Monday, September 21, 2009


A student in my biology class asked the other day, “If you weren’t a science teacher, what kind of teacher would you be?”

I thought for a moment (more like a nanosecond) and said, “English.”

The class was somewhere between shocked and confused, and the student thought he could elicit the answer he expected by asking, “If you couldn’t be a science teacher or an English teacher, what kind of teacher would you be?”

“Social studies.”

Again, they were incredulous. They all thought I would answer that I’d be a math teacher. I was happy they made a connection between math and science, but not willing to tell them what I’m about to reveal here.

I became a science major because I was tracked in an honors program that was heavy in math and science. Biology came easy to me, and I liked it enough to major in it, to think I might become a doctor. But now I look away from the TV when they are showing someone get a flu shot. If I open up a fetal pig to demonstrate dissection I struggle not to vomit. I hate labs. The idea of counting individual grains of rice is more appealing than setting up dropper bottles and divvying up pH paper. And more than anything, I hate correcting lab reports. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t be a science teacher.

I do still love learning about science, hearing about the latest in research. I get thrilled when I hear something on the morning news that I can talk about in class, especially when it happens to be on topic. (Those are the days I feel like God is telling me to keep teaching…) I like being the one in a conversation circle who can shut up the blow hard who doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about when he starts to wax scientific about nutrition but doesn’t know the first thing about carbohydrates, which include both sugars and starches. Or the hypochondriac who confuses viruses and bacteria and whose doctor’s appointment suddenly becomes fictitious. I like being the one who friends call to clarify how one counts days in the menstrual cycle or to ask what mucous is.

But I don’t like being the one who understands genetics and mutations and can explain what the BRCA2 gene is to family members who are being tested, while the third woman in my family in as many generations is fighting “breast cancer, early onset.”

I’d rather be an English teacher.

1 comment:

Tam said...

Grading ten-page essays, teaching books I hate and have to pretend to love...I will take a hundred years of that over one fetal pig. ... But it would be kind of cool to be the resident "medical expert" at the dinner party, instead of the girl who knows every character's name in Twilight.

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