Posted by: thediygeochemist | July 10, 2010


I mentioned before that I used to grade for my dad, who was a chemistry professor. This was in the days before his department got a Scantron machine, so even multiple choice tests had to be hand-graded. Since it doesn’t take a great amount of training to grade a multiple-choice tests, he started us young: at age 10 we could grade the multiple-choice part of the tests, and if we were good spellers he’d let us do the fill-in-the-blanks part of the exam as well. Questions on drawing structures, etc. he graded himself.

I should add that he used to pay us for this service by taking us miniature golfing at the end of the school year. Once. For a whole year’s work. Later, when I’d graduated to fill-in-the-blank lab reports (at 15–I had to understand sig figs to do this), he paid me a quarter per stack of reports, which represented about an hour’s work. Slave labor, I tell you.

My most vivid memory of grading, however, was the time my sister Ruth and I sat together in a conference room at Dad’s school, grading his tests. At first she did page 1 and I did page 2, but when we got to page 3 we decided to have a little fun. So we made up a song of the right answers: “B, C, B, A, D, carbon tetrachloride, xenon pentafluoride.” (This must have been early in the semester, since the students were working on nomenclature.)

My dad typically had about 100 gen chem students per semester, so we sang this song many times and it embedded itself into my brain.

Five years later, the song was still there. I was sitting in my high school chem class, listening to Mr. G tell us about the noble gases. “None of these form compounds with anything else,” he said.

I was even shyer then than I am now, so I kept my mouth shut, but in my mind I was leaping out of my seat and waving my hand in the air. “But–what about xenon pentafluoride?” I wanted to ask.

It’s amazing sometimes the things that we remember!

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