How to Promote Learning and Prevent Dying in Chemistry Class

“Good afternoon, softies!”

The teacher, a wiry middle-aged man with jet black hair, piled a stack of textbooks on top of his desk and turned to face the class.

“Isn’t this exciting? You’ve survived your first year of high school. But don’t get too cocky. Whether or not you’ll survive your second remains to be seen.”

He cleared his throat and turned on the screen.

“Welcome to fourth-period Chemistry. My name is Mr. Agawa, and I am looking forward to being your primary torturer — oops, I mean teacher — this semester.

“Before we get started, though, let me outline a few classroom rules so that we all have an enjoyable learning experience, and no one dies. How does that sound?”

The wide-eyed students stared back, stunned into silence.

“Sounds good to me too,” Mr. Agawa said, unfazed by the lack of response.

He pulled down the projector screen and placed a transparency on top. Glaring red block letters appeared on the screen:

Classroom Rules to Promote Learning and Prevent Dying

Mr. Agawa grinned at us. “Let’s get started.”

He took a large pointer stick from his desk and gestured to the first item on the list.

“First, whatever you do, do not bother the biology class next door. You know how Mr. George has that sixth sense? If you so much as stick a body part through that door — ” Mr. Agawa pointed, “he’ll probably bite it off. And then I’d have to kill you for bothering my colleagues.”

The wooden pointer thumped against the next item on the board.

“Number two. No cell phones from 8 am until 3:30 pm. Unless it’s an emergency and you have to call your mom to tell her that your arm just fell off. If I see, hear, or smell your cell phone, I take it away. If you want it back, ask your parents to go on ebay after class…”

“Number three. Don’t interrupt class to ask to go to the bathroom. You all had lunch before class. If you can’t take 45 minutes to take care of business, you probably need to see a doctor.”

“Number four. We have a fire extinguisher located right here, in case of emergency.”

Mr. Agawa went to the side of his desk and lifted a giant red canister for the class to see.

“Do not, I repeat, do not play with this. If you do, do you know what will happen?”

He looked around and pointed the extinguisher’s nozzle at Jessica.

“We’ll break it?” she said.

“Probably, and then what will happen to you?”

The nozzle swung toward Benny.

“We’ll be sorry?”

“Yes. Why?”

“Um, because we get a detention?”

“Wrong!” Mr. Agawa dropped the canister back on the ground with a thump. “First, I will murder you. Then, at your funeral, I will give you a detention.”
He returned to the board and tapped his pointer against the next classroom rule.

“Number five. The lab behind the classroom is off-limits. Don’t go exploring, touching, or licking anything in there without explicit instructions from yours truly. Otherwise, I will have to kill you for not following directions. And also give you a detention.”

“Number six. No matter how appetizing these lovely molecular models look,” Mr. Agawa set down his pointer and lifted a handful of colorful orbs and sticks in the air, “do not eat them. If you do, you’ll die. Then I will have to revive you and kill you again for being an idiot.”

As Mr. Agawa continued to rattle off the classroom rules and expectations, Hilary leaned over and said under her breath, “Is it just me, or is our chemistry teacher just a little bit morbid?”

“More than a little,” Mandy confirmed out of the side of her mouth.

The rest of the rules were more or less the same as the first few:

  • Students were not to eat, drink, or fall asleep during lectures.
  • Students were not to touch, smell, or ingest any known or unknown objects in the classroom without permission.
  • Students were not to chat, pass notes, do handstands, stick crayons up their noses, or in any other way distract other students from learning.
  • And most importantly, students were not to insult the King in Mr. Agawa’s presence (Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, that is — of whom Mr. Agawa had a full-length cutout hanging out in the back of the classroom).

At least, not if they didn’t want to face the dire consequences of their disobedience, most of which involved being killed by their chemistry teacher (and then given a detention).

“Last but not least,” Mr. Agawa said, “because you all are big boys and girls now: No matter what grades you get or do not get in this class, you are not to whine to your parents, the principal, or child protective services. Or else what will happen, everybody?”

Mr. Agawa pointed his stick at the entire class, like a conductor with a baton.

“You’ll kill us,” the students chorused obediently.

Mr. Agawa tucked the pointer under one arm and applauded enthusiastically, grinning from ear to ear.

“Bravo! See? You’re learning already! I can tell we are going to have a wonderful semester.”

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