Dilys Fong, 2015 Cohort (Physics)

Voices - 27 January 2016

Dilys teaches Physics at Manurewa High School. She gives us a taste of her life as a teacher, and the approaches she uses to keep her students focused.

Lies I tell the kids

I bet you’ve always wondered what your high school teacher did after school. What their secret hobbies are. Whether they are married – if so, why, and to whom. Research has proven that such questions have been asked by many adolescents across the board. Occurrences peak during times of intended swotting and though unconfirmed, likely drop during periods of recreation.

Nevertheless, the brainpower this consumes is often so great that less pressing matters – such as Newton’s Second Law of Motion –  may be left for later. (In fact, preferably next week).

And why not? Teachers are clearly fascinating. As soon as I got the job I went out and bought a cardigan of appropriate teaching disposition. If that doesn’t cement my reputation as a fashion icon, I don’t know what does. Nevertheless, let’s not be too hasty in fanning this particular teacher’s ego by seeming just a bit too interested in her personal life. It wouldn’t do to forget that time is running short, and a large proportion of the class still don’t know what proportionalities are.

What should a beginning teacher do when it’s last period, and the class discussion is veering uncomfortably towards a tangent - of the non-scientific variety? Recently, I've learnt that mnemonics really are a fantastic learning tool for all occasions. Working on my intimidation tactics aside, I tend to follow the GOLD method. Ginormous. Outrageous. Lies. (and Distraction).

My conscience rarely suffers. Ask a silly question, get a silly answer. One of my favourite responses is convincing students that teachers do nothing after school. We are so dedicated we stay in until 9:00pm. Then we retreat into a bunker underneath the school where we emerge, refreshed and revitalised, to attend morning staff meetings. This way, they'll never know what I really get up to, which is good. If they find out how much time I spend watching cartoons, they'll never take me seriously again.

It's already hard enough for them to take me seriously. Being reasonably young and baby-faced, I could probably pass as one of them if I start shopping at Valley Girl. Unlike my male colleagues, I am unable to grow a luxurious beard to appear older and wiser. (Though not for lack of trying.) Instead, I compensate by choosing a number over 40 to tell the Nosy Nellies, because 40 is a nice, respectable age. Once, when I felt extravagant, I told some susceptible year 10s that I was 68. While I am not sure this helped them take me more seriously, they have at least stopped asking about my age. Hopefully they will progress to ask more interesting questions such as the age of the Stephen Hawking, the age of the Sun, and maybe even one blessed day, the age of the Universe. I am still working on this.

If it sounds like I have been lying way too much, rest assured there do exist some things I will never lie about. I try to tell the truth, especially if it's the week before exams. To become a great science thinker, one needs a healthy dose of curiosity and inquiry, and a hunger for pizza truth. Just the right amount of curiosity in the classroom is a wonderful thing. All else is fair game for disciplinary measures, sustained silent reading, and lies.

Trust me to never lie about the following. Whether good work has been done. Whether bad work has been done. Whether you made a terrible effort and need to try again. My opinion on global warming. If I'm wrong on all of the above, it's because I make mistakes. And last but not least -  do I love teaching these quibbling little questioners? You betcha.