The other side – being a science teacher and getting in trouble for sending students out for failing to comply with lab rules…….


Initially I read this article in its condensed/converted form in The San Francisco Chronicle. I then found the link via another person who wrote in a comment. Not only should The SF Chronicle be ashamed for poor reporting of information, I truly believe parents should be much more sincere/serious with their children about foolishness in a lab.

Having worked for years as a science teacher and only have injuries to self (thank you the powers that be), I was also the chastised teacher for kicking students out of science lab for foolishness. Please note, my students took a thorough lab safety test and had to pass it. The student and parents had to sign it and it point blank stated that failure to adhere to rules was an automatic dismissal from class that day and an F grade for the lab. There would not be discussion nor second warnings.

Parents were fine with all of this until their child was sent out for such things as using a microscope slide for cutting – SKIN, randomly mixing lab experiment ingredients to ‘see’ what would happen, ‘eating’ and swallowing a part of the lab, playing with equipment in a manner that it was no longer safe to use and so on. 

 In each case, I had a principal who felt I was unrealistic and middle school and high school students need to be given second chances.  Which is very interesting when you consider that the insurance for students in science and PE classes/sports is the highest insurance costs at any school and an F on one assignment will not truly affect the grades of a good student and for a mediocre student, will clearly indicate they need to get their game on.

I would rather a student take an F and feel upset for not demonstrating better thinking/maturity than a student who has brain damage and heart damage.  Science and shop are serious subjects. Students who can not demonstrate the adequate ability to function with proper judgement should be excluded or there needs to be a parent attending to oversee that their child follows instructions.  It is not up to the school, teacher, aide, etc. to safeguard a child from their own stupidity when proper safety measures and monitoring are in place.  This being said, the worse thing a teacher can do is downplay the seriousness of the work which will be done in lab or shop and teach a MISCONCEPTION about safety.

Personal advice to all science teachers out there: Better to err on the side of safety and being strict than to let any principal or parent define safety in your class. 

Personal advice to parents: Better to err on supporting the teacher than to have to see your childs life dramatically altered because you were worried about a ‘grade’ or your childs deportment.

Personal advice to principals:  Better to err on supporting your teachers than to have to endure a lawsuit.