I enjoy routine. No, I’m sorry, let me clarify: I live for routine. It’s a formula I’ve gradually grown comfortable with in my life. In fact, these daily rituals induce a sense of excitement for me. For instance, I like to start the day with a nice cup of coffee, followed by the daily morning drive to work and then finally, I instigate a call for attendance, or, as I like to call it, my game of ‘The Final Fleet.’ What could I possibly mean by this? The commencement of a new semester is always an exciting time of year. It is interesting to meet fascinated students, most of whom are all determined to continue their field of study through the sciences. Yet, what proves to be even more fascinating is just how susceptible they are to flunking. I would not necessarily say I enjoy playing God (I love it), but I see no harm in controlling the outcome of this procedure. It’s my job to act as a catalyst in order to efficiently “weed out” the emotionally brittle. I view the undergraduate years as a sink or swim period for all aspiring science majors. The ‘Final Fleet’, or rather, the elimination process, is no picnic: It’s a delicious feast. It’s also a continual, strenuous effort to expunge the ambition of a few hundred physics students. Not to mention the work needed to maintain the benefits of the job.
There are certain skills people must attain through years of laborious study, and then there are the ones that only the gifted are inborn with, such as the art of teaching. And it just so happens that I was endowed with such a superlative. I never asked for this divine aptitude. I view it more as a curse than anything else, really. Never was I able to search for my own career. The career found me; there was no other choice in the matter. However, it is satisfying to know that people recognize teaching as a congenial talent – an immanent genius. There is a universal reluctance to regard teaching in the same way the profession regards every other set of skills: as something that can be taught. And this could not be anymore accurate. You can’t tamper with perfection.
There’s a reason why a relatively small percentage of faculty take advantage of available teaching improvement programs. What’s to improve? The art of pedagogy is a talent bestowed at birth, not something you can advance through practice; there’s no mastery involved. Fortunately, there is a relative consensus about this among Stony Brook administration. Despite the fact that the Stony Brook Tenure Committee Guidelines advise a focus for both research and in teaching, so many students are barely scraping by, mind you, with a 50 percent as it has now become the new 80 percent. There are altogether six targets of criteria for candidacy of promotion and, most especially, tenure. Yet our faculty seems to concentrate more in graduate research than anything else. I am glad there is a general consensus of a professor’s priorities.
Teaching is disgustingly time consuming. The profession can impinge upon research exploration, our graduate work, and even my advancement in promotional rewards, all subjects that require far more attention than my students. There may be an endemic discontent with the faculty reward system, but I think the overestimate of a teacher’s research compensates for an undervalue of the teaching itself.
Thankfully, the Stony Brook status quo can easily soothe these apprehensions; I am even able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life: routine and destroying the GPA’s of hopeful minds. And how might I top off an evening? By initiating my happy-hour ritual. I like to settle down, turn on my 60 Minutes program, laugh mercilessly while devising the next physics exam and lastly (the apogee of the night) concoct the perfect dry martini: 2 ½ ounces of gin and the arid remnants of a freshman’s academic dream (the best supplement for vermouth). Ahhh, where would we be without routine?
This article is satire.