- I know that I have ideas about how the world works that are at odds with others ideas I have. Sometimes "at odds" means logical inconsistency. Sometimes "at odds" means an ontological inconsistency. Sometimes "at odds" means an emotional incongruence. Some of these I am aware of and have ways of reconciling them. Some of them I am aware of and have not yet reconciled. Others, I am not even aware of.
- Importantly, I also have ideas that are at odds with some of core ideas that are central to contemporary scientific understandings. And with these, too, some of these I am aware of and some not.
Of course, I have fewer inconsistencies than my students–both in terms of internal consistency with myself and external consistency with core scientific knowledge. But the major difference between me and my students is that I know that the nature of the game is to continually work at locating sources of inconsistency and working through them. I know that this is the primary activity of doing and learning science, and I enjoy it.
This growing sense of science has changed me and how I interact with those around me. For the first part, I am much less concerned with maintaining an appearance of being knowledgeable. In fact, I spend a lot more time seeking out people to share the things I don't understand. I also spend more time seeking out people who challenge me and often point out things I don't understand. I am much more interested in exposing my knowledge vulnerabilities than my knowledge certainties.
Of course, there are times where I get roped into caring about my external appearance of being scientifically knowledgeable and acting in ways that are more about exuding knowledge than exposing and sharing my own uncertainty. But those moments are fewer and farther between. I hope to become less and less prone to such moments.
I wrote previously about the damage that school science had on my enjoyment and participation in science. In this way as well, school was not and is probably still not the place for these new habits of mine to be nourished. In fact, school tends to nourish the opposite. School typically pressures students into masking and hiding any and all forms of not understanding. We often take off points for students being "wrong", even when that being wrong comes with a sense of maturity, awareness, and propensity for future learning. We secretly (or not so secretly) cringe whens students exhibit misconceptions, as opposed to celebrating the possibility for exploring and coming to better know current ways of thinking and knowing. We often present ourselves in ways that stress that we are science knowledge experts rather than science learning experts, and students tend to model their own science identities based on this presentation.
In the coming years, I will have more and more opportunities to grow as a science learner, a science teacher, and as a mentor for future science teachers. I hope I can eventually live up to my own growing expectations. What I do know is this–achieving this will involve continually trying to expose my own teaching and mentoring vulnerabilities. It will involve seeking out those individual and communities that challenge me. It will involve locating and pressing through the inconsistencies I exhibit in my own ideas and practices of teaching.
Hopefully, the tenure process will not be the same negative force on my growth as an educator and researcher as school was on my growth as a scientist. I guess, we'll see.