Pop Quiz: Am I “normal”?
Yesterday, we were taking a break around the office and discussing the latest Star Trek movie. (NO spoilers, promise.) I did bring up my incredulity that J.J. Abrams would go to town on the lens flares with as much gusto after everyone had mocked that aspect about the last movie. A colleague of mine, a physics professor, pointed out that no everyone reads movie reviews and Star Trek fan sites, and that these movies were geared for “normal people,” the larger audience.
I argued that this isn’t part of the Star Trek lore, and I’m a nerd and a geek but not about cinematography. I’m a normal person in that respect! It was so obvious that the lens flares were covering people’s faces as they were talking! And several heads popped up around the office. “Nope, I didn’t notice.” “It wasn’t that obvious.” “I didn’t see it.” My colleague smiled at me and said, “You’re a teacher.You’re not normal.”
So I stopped and thought about that. It’s an idea I’d been told before about educators, especially those working in higher ed, as well as people working on with advanced degrees. We’re not “normal.” We’re not your average audience. However, as an educator, we need to live in both worlds, able to speak the language of the nerds and average person. We’re translators.
It’s hard to step away from the “geek culture” in which I am so entrenched. Part of the problem with the flood and diversity of information that comes with the Internet age is the ability to isolate yourself within certain narrow viewpoints. Plus, for geeks, we’re constantly being told lately that “geek is cool” and “geek has gone mainstream.” It’s easy to believe when you surround yourself with people of similar interests and viewpoints, but our job as educators is to reach everyone, all the little nooks and crannies and groups and people of diverse opinions. Informal educators especially look to reach adults, children, men, women, geeks, nerds, jocks, or any other social stereotype you can think of.
I figured that as a science educator, I was going okay in being able to translate and communicate within my fields of expertise. However, it helps to remember that education is broad, communicators can communicate generally, and that just because I’m no film buff, my geekiness seeps into my worldview and changes how I communicate by default, if I’m not careful.
Has you chosen profession, education, or status as an educator ever made you feel that you were not “normal”? Do you find it difficult to communicate outside your field of expertise as an educator or outside that role?
The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.