This Practical Is On Fire

, , , , , | Learning | April 11, 2018

(I am studying microbiology at university. We have a practical class in which we have to spread bacteria onto an agar plate. To do this, we have to suck up some of the bacterial solution, place it on top of the agar, and spread it around using a spreader. The spreader is a glass rod, with the end twisted into a triangle shape, the bottom of the triangle being a flat edge that we can push the solution around with. Before using it, we have to sterilise the spreader. We do this by dipping it into a glass of ethanol, shaking off the excess liquid, then passing it through the flame of a bunsen burner. I accidentally get the order of operations mixed up. I dip the spreader, pass it through the flame, then shake the excess liquid off. The excess liquid is now, of course, little fireballs, and I shake them off into a half-full beaker of flammable liquid. I don’t notice for a few seconds, because the flame in the beaker is so transparent, but as soon as I do, I call for the teacher.)

Me: “Mr. [Teacher].”

(He is speaking to the class and doesn’t seem to hear me, so I get louder.)

Me: “Mr. [Teacher]!”

(Still speaking to the class, he is obviously ignoring me and annoyed about being interrupted, so I scream out.)

Me: “Mr. [Teacher]! FIRE!”

(He turns and immediately puts the fire out. The next year, I obtain a job assisting in practical lab sessions for younger students. I am assigned to the same class I had taken the year before and notice something different. They are using disposable plastic spreaders instead of the glass. I asked the same teacher about it.)

Teacher: “Yeah, we had to change because some idiot tried to set the lab on fire last year.”

Teaching Them The Whole Nine Yards

, , , , | Learning | March 5, 2018

(I teach physics to students in a university aviation course in New Zealand. It is like flight school, but with more depth of background knowledge, and you get a degree at the end of it. There are about 20 students, and about half of them are from Asian nations: Malaysia, Korea, Indonesia, etc. The first lesson is unit conversion. I give them some unit conversion factors, like miles to feet and feet to meters, and give some examples, one of which is something like, “Convert 340 yards and 2 feet into miles.” An Asian student raises their hand.)

Student: “What is a yard?”

Me: “I am so happy to find out there are people in the world who don’t know what a yard is. Alas, I am about to destroy your innocent ignorance.”

(I explain inches, feet, yards, chains, furlongs, and miles, to the astonishment of half the class.)

Penny Dreadfuls

, , , , , | Learning | February 9, 2018

(I am a volunteer with my kids’ school’s parent group. We are raising money for new playground equipment and it is decided to involve the kids in a small way by doing a penny drive. Each class is to collect as many pennies as possible. On the big day, each class will count and put their pennies in the pre-rolled wrappers we provide. Parent volunteers go to each class to explain the process. My first class is the kindergarten kids. They are sitting on the floor in a semicircle with their piles of pennies in front of them, ready to go to work.)

Me: “Okay, guys, I’m going to show you how to roll your piles of pennies into these tubes. We have to have 50 pennies in each tube. How many of you can count to 50?”

(There are a lot of worried looks from the kids at this point.)

Me: “Okay, how many of you can count to ten?”

(All hands shoot up, and I show them how to make five piles of ten, and how to put the pennies into the rolls.)

Me: “Do you need me to show you again?”

Student: *as she waves me off* “No, we’ve got it!”

(At the end of the day, we collect the rolls from each class. In the grade-four class, they have all the rolls on a table, and I can see things aren’t right. Some rolls are so full the paper can’t be crimped over the end, while some are obviously not full at all.)

Me: “[Teacher], these aren’t right; they’ll all have to be recounted.”

Teacher: “Oh, does the bank care about that?”

(The upshot was that I took almost $600 in pennies home, and with the help of my three kids I made sure that all the rolls from the entire school were done right, as the quality seemed to decrease with the students’ ages. The only class to get it perfect was the kindergarten kids. I guess they wanted to prove that they could count, while the others didn’t care.)

In For A Penny…

, , , , , | Right | February 5, 2018

(Working at a meat counter, I have long since come to terms with the fact that many apparently functional adults have no idea what a pound is, or a kilogram, either, for that matter, but this episode stands out in my memory. The customer looks to be about 25 or so.)

Customer: “What does 200 grams of ground chicken look like?”

Me: *puts some ground chicken in a bag and weighs it* “This is 220 grams.”

Customer: “Oh, no. I wanted pounds.”

Me: “Okay, sure. How many pounds? Two?”

Customer: “No, two hundred.”

Me: “You want 200 pounds of ground chicken.”

Customer: *with absolute conviction* “Yes.”

Me: *long pause* “Okay. Well, we don’t have that much in the store. We can probably order it in for you, but it’ll be a few days.”

Customer: *gets confused look* “What? Wait. How much is a pound?”

Me: *holds up same bag of chicken* “This is half a pound.”

Customer: “Oh! No, I’ll have two pounds, then.”

Me: “Two pounds, I can do.”

Not Quite The Formula For Success

, , , , , , , | Learning | February 4, 2018

(For the final exam, the teacher allows the math class to bring two specific notes pages, as well as one index card with any additional formulas they want to have available on the test. During the test, a couple of students ask questions:)

Student #1: “I don’t see #1 on my notes pages.”

Teacher: “It’s not there, but there was a formula.”

Student #1: “Where would it be?”

Teacher: “I don’t know where you wrote it.”

Student #1: “Do you know the formula?”

Teacher: *pause* “Yes.”

Student #1: *tries to hand notes to teacher* “Will you write it for me?”

Teacher: “No.”

Student #2: “I’m confused on how to do these two problems.”

Teacher: “Those require you to use either the Law of Sines or the Law of Cosines.”

Student #2: *blank look*

Teacher: “…or use ‘eeny, meeny, miny, moe,’ since it’s multiple choice.”

Student #2: “Works for me.” *circles answer*

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