What makes a good science teacher? Honestly, I have no idea. Teaching is certainly not my cup of tea, and I thank my stars that UM only asked me to teach one semester. I probably know a lot more about what not to do, given the kind of teachers I had.
Myself, I received a horrible science education in middle and high school. In 7th grade, when I first moved to South Carolina, my new science teacher made me rewrite an essay on genetics because I didn’t “explore the likelihood that God can change genetics whenever, so the idea of hereditary traits is largely moot.” (More under the fold…)
In 10th grade, we were forced to watch, in horror, videos of horrible decerebration experiments in cats, as well as some guy poking at the medulla oblongata of a crocodile to illustrate that this was the “aggression center.” I thought, ‘Well I’d be pretty pissed to if my skull was removed and some smirking douchebag was poking my exposed brain.” I raised my hand and asked my teacher, perhaps naively, what happened to those cats, pigeons, and crocodiles after the experiment?
Silence. Then, in order to not seem “wrong” the science teacher made me look incredibly stupid for asking. They died, Shelley. No duh. I sank down in my chair and thought science was monstrous and cruel. I thought this because of the teacher’s poor understanding of WHY these experiments were done, beyond the “hey look what science can do and has done.” We never discussed current experiments, and sadly I entered undergrad thinking that science was still in that barbaric state, animals’ suffering at the whims of hand-rubbing sadists who only lived to push the boundaries of bio-manipulation.
That is the way NOT to be a science teacher. Luckily for me, I learned how to both be humane, and to perform relevant experiments while minimizing any discomfort felt my the animals. But, I still get chills thinking of all the animals that were considered a “waste of anesthesia,” and as such, died horrible deaths. Teachers, be gentle with your students. Instill in them a fascination and love for knowledge WITH PURPOSE, and save the 1950s-era decerebration movies for a few years down the road.