Friday, July 14, 2017

Why are you here? ... On Training and Teaching (Part IIX) (7/14/2017)

I finished with the development of a new class about six weeks ago, before I went on vacation.  So it had been sitting on the shelf for that long before I finally was able to pull it off and teach it this week.  Boy, lesson learned; although I did review it a few times in the past week, it still felt foreign at certain points.  It definitively had its rough edges.  The reviews were kind, but I am my harshest critic, I can do better.  I asked them shred me, to be brutally honest, but they were too nice.

Fascinating isn’t it, we live in a strange society where if you want critique and ask for it you can barely get it.  Really, I thought it was not that polished and flowing well.  On the other hand we have a person at the helm of this country who will try to squash you like a bug if you give him the slightest little bit of critique.  You’ll be at the mercy of what his little fingers can type out in his twitter account.  It is such a strange world out there.  I am not that way; I really would like to learn from my mistakes and screw ups; although I am far from perfect (although I may come over as too arrogant in one or two of my posts).

This week I received a survey from the National Science Foundation that was sent to people with Ph.D.’s (I wonder under what rock they found me).  One of the questions was interesting.  It asked me what was important in my job (I am paraphrasing here); was it:
  • Money
  • Benefits
  • Freedom
  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Perceived contribution to society

I needed to say yes or no.  Well, the state does not pay much of anything, so that wasn’t it, I do not do research, so we can scratch that one as well.  So I choose the remaining ones.  But after I had to rank them, and there came the rub, to me it still is my perceived contribution to society.

A few weeks ago I was part of a meeting/survey that was conducted by the Virginia Institute for Marine Science on their service to local communities.  People that were asked to attend were all (volunteer) members of local boards that deal with wetlands and coastal issues.  The first question there was: “Why do you volunteer.”  My simple answer was: “To give back to the community that is willing to put up with me.”

There you have it.  It reminds of those cliffs full of gannets, murres or puffins that we saw in Newfoundland, and the story of the people from (coastal) communities in Newfoundland that pulled sailors from ships that hit those rocks and took care of them.  In my previous post I spoke about two of them, but another example is the S.S. Ethie.  This ship perished December 11, 1919 and here again, the kind people that lived along the shore helped to save the crew and passengers (including a baby) and took care of them once they were on shore.
Remnants of the SS. Ethie that shipwrecked in 1919.
So yes I want to contribute to society.  It was Henry David Thoreau (who just celebrated his 200 birthday this week) who encouraged "Civil Disobedience."  I would like to advocate contributing to society instead.  If we all contribute a little, the world would be a better place.  That is why I still teach, and still enjoy it, even though the pay sucks!  That is also why I encourage feedback, improve my classes and myself in general.

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