Neutron News has a post up today about school chemistry lessons. My chemistry teacher was Polish. He was onto a loser anyway being one of only two male teachers in an all girls school, and looking like someone’s Dad, but …
Not only was Mr Stachnik’s English heavily accented, but we couldn’t read his writing – I still remember those erratic lines of cramped and illegible words scrawled across the black – er, green – board. And if anyone dared to ask him to explain anything he lost his temper.
I think I would perhaps have liked chemistry if only I’d been able to understand the teacher. As it is the only things I learned were how to collect gas under water – a skill which is incredibly useful in daily life, I’m sure you’ll agree – and how to make nail varnish.
Looking back, it seems he was trying hard to make his subject interesting to his bemused class of teenaged girls. Never, since then, have I heard of anyone else being taught to make nail varnish in school! Neither, it seemed, had the local chemist, who quizzed me closely as to why I wanted to buy amyl acetate and acetone.
It was kinda fun though, dropping a variety of plastics into the mix and seeing them dissolve. We made some very odd coloured nail varnish, and yes, we wore it, too.
Remembering Mr Stachnik got me thinking about the others. There was our geography teacher (her name now escapes me now) who spent half her time telling us about her husband instead of making sure we understood the role of impervious rocks in the formation of artesian wells and stuff like that. My friend Carolyn knitted a whole scarf in geography one term. See, I still remember things I was taught at school! For instance, when Mrs Geography first met Mr Geography, he said to her ‘Haven’t you got a funny, flat face?’ Whereupon she slapped him.
Ah, nostalgia! Mrs Wright, the maths teacher with the noisy false teeth, Mrs Brown, who looked every inch the bohemian art teacher with messy black hair, kaftans and orange lipstick, and … oh, Lord! Mrs Pipe. The dreadful and dreaded teacher of biology and PE. She who struck terror into all, especially those not wearing exactly the right uniform items!
Yeah. I think that’s enough nostalgia, don’t you?
In case you’re interested, I failed chemistry, maths and geography, but passed art with the lovely Mrs B, and miraculously, I passed biology, too. I think I was too terrified to do anything else.