It has come to my attention that some colleagues have asked other colleagues about my “mental stability” whatever that may mean. I’m not offended, because feigning offense is a deliberate strategy for shutting down discussion in the absence of evidence and reason. By that definition, I can’t be offended. Nevertheless, yesterday I started thinking about just what these people questioning my “mental stability” might mean by “mental stability” in the first place. Am I really crazy? Let’s investigate.
As I tweeted earlier, I am merely a product of all my past experiences. I am what I am because of what I have experienced. I don’t intend that to mean that every aspect of my personality was determined that way, because it wasn’t. I still have aspects (I initially called these traits, but I don’t think that’s the correct term) that I remember having as a child. I have aspects I never had until I began teaching. I have aspects that I never had until I had been teaching for two decades. I have more aspects that I developed becuase of all the ways people find to undermine education and teaching (I distinguish between the two…I want no part of the former) and thus keep me from doing what I’m ostensibly hired to do. I’m going to list some (and probably not all) of the things I do that may make people question my sanity or “mental stability” or reason for existing.
- Yes, I assume administrators, and probably coworkers too, put childish negative labels (e.g. not a team player, a “hothead”, disrespectful, or full of negativity…the list goes on and on) on faculty to justify future retalitory actions in the workplace. I have had many colleagues express this sentiment too, and such tactics are well documented across the country.
- No, contrary to rumor, I don’t randomly fly off the handle. I choose every word quite carefully and just because it reflects sometimes brutal honestly doesn’t make it wrong or bad. I assure you I am quite tactful when I want to be but sometimes the direct approach is required. I’m not afraid to use it, though, because people who practice intimidation and obstruction tend to cease that behavior when called out. I’m also not bothered by having it used on me mainly because I don’t do those things and if I did, being exmpt from being called out makes me a hypocrite.
- Yes, I reserve the right to call out lies when I see and hear them, especially when perpetrated by administrators, and I frequently do this. I expect and demand to not be lied to when it comes to my job.
- Yes, I think most administrators (here) either don’t understand accreditation or just outright lie about it to faculty just to placate us. I know what our regional accreditor is and is not authorized to do as documented online and as communicated to me by its current president. I will take her word over that of any administrator any time. I will continue to call these discrepancies out.
- No, I do not think any physics course should be designed solely around a specific textbook, especially since there are so many inadequate textbooks.
- No, I do not think I must always use a textbook in a traditional, linear fashion. It’s okay to present chapters in different orders. I think it is silly to assume that doing so harms students in any way.
- No, I do not think that physics is learned solely by “working problems” as the traditional dogma goes. Anyone can learn to work problems. Physics is more than working problems. It’s a reasoning process, and a process of organizing what we know into systematic themes. It’s really more than that, but my point is that the ability to work problems is a very careless way to assess one’s knowledge of physics. I’ve routinely stumped master problem solvers on the simplest of questions. And let’s face the reality that at a certain level, we tend to want to weed out students rather than have them join our ranks. The “working problems” nonsense is just a way to justify doing that.
- No, I don’t think much of myself. I’m quite average at best, and probably a lot below average given the perceived superiority of those who have told me so in the past. I’m happy with that though because we need more average people in science. I would argue that if we accept basic statistics, there must be more average scientists than either above or below average ones.
- Yes, I think it is necessary to always look for ways to increase rigor and to raise the bar for students, particularly in the introductory courses.
- Yes, I frequently make up new word that more clearly convey important meaning to students (e.g. “flowiness through a surface” for flux or “spinniness” for angular momentum). Sometimes there isn’t an adequate existing word. Sometimes there is, but it isn’t quite conceptually elegant enough. In no way do I wish to impose any of y creativity onto the community. I’ll happily continue to let other students (not mine) wade through the incoherence.
- No, I do not accept that the universities to which my students transfer have the right, authority, or knowledge to dictate to me what is best for MY students, especially when large universities are notorious for poor teaching. How hypocritical! Everyone knows I, a non-tenured community college instructor without a doctorate, would be firmly silenced for thinking I could dictate what is best for someone else’s students, especially someone’s university students. So why do it to me? I know the answers, and I think we all probably do.
- Yes, as a teacher, I reserve the right to decide what is best for my students. Anyone who doesn’t like that can provide evidence that I have harmed any student’s progress in any way. I don’t just make stuff up. I make every effort to do what is in my students’ best interests. I firmly believe in the Hippocratic oath to do no harm, and that weights heavily in everything I do.
- Yes, I refuse to be pigeonholed into doing things the way everyone else does them just because they demand I do so. If we all do this, then by definition there can be no innovation or improvements and the corporate minded ones among us demand “room for improvement,” at least for everyone but themselves of course.
- No, I neither claim nor assert any superiority in anything I do or say. I think any logical person can see that.
- Yes, every claim I make is subject to change given new evidence. That’s the nature of the discipline I try to teach.
- Yes, when someone starts badmouthing community college, I will defend community college. There are indeed some that don’t measure up, but there are many others that do.
- Yes, many, many people describe me as “passionate” but I have come to realize that is a label that some (and most surely not all) people who don’t know me use as a polite way of saying “crazy.” It neither bothers nor offends me to be called passionate becuase I see myself as precisely that.
So if my doing any of these things makes me crazy or mentally unstable then I’ll take it. I would argue that many people need to become crazy like me to keep us from being walked on, manipulated, and lied to. If you let that happen to you without pushing back, then I’m not the one with the problem. Finally, I was smiling the whole time I wrote this so please don’t put the “angry” label on me. I’m not angry and I apologize for the “rantiness” (there I go again) of this post. But in my defense, I’m just crazy right?