"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


what will they think of next?

When I was in 10th grade, the woman who'd taught the Honors Biology course for years and years quit or moved away, so the district was forced to hire a new teacher. Their replacement was an older woman named Dr. Martin, who had been a longtime research scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, but whose children had asked her to leave the lab for fears about her health.

At first, Dr. Martin seemed a little crazy, but as time went by, we realized she was actually crazy. She also had a wacky accent, which meant that she'd talk about things like "bunding" - as in, "ionic and covalent bunding." And the Krebs Cycle became the (I am not making this up) "crabs cycle." She was also generally clueless and had very little control over a classroom full of smart, sarcastic fifteen-year-olds who could sense her unease.

Our parents told all of us to stop complaining. They just didn't believe that it could be that bad. That is, they didn't believe us until after that fall's open house, at which Dr. Martin promised us she would "bund" with our parents. Bund she did, because they came away understanding that their children were perhaps not getting the highest quality of biological education available in the school district.

Meanwhile, back in the classroom, Dr. Martin assigned us our major project for the semester, a report entitled, "My Favorite Disease." You could pick any disease, as long as no one else had picked it. (I was absent on the day they picked and so couldn't do diabetes. Instead, I got Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This isn't really relevant for this particular story.)

Tenth grade boys being what tenth grade boys are, of course many of them went for the STD's. Which was unfortunate, given that part of the assignment was to make a poster that could be displayed on the classroom walls. (And given that our teacher was generally clueless.) I won't go into the details on most of those, but one of the craziest came from my classmate Ford, whose favorite disease was hermaphroditism. For his visual aid, Ford drew a really remarkable picture of a pregnant man. It was completely wrong and absolutely hi-larious, and it stayed on the wall for a couple of months. When I'm with friends from high school, this still comes up in conversations. It was that funny.

I bring this up not to bore you with stories of my younger days, but because I've just read a news story that suggests that Ford was just ahead of his time. Yep. The conservative blogs are already having fits about this one.

As for Dr. Martin, well, the school took away the honors classes from her at Christmas break, and didn't renew her contract for the following year. Our classes were taken over by the department chair, Mrs. C., who very quickly informed us that our project for the spring semester would be a report entitled "My Favorite Disease." "We already did that," we replied in unison. Mrs. C. had been around the block a time or two, and when we said that, without missing a beat she replied, "Fine. Then it will be 'My Second Favorite Disease.'"

She wasn't joking. I got diabetes in round 2 and for my presentation checked my best friend's blood sugar and gave a shot to an orange. And I don't remember there being any more reports on STD's. Or pictures of pregnant men.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my crap, I STILL talk about Dr. Martin! She's the "my crazy teacher" story if I should need that in conversation...

I didn't do the favorite disease...we did the Harpeth River thing where we saw just how unhealthy the river was...The STD posters in my class were pretty bad.

I will never forget one day in class, she came up to Philip and Angelle and I, and out of the blue went off about not engaging in premarital sex.

To say that she was strange was an understatement.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 10:48:00 PM


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