Am I mean?

Kid says cute thing and I cut it down.

That’s the summary so if you are short of time, thanks for reading.

It wasn’t even one of my science lessons, I was just on the warm up act for a lesson on the Industrial Revolution.  yep, History.

My whiteboard was soon to be filled with images of factories and Georgian steam engines but as the class sat down they were able to gaze on my current wallpaper, an image of theDumbbell Nebula, M27.

 

M27 Dumbbell NebulaM27 Dumbbell Nebula.
Image Credit: Joe and Gail Metcalf/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

My classroom is full of images, posters of medieval art, pictures of Mars, Buzz Aldrin standing on the moon, maps of the world (one upside down) and on my computer and it’s whiteboard is always an astronomical image. Last term the Moon and Venus, new academic year, M27.

It is a good talking point.

“What’s that sir?”

“Well funny you should ask…” Cue excuse for Sir (me) to spend ten minutes talking about astronomy, even in an English lesson on sentence structure.

It happened.  They asked, I told them.

“This is a planetary nebula … dead star … fate of our Sun … looks like a dumbbell….etc”

“So Sir, what are all the dots?”

“Well….” I begin, but suddenly one of the class interupts me.

“They are holes in the sky where the light of heaven is shinning through.”

Ah.

Cue cold sweat down back, for a moment my mouth flaps cod like.

The Teaching Assitant sitting with the students looks at me with pity, her eyes say ‘ok sir, deal with that one…’

“Thats, err, lovely.  Very poetic, it is a very beautiful image isn’t it?”

I let the coward spring forth first, maybe she was just describing the picture in artistic terms.

“But it is though isn’t Sir? It is the light of heaven…”

On the other hand, maybe not.

“Is that right Sir?” Another voice.

Suddenly I want this stunning image to be obliterated by the etching of 19th Century Dudley I have lined up for the lesson….”err look at all those chimneys kids!”

But then I make a decision.  The teacher and educator in me stands up from behind the chair it’s been prentending not to hide behind for the last few moments and is joined by the astronomer who had awkwardly shuffled off to the loo.  Deep breath.

“No. It isn’t, those are stars, most definately stars, just like our Sun.  All these dots are Suns.  Different colours, different sizes, different temperatures, but all of them are giant balls of gas called stars.  What you said is beautifully poetic as a description but what you see here are Stars, many surrounded by planets, and all of them inside our Galaxy which is inside a vast universe filled with even more stars inside galaxies. Sorry, but the reality is just as beautiful.”

Silence.

I can feel the girls stare before I have even looked around.  She doesn’t look at me for the rest of the lesson after that.  In fact she barely speaks at all.

A day latter I still feel mean.

But they are stars.

And the reality is far more beautiful.