon having laughter in their classroom.
I think God wants us to be happy everywhere, even in school.