Blast from the Past

As a high school teacher it didn’t take me long long to realize that high school students say some pretty fantastic things. Funny, goofy, awkward, and so purely honest it’s often hard to hold back a chuckle or even a full bellied laugh. These comments are nuggets of gold that can turn a rough day around for me.

Like anyone would do with such a nugget I collect them. These days I jot them down on a scrap of paper and stick them in a pile in a desk drawer to save for when the time is right. However, when I was student teaching 4 years ago, seems like only a blink, I didn’t have my own desk. So these slips ended up stuffed in a pocket and then onto my desk in my college dorm room, and eventually into a box as I hastily packed after graduation.

3 years later I am in the midst of a move going through old boxes. I stumbled upon a mash of old faded paper scraps holding scribbled notes ready to be set free on the world. So, I present you with a handful of treasures from the mouths of students of the class of 2011, freshman at the time, many who will be moving into their own college dorm rooms over the next few weeks.

“I did my homework… I just forgot to write it down.”

“Chicken’s are birds?”

“You know the Hurricane Tracker, I’m like the cell tracker.”

“Ms. [Smith], I’m done! I also just threw up in my mouth for some reason.”

“He’s like real gangsta though”

“Mr. Reid, are you more afraid of Zombies or Vampires?”

Some I remember the context, others I don’t, most of the time it really doesn’t matter. (clearly zombies…fyi)


Give Creativity a Chance

Earlier this year, two of my classes made videos teaching about different threats to the environment and how we as humans can reduce those threats. This was the first time that I, or any of my students had made academically based videos. Needless to say this was a busy, stressful and bumpy ride.

Mainly due to dealing with technology issues both with the hardware videos were made with, but also using software to edit the video for the first time, and helping to facilitate creativity and progress. One group even used VHS, not easy to digitally edit with the technology we had at hand, but it did bring me back to my childhood.

Even with the struggles and obstacles we had to overcome together some great videos were produced. You can check out these videos here: Conservation Videos.

Though the three weeks it took were a blur and not the easiest, the outcome was worth it. Students have been able to recall information from the videos in class, even months after we concluded the project. Given the success and the learning that was achieved through the videos 3 weeks ago I decided to undertake our second video project.

“Why do I look different than you?” A simple question that gets at the heart of our genetics unit. Students were charged with creating a video that answered this question. Making connections to the information we have discussed thus far in our genetics unit regarding DNA, our genetics code, and protein synthesis.

I felt like I was taking the risk to attempt a second work intensive and time consuming project so close to the end of the year. As any teacher can tell you, productivity steadily decreases as you approach June. I was happily surprised at the excitement and eagerness students showed as they jumped at the opportunity to create another video.

The second time around saw many less hurdles; though the were there. All students used digital video recording equipment, and having used our video editing program previously they were able to jump right in a pick up where they left off with it. As with the first set of videos there was a spectrum of quality regarding the final product and depth of content; however, I can say all students were much more engaged in the project and willing to go out on a limb to create a better video than the first round.

This year I have worked a lot with project based learning, designing an implementing projects throughout our course of study that promote students taking an active role in their own learning and how they will be assessed on that learning, beyond just a test. Of all my trials as I have made this journey I can say for sure: The things that are worth doing in education are not easy.

Take a risk. Go beyond the text book and test. Give your students the chance to be creative,  and then, give them more chances. Creativity like everything else must be nurtured. If you provide your students with opportunities to surprise you, they will.


On all of my quizzes and tests I like to add fun bonus questions worth a couple of extra points. These questions usually consist of topics we’ve gone on tangents about, fun facts about the world, or even me, and just random trivia.

They usually add 3 to 5 points to a quiz grade, but my students really get into answering them. The effort, concern and energy put into getting these questions right oftentimes seems like students think the bonus is the content I am assessing. Often times I get many more questions of clarification or looking for hints about my bonus questions than the actual quiz or test questions.

Perhaps I should make a test of trivia and then have Biology questions for the bonus? Interesting.

Frequently, these bonus questions are not answered correctly; however, the answers are consistenly creative, clever and amusing. This keeps grading interesting and allows me to have a good chuckle or even full out laugh as I read them. I look forward to seeing what they come up with.

 Below I have provided some of my bonus questions and their best, yet incorrect responses, from my most recent exams.


What is Mr. Reid’s Middle Name?

  • Andrew “Santa” Reid
  • Andrew “Biology” Reid
  • Andrew “Killer” Reid
  • Andrew “Alfonzo” Reid
  • Andrew “Danger” Reid
  • “Andrew (insert your middle name here) ____ Reid”
  • Its the period after Mr

What is Mr. Reid’s favorite color?

  • pink- cause he’s so manly he needs to like feminie things or he’d be too manly

What year did Columbus ‘sail the ocean blue’?

  • 1942
  • 1969
  • 1982
  • 1986*

*Yes, it’s possible I was born the year Columbus was out exploring. They must think I’m really old.

What is the only land mammal that can’t jump?                                

  • Snake
  • Alligator
  • Shark
  • Duck
  • Penguin
  • Platypus
  • Kangaroo
  • White people

What is the Orca Willy, from “Free Willy”, real name?

  • Balthazar-it should be
  • Steve
  • Steve
  • Steve the Whale
  • Rick James
  • William
  • William
  • Free
  • Killer Whale
  • I don’t know who cares I like Air Bud better.

Do you know the answers? Post any guesses you may have, or try to be just as creative as some of these students if you don’t.