Monday, August 3, 2015

Three areas of expertise

I foreshadowed today's entry near the end of NABLOPOMO for August: KNOW.
I may even use the prompts.  Monday's prompt, write about three things I know, has me thinking already.  Check back to see if I use it.
I woke up early this morning and lay awake in bed mulling what to write, so I decided to get up and follow through.  As the proverb says, you can't plow a field by turning it over in your head.

This theme reminded me of three prompts I used for the fresh theme in April 2013: Which environmental cause is closest to your heart and why; Which natural resource do you worry about the most; and How do you interpret the words "live simply?"  My responses to those questions led from one to the next.
As for the answer to the first prompt's question, my favorite causes used to be biodiversity and air pollution, but that was before I committed myself to Detroit. Now it would some combination of energy, food, and water, three topics I emphasize in my teaching. If I had to pick one out of those three, it would be energy, particular[ly] green energy. The one thing that connects my old and new environmental interests is climate change, which lies at the intersection of energy and air pollution.
That might work as an answer, but I'm not an expert in food; I just care about it as an issue.  That leads directly to the answer to the next prompt.
One answer would be to simply repeat what I wrote on April 1st...  However, that's fudging it.  Fortunately, I have a way of counting how many times I've used those labels, along with some others.

197 energy
118 food
113 climate
 96 biodiversity
 86 oil
 19 water

Energy wins in a landslide!
I later used those numbers to fit the 7:4:1 ratio of energy to food to water to the list of suggestions in The Sustainability Dozen: how to live more simply.  I then used the categories in my blog to reorganize the slide I showed my students--blogging as professional development!

The above still doesn't answer the question, though.  I may teach about energy, food, and water, but I'm not really an expert in all three.  Instead, the top three excluding food from list above--energy, climate, and biodiversity--better describes what I really know well.  I teach three classes, Geology, Environmental Science, and Introductory Biology II, and I lecture about all three topics in all three classes.  In fact, the subtitle for Introductory Biology II is Biodiversity, Evolution, and Ecology.  Biodiversity is right there in the name!


  1. You don't need to be a cutting-edge, "smarter than everyone else" expert about a topic to bring enlightenment when you're a teacher. You just need to be smarter than your students. And to have a good enough teaching style that you inspire them to want to learn more about a topic. As I'm sure you know.

    The teacher who had the second-greatest influence on my life (after Mrs. Clancy, who taught me to read in second grade) was my 7th-grade Social Studies teacher. Back in the 1970s, when they had such courses in public school, before the Reich Wing decided that any class that might question the current social order might introduce subversive ideas, and we're not having anyone question The Way Things Are using government money, nosirree!

    This 30-something guy, who shared an apartment with the junior high French teacher (and was almost certainly gay, although nobody thought about teachers' sexuality back then) taught us pre-teens about ecology back when that was a new thing. One of the most effective lessons was when he played Tom Lehrer's song "Pollution" in class and then we discussed the serious topics in that funny song. (He also spun "Who's Next?" "So Long Mom" and "National Brotherhood Week" Can you imagine what would happen if little Jane or Jama'al came home and told their parents about THAT these days?) Something about the things he broached was a catalyst in my young mind, energising my latent anti-authoritarian tendencies.

    Noam Chomsky would argue that our brains are hard-wired to WANT to learn, so most kids could eventually run across SOME teacher who would light up a budding bit in their cerebrums. With the Amerikan popkkkultural zeitgeist now turned toward taking the piss at the idea of being educated (it's not just the Right which is doing this, either; I'm pointing my finger at rap music and the technostraction device industry too) those sparks are being snuffed before birth, to the delight of the Corporate Overlords.

    1. You're absolutely right about how expert I need to be. I don't have to be the world's expert on a topic to be a teacher, just the local expert. I know plenty about food and the food system. I even team-taught a course on "The Global Politics of Food" with a political scientist once. I just know that there are lots of people who know more.

      As for the rest of your comment, keep the inspiring stories coming!