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February 2009

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Five Questions

My interview with amazon_syren:

1) What's your favourite way to break your students' brains?

I enjoy doing this in two ways; Firstly to expose them to labs with "gross" stuff that they would never have the chance to manipulate on their own. In some cases that would be basic dissection labs, for instance, in grade 9 we dissect a heart and an eyeball. One would think that, given the large numbers of hunters in the class, this wouldn't be a problem. But I've noticed that the "biggest and toughest" guys get squicked out the easiest while some of the girls are right into it. As for the hunters, I'm not sure just how many of them actually dress the deer they kill (as opposed to having it dressed by a third party); I've had some pretty squeamish kids when it got to be cutting time.

In other cases, again in a lab situation, I will give them, as part of their materials, substances to test with a high *ick* factor. The last lab had them testing "urine" samples and I would not tell them if it was real urine or not. (It wasn't, but we did scent it with female moose urine scent.) Fun to watch the expressions on their faces as they opened the specimen bottles and sniffed!

To understand the other way I "break" their brains, you have to know what the course material is: Human Biology and Development. This means sex ed. The kids will try to break *my* brain by asking questions they think will make me turn red and embarrassed. I turn the tables on them by not turning red and stammering but also by actually *answering* them. We have had some pretty neat class discussions that way actually. Meanwhile, the kid who originally asked the question is the one turning red.

2) Cats, horses, reptiles of a shapes and sizes... Any other critters that are near and dear to your heart? :-)

Deep sea critters and cold water marine fish. I never really gave these animals much thought until I worked for three summers at a museum/aquarium in New Brunswick (HMSC). Because the aquarium specialized in local (Passamaquoddy Bay) animals, I first learned of, then gained an appreciation for, the "weird and ugly" fish that were just outside my door. The deep sea critters on the other hand are just too weird looking to be real - but they are! The physiological changes that they have had to evolve, to be able to survive extreme pressure, a total absence of light and extreme scarcity of food, is incredible. Fascinating stuff!

Some of my favourites are: lumpfish, wolf fish, sculpin and sea ravens.

Deep sea: tripod fish and black dragonfish to name a couple.

3) Who are your three favourite writers (other than McWetBoy, whom I assume is a favourite for reasons other than his writing ;-) -- what do they write, and why are they your favourites?

skzbrust - Sci-Fi, most notably the Vlad Taltos series and Khaavren Romance novels.

I stumbled upon Brust completely by accident; the cover of the first Taltos book caught my attention. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a book that has a dragon or wolf on the cover. It was a happy discovery though! These are small, short, easy books that are incredibly entertaining. Vlad is a witch-assassin with a wise-ass, sarcastic familiar.
The books, if read in publication order, do NOT follow chronological order which can be confusing if you're not ready for that. I'd recommend reading them in publication order nonetheless.

Stephen King - Mostly horror and dark fantasy.

I started reading King in junior high, I'm not sure if my parents realized exactly what it was I was reading...but I'd have a wonderful time scaring myself to sleep! He continues to produce material that is *just* weird enough, just enough outside of "normal" to make you wonder if something like that could *really* happen or not. It's a great mind-fuck. I'm reading his latest collection of short stories now: Just After Sunset.

Anne McCaffrey - Sci-Fi, for me, mainly the Pern stories and novels.

The whole reason I'm as dragon obsessed as I am is due to McCaffrey's Pern novels. Before Pern I was "into" traditional "girl" fantasy critters: unicorns, pegasi, magic cats, etc.. Once I got my first Pern book (Dragonsinger, Book 2 of the Harper Hall trilogy), there was no turning back; it was all dragons all the time from there on in.

There are many, many other authors I love and read and reread (such as: Anne Bishop, George R. R. Martin, Lois Bujold, Carrie Vaughn...) but you asked for the top three. Here they are!

4) What is you absolute most favourite Arrogant Worms song, and why?

My first, immediate thoughts were: "Canada Is Really Big", "Last Saskatchewan Pirate" or "I Am Cow"... but choosing between these was difficult. Then I realized which Worms song made me grin each and every time I heard it: "Lonely Lab of Broken Hearts" from the album "C'est Cheese". It's just so full of good science geekery that I can't help it; it beats out the other songs.

5) Why did you choose to be a high school teacher? :-)

I actually had not planned on teaching high school or otherwise. I wanted to get my BSc. in marine biology so I could do research, field work and play with animals. The job at the aquarium (mentioned above) helped reinforce this idea. The problem was that for every job doing "field work", there were hundreds of applicants and in many cases, you also had to have your Masters of Science. I didn't have the marks for a Masters program nor the real will to do the upgrading needed for it. In some way, I think the aquarium also steered me into teaching as tours and interpretation programs were a large part of my job description. I also had been teaching a lot of swimming at different levels for a number of years by this point.

With the range of kids I was exposed to both in the pool and at the aquarium, I decided that if I couldn't do research myself, I could at least inspire a love of science in kids. I chose the high school route rather than elementary because I like to actually be able to talk and have conversations with the kids. With the younger kids, I felt I couldn't get into enough detail to catch *my* interest and, if I started to add more detail, they got bored (I did substitute teach a grade 2 class for 5 months; I know whereof I speak).

I'm currently teaching grade 9 Human Biology, grade 11 General Biology and grade 11 Chemistry and LOVIN' it! :D


Stephen King, eh? Were you a Dark Tower fan? If so what did you think of the ending?
I devoured the Dark Tower books as they came out! :D
I blogged about the ending here over at the Ool. I'm not sure how much I liked or disliked it...however it is a typical King ending and I'm not much surprised by it.
I think I would have found the ending a little disappointing but acceptable if it hadn't been for his Mary-Sueing himself into his own damn book...after that I was so mad at him that I was in no mood to cut him any slack on any front :P