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Quote of the Day
Friday, August 05, 2005
What's Important?
As I was (again) working on my teaching and research statements for the upcoming academic year, I started thinking about who I am as a teacher and scholar, and then started thinking about who I am as a human. In a teaching statement, you have to distill the big elements of your teaching philosophy into a few pages of text; in mine, for example, I isolated three things that are essential to the way I teach and how I feel about learning. What if I had to do that same exercise about my life? What are the big things I care about in the way I live?

Here's what I thought about. I'm leaving out the obvious things. I don't need to tell you or anyone that I care about my family and friends, for example. I'm talking about issues here -- the big things I think are worth my effort. I give just a few examples here.

1.) Nutrition and education about it. I care deeply about this, and not just from a personal or family health standpoint. I get visibly annoyed when I hear reports of Pizza Hut and McDonald's outlets in high schools, about the millions of different, sugar- and salt-laden options that are available to kids wherever they go. It makes me mad to think of parents who are giving their children $30 a week to spend on school lunches, and that money usually goes for a slice of pizza, a Twinkie, and a Coke. It infuriates me that fast food restaurants can get away with selling massively unhealthy food for ridiculously low prices to people who could benefit from a decent meal. And it makes me very unhappy that it's still cheaper to buy a microwave dinner than it is to buy a few fresh vegetables or fruits at the market.

2.) Writing. In my pre-fellowship days (ah, fond memories!) I taught academic writing as well as courses in my discipline. Writing is so vital for success, no matter what field you're in, and we really need to place a greater emphasis on it throughout a high school and university education. It frustrates me that students are expected to take a course in composition only at the beginning of their college careers, for example, but the courses are dull and seem irrelevant by the time the student really needs to start turning out academic papers. It bothers me that a large proportion of students have no idea how to write a thesis, and that these students believe that every paper must follow a standard five paragraph formula (intro, body, body, body, conclusion). I am saddened that text messaging has destroyed proper language use, and that I see "ur" and "gr8" turn up in students' assignments for my classes. Outside of academia, I am not terribly surprised that even major corporations are being forced to hire writing instructors for their employees, since new college graduates have no idea how to write a proper memo, or even a proper email message.

3.) Recycling. The town I live in is great for this, and has really opened my eyes to what even a small community can do for the environment. We recycle everything here; I have maybe one bag of non-recyclable garbage every two weeks. It annoys me, though, that even in a town where recycling is made ridiculously simple, some people still don't do it. Now our trash includes mostly disposable diapers, although we used cloth until very recently (ST got too big for his cloth diapers, and I'm hoping he'll be potty trained VERY soon so I won't have to have those vile paper diapers in my house anymore).

Those are just three things that I feel pretty passionately about; fortunately, T is also pretty passionate about these things (especially #2). The trick about being passionate about things, however, is to do something with that passion. Aside from encouraging everyone I know to learn more about the food they eat (I've convinced my parents and my sister so far -- in fact, my sister's more of a food geek than I am sometimes), working as a writing instructor, and supporting recycling efforts, what more can I do? I am hoping that, when we are someplace truly permanent after I secure a faculty position, I will be able to really build on these passions and work for them in a more concrete way.

What are YOU passionate about? And what are you doing about it?
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 8/05/2005 10:37:00 AM  
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