Why teach?

Now wait, why do I teach Biology?

The morning rain pelts my nose and cheeks. The wind whips my face and presses against my entire body, often slowing my pace. My saddlebags are heavy laden with my computer, paperwork and the fish tank and it’s contents. Yes, the fish tank. I am a bit unsteady as the wind picks up even more and throws me off balance. Mr. “T” is jostled and the water sloshes at the sides of the plastic container hanging from my handlebars. Yes, the turtle is with me on my bike.

Mr "T" all ready to go!

During the Thanksgiving break I had left Mr. “T” at the school for four days. Upon my return he was face down in the bottom of the tank. I thought for sure he had expired. That entire week he didn’t eat and he hardly moved in the tank. I missed his eager spastic motions when I entered the classroom. It worried me and I thought his days were numbered. But then his personality returned and I determined I would never leave him alone for more than a weekend again.  So, he spent the Christmas break in my house and I needed to transport him back to school this morning.

But as I press against the wind and rain, “Why Biology?” I wonder.  I think of my colleagues that arrive with their backpacks and computer bags and the simplicity of their entrance into the school. Not me. No. I have to heave the fish tank out of my saddlebag and coordinate my rain gear, computer bag, spare shoes, lunch bag and the turtle. Thankfully a couple of my colleagues are there and grab a few of my items. I haul that fish tank and turtle upstairs and get Mr. “T” all settled in. I tend to my fish and the plants in the room. Again, “Why Biology?” None of the other teachers are worried about classroom pets and a room full of plants. However, everyone that enters my classroom to wish me a Happy New Year is equally interested in Mr. “T” and they all greet him as well.

My first class is a new group of students taking their choice of Science this semester in preparation for the Group IV IB selections. We are starting with plant nutrition. They are guided down a path to prepare them to study the structure of a leaf and understand how that structure is adapted for photosynthesis. The lesson culminates with them looking at a leaf impression under the microscope. I’m waiting with bated breath, waiting for the first student to spot the stomata and exclaim how cool it is. Waiting. Waiting. Trying hard not to give away the thrill. Then it happens. A quiet young man spies the elusive structures through the optic lens. “I see them!” He pauses and then looks up at me and exclaims, “That is actually really cool!”

And I burst with excitement, “It IS really cool, isn’t it?” Some of the other students chuckle and I realize my exuberance is a bit excessive but I can’t help myself because Biology is just so amazing. Thankfully the excitement eventually trickles throughout the classroom as each team spies the stomata and identifies the guard cells. We revel together in the wonder of the plant world. It’s so fun!

And then I am reminded that this is why I teach Biology.  And my wet and bedraggled arrival at the school with my turtle was totally worth it!