Monthly Archives: June 2010

Ma’a Es-Salaama El-Urdun, Hello United States

The time has come to pick up and return back to the US, though not for all that long. As the blog is titled Bowman in Arabia and not Bowman in America, I will be taking a break from writing (mostly because there won’t be anything all THAT interesting to write about). I will pick back up in August when I return to this side of the world, where the hilarity of a dude living outside of his culture combined with the inherent hilarity of working in a high school will continue.

Don’t forget to pick back up on the blog – I have really loved having this link to everyone all over the world this year and would love it to continue.

Until August…

Teacher Moment #6: Inappropriate Nicknames, oops

One of my favorite students keeps tricking me into calling him really inappropriate nicknames, and it makes me feel really old and stupid because I just totally don’t realize that they are inappropriate until weeks later. Or maybe it’s not because I’m old, maybe it’s just because I am foreign – like when we would always get the Japanese exchange student in high school to say really nasty things to our math teacher. 

Well first, he friended me on Facebook (request denied) and his middle name is listed on there as “Parliament”. I thought that this was some strange nickname having to do with the government, or perhaps that it was some sort of nickname like a professional wrestler, so I started calling him that. Turns out that Parliament is a brand of cigarettes  – the last thing that our students need is more people encouraging them to smoke…

Then, somewhere else on Facebook he had written his nickname as Abu Henry” (replace Henry with the actual name of one of the other students in my class), which translates as “Father of Henry” which I thought was really funny because oh look these guys are pretending to be each other’s sons and fathers…. but no. When an idiot high schooler say Abu [someone’s name] they are saying it because they are insinuating that they may or may not be sleeping with the other person’s mother. Fool me twice, shame on me.

And lastly (and this is the worst one): he and another student in the class were working together on a lab, and they are supposed to write their lab partner’s name on the top of their lab next to theirs. So this guy wrote “Susu El-Mutawahish” for his friend, which means “SuSu the monster” and then the other guy wrote “Abu Mreij” for my inappropriate friend. Well I didn’t know what that meant, but I started writing it on his paper thinking it was something innocent like Susu El-Mutawahish (which p.s. I hope is innocent). Then I mentioned this to another student and he was too embarrassed to tell me what it meant (red flag!)… I eventually got it out of this other kid that “Mreij” is masturbation. Again, Abu means “father of” basically… so Abu Mreij is the Arabic way of saying King of Masturbation (there’s a cocktail party fact for you). Fool me thrice…

Physics Extra Credit: Lightning? Wow is that magic?

And the extra credit hilarity didn’t stop with only the Rube Goldberg machines. One student submitted a report on how lightning works with the following cover page:

Points to note:

  • This is from a guy
  • The title includes random exciting punctuation in places where it shouldn’t (and could use some more punctuation in other places)
  • He Google Image searched to find a picture of me to place on the front cover (serious extra credit for that)
  • The student got his little sister to decorate the cover with balloons and draw a nice arrow pointing at the lightning just in case I didn’t notice it was there
  • An lastly… this has been kind of a running joke all year, so don’t think this is 100% serious (though I don’t think it’s 100% a joke too). The student put weird covers on all his lab reports and I would jokingly give him bonus points and then take them away for other things. I don’t want you to think my 11th graders are like 3rd graders (the actual project was pretty good).

The guys here are so funny – I do these surveys to assess my teaching and some of them draw little hearts all over or write out “<3” instead of drawing a heart. Complete goofballs, and I fit in so well!

Physics Extra Credit: Rube Goldberg Machine #3

This is my favorite one, really hilarious. This is from two of my absolute favorite students, both of whom have very good (and somewhat devious) senses of humor. I couldn’t post the whole video because the first part is a bit PG-13 (shows a student on the toilet) and didn’t think it would be 100% appropriate to put that on the internet. It’s too bad because they yell at each other in Arabic for about a minute, and I would have loved for you guys to see that. I guess I’ll explain in words.

THE SETUP: One student is stuck in the bathroom and the toilet paper has run out. He calls to his friend who is studying so hard for his Physics test the next day that he doesn’t want to get up to help his friend on the toilet. After a long fight in Arabic, instead of getting up, his friend simply sets the machine in motion to deliver toilet paper to the bathroom. Sweet.

Physics Extra Credit: Rube Goldberg Machine #2

A machine to blow out the candles on your birthday cake. The person blowing you hear in the background is because it didn’t exactly work.

Year 1 of teaching 99.99% done

The final for Physics is tomorrow morning, and then I will spend 3-4 hours grading, and then I will be done my first year of teaching. I cannot believe that it has passed already. I feel a great sense of accomplishment, coupled with an acute case of exhaustion. I sent my students a sort of “Physics by the numbers” (below) that really hit home to me just how much has happened in the past year, just in the classroom, and I thought you might enjoy reading it too.

To come in the next few days: more Rube Goldberg machines and quotes from a year end survey that I gave my students to evaluate my teaching – these surveys are always amusing

And some number stats that should make you proud of the sheer amount of physics we have tackled this year:

  • Thousands of years of Physics history
  • 20 chapters in our Physics book
  • 3 finals (almost)
  • 6 tests
  • 15 quizzes
  • 13 labs
  • 64 homework assignments (waaaaal)
  • About 180 classes (about 9 full 24 hour days, about 150 hours, about 9,000 minutes, about 540,000 seconds)

Physics Extra Credit: Rube Goldberg Machine #1

EXPERIMENT: I decided to offer a year end extra credit assignment for my students, an option for which was to make a Rube Goldberg machine. I’m sure you know what it is even if you haven’t heard the name – they are those machines where dominoes fall over which hits a boot which knocks over a bucket, which pours water on a cat, which then wakes up and screeches, hitting into a ball perched on a ramp, which goes down the ramp…. etc etc until it performs a simple task in the end like lighting a match or pressing the button to make toast. My two favorite ones that you may have seen are the Honda Cog and OKGO’s video for the song This Too Shall Pass (same band who did the badass treadmill video too).

RESULTS: Absolutely. Hilarious. This is the first of a few I will post. Notice in this one that the original plan was to have their guinea pig start the machine, but it wasn’t being very cooperative.

Graduation: A Royal Affair

We had quite a momentous occasion the other day, celebrating the graduation of the very first graduating class from our school. After three years in existence, we are pushing our first products out into the world to see how they fare. I am going to miss some of my seniors terribly and will always remember them as my first students.

It was quite strange to be on the other side of the equation (really much more so than I thought it would be) – I marched in with the teachers, cheered for my favorites from our teacher section, marched out with the teachers and then felt really awkward breaking in on celebrating seniors to say congratulations. As close as you feel with students, there’s always at least a paper-thin barrier (that I am sure might thicken as I age). A few of my students immediately dropped the Mr. though, which I appreciated…

The ceremony was a nice mix between Western and Middle Eastern ethos, a perfect tribute to our school which seems to be attempting to fuse the two together into one high school experience. The whole affair seemed to mimic Deerfield’s ceremony from what I could gather with some important deviations to accommodate the fact that we were including royalty. We started with this strange but very cool march where the whole school is lined up facing each other in a two line gauntlet (see picture above) and then inverts so that everyone passes by everyone else – which means that since His Majesty was leading the line, that he passed literally inches in front of my face (and a few inches below – I’m much taller than him). It was quite an experience for me and one that I think I will truly treasure (I guess until next year when we do it again). Then, the actual graduation had a sort of formal Western structure to it with a Middle Eastern sense of enthusiasm and energy. There was almost non-stop cheering once the names were read, with little regard for the idea of remaining seated, and much excitement due to the presence of His Majesty until he departed piloting his own helicopter (see picture to the right).

The whole day just had a great energy to it and I think it was a nice end to the start of our school. To be honest, I think that the upcoming classes are far stronger than the one we just graduated, so I am excited to see the same enthusiasm that we had this year amplified for them. We’ll miss the class of 2010 though and I hope to keep in touch with many of them.

More than anything, I’m just a little weirded out at how fast everything is moving – my first year teaching is nearly done (6 class periods left, one homework assignment to grade, one final to proctor and then one final to grade), and this graduation happened to be at the same time as my fifth year high school reunion. I have this very strange sense of my age here, because sometimes I feel incredibly young (the oldest teacher is about 50 years older than I am) and sometimes I start to feel incredibly old (when my students do things that I know only teenage minds could possibly think of… or when my hairline continues to recede). I guess I should treasure that first feeling as long as possible.