Successful teachers in today’s educational climate, particularly in middle school, often have to be performers. Teaching for better or worse in many cases has become a performing art. My specialty was hats. I often had symbolic attention-getting hats constructed or purchased to start units.
One of my best hats was the one I used to introduce the Osmosis unit. It was a tall , white, conical hat like the one that Mickey Mouse wore while playing a wizard in the Disney film, “Fantasia.” It was about 3 feet tall and had stars and whizzing comets. It perched on the top of my head while I played the Wizard of Ozmosis” for my class. Wearing the hat I explained how using my magical powers of osmosis I could magically and without any real effort move certain things from one place to another through apparently solid membranes while leaving behind everything else The hat was perfect because it covered my, “pointy head,” ( 50’s talk for a nerd) perfectly in the same way a “dunce” cap had.
I thought it was a great play on words using the Wizard of Oz and Osmosis to make a memorable character and teach a lesson. As I listed the parameters of osmosis on the slate of the 100 year old blackboard I used a dowel rod with red and yellow feathers glued on the end as a large wand to emphasize the points.
It was a fun and informative way to introduce the concept of osmosis. That is, it was fun, until one of my African-American students after class pointed out to me that my Wizard of Ozmosis hat looked remarkably like ones worn by the wizards of the KKK and my wand looked like a torch.
I like to think that at times I do dumb things. I am not a very politically correct person, but I am not completely stupid nor uncaring about the effect of the symbols of racism. The hat and wand were officially retired and although that was 20 years ago I haven’t yet decided if that was a good or a bad thing but I do know that I never found a replacement introduction that worked even half as well.