“Girl, you have orchestrated some serious BS in all the years I’ve known you but this just might be your best work yet. Don’t they know you’re just makin’ this crap up as you go?” My dearest friend, as southern women do, has an amazing ability to make what might seem like an insult sound like a compliment (Bless her heart.) Since she’s been my cohort for the past 100 years and has used her Mississippi charm to get our asses out of numerous jams, I knew she meant it with only the highest regard. “Do ya’ll think they’d let me fly in and be a fly on the wall? I might need to see this in person.”
The Thelma to my Lousie was accurate. I’ve long been a master of BS, a skill I credit to my genetic linage of cattle traders. However, every good BS artist eventually hits something she cannot talk her way out of and I worried I was about to hit mine. I’d spent a couple weeks preparing for one of my biggest acts of BS to date and if I fell on my face it would totally be worthy of pointed laughter and mocking in a thick southern drawl. After all, I’d done the same to her on too many occasions. That’s true friendship.
So what was this situation I’d gotten myself into? Money laundering? Organ trafficking? Mercenary work on a remote island nation? Nah. Far bigger. Dear readers, I had agreed to present at the Hoosier of Association of Science Teachers convention. I was slated to teach science teachers how to teach science better. Mercenary work looked more enjoyable.
If you’re a regular reader of this fine work of literary genius, you might have read an earlier blog in which I explained how I started as an art teacher and ended up as a science teacher. (Here it is if you’re dying to know more.) In terms of my career path the phrase, “What a long strange trip it’s been” has never been more accurate. That being said, of all the subjects I’ve taught, science, wins as favorite. But in the back of my mind, I’m always weary that someone will figure out I’m BSing my way through it.
Last year, it was suggested I attend the same gathering of science teaching professionals. Since I already have an unreasonable fear of Hoosiers (Why are they all so tall?) and at that point was suffering from an even more intense case of Imposter Syndrome, I was hesitant. Would the Hoosier teachers demand credentials upon entry then admonish me upon learning I wasn’t one of them? I mean I didn’t go to IU or Purdue, I wasn’t a Hoosier and I didn’t even have a degree in science. I was ripe for victimization. But because I knew, if I was to remain in the science field, I’d need to stop fearing Hoosier hostility so I reluctantly agreed.
The sensible shoes and lack of discernable fashion within the overall crowd did not make it easy for me to blend in. I’m no trend-setter but I looked like Naomi Campbell’s short sister milling around a convention center full of science teachers. I watched enough Cagney and Lacey to know that if one wants to make it out alive, it’s best to keep her head down and blend. So I stuck to the back row in most sessions and left the questions to the legitimate scientists. I made it out unscathed, save for the one AP Chemistry session that left me staring at the presenter while a droplet of shame-drool tumbled down my chin. (I barely passed chemistry in 1988. In 30 years my comprehension has remained constant.)
Having gone in undercover last year I noticed something – the type of science these people were teacher was bore-ass. Perhaps in the eyes of the presenters arguing biological classification and exploring chemical equations on a whiteboard was a gas, but to we lesser-nerds, their methods weren’t grabbing anybody, especially not kids. And for kids like those in my classes who don’t always learn in the old schools ways, they were shut out completely. When the call for submissions came out last November searching for presenters for the 2018 conference, this Norma Rae couldn’t resist. I determined it was up to me to lead the charge for all of those not born with a scientific mind. In my clouded mind (perhaps due to age, perhaps due to a misspent youth) I rationalized that who could better teach science teachers how to teach science than an art teacher-turned-theater teacher-turned-writing teacher-turned-ESL teacher-turned-science teacher…right? The connection is obvi.
I dashed off a stunning proposal full of big, nerdy words and educational catch phrases. While my proposal was solid, I secretly hoped they would sense my illegitimacy and squash my dream before I had the opportunity to humiliate myself in front of a group of Hoosiers who might assault me using pocket protectors like ninja stars. However, the league of science teachers on the selection committee did not have a fine nose for BS because not only was I selected, I was also given an ideal time slot. I was screwed.
In the weeks leading up to my presentation I changed direction at least 50 times. While I am highly skilled at the art of BS, my medium is usually rooted in full confidence or complete ignorance. In this case, I had neither. I knew too much to feign ignorance and too little to be confident. Though I’ve taught for over 15 years, I’ve been teaching science less than 2 years so I had a solid fear of a legit science teacher shiving me with a broken test tube for lecturing them on something I knew little about.
Hours before my presentation with my epic doom looming on the horizon, I sat through a series of painfully boring presentations including one which caused me to consider gnawing off my own foot to escape. The presentation should’ve been cool. It promised to teach us how to use sci-fi movies to teach science. It sounded amazing and my initial excitement was shared with the 65 other people in the room. But by the end only two of us remained and we only stayed because we were blocked in by a projector cart. Upon browsing the presenter’s credentials, I learned he is a professor of science methods – this crap show was led by the dude who teaches science teachers how to teach science. It was like the Bat-symbol glared upon the wall calling me. I’m coming Commissioner Gordon and I’m bringin’ my BS to save the day!
A few hours later, I wowed my own packed house with my crazy playdough cell models, digestive tracts made out of gummy worms and pantyhose, and dramatic tales of droplets named Phil cruising through the water cycle. Best of all, no one gnawed off their own foot to leave early. (No one even left early! ) I even had some groupies at the end and none of them tried to shiv me with a test tube. All in all, the master of BS reined supreme and I further proved to my darling friend that I still got it.