The Instructor of the Month

If you’re perusing the Faculty of Science website this month and happen to come across the “Instructor of the Month” section, you’ll see a familiar mug looking back at you. (Spoiler: It’s me.) I don’t know who nominated me, but thank you. In keeping with the behind-the-scenes theme of this blog, I'm going to take you, well, behind the scenes of the photoshoot.

These kinds of things are decided way in advance. I first learned of this award last July. A communications person from the Faculty of Science let me know, and asked me to answer the questions you see on the website. Happily, what you see on the website are my answers, unedited. (OK, not totally true. In answer to the question, “what do you think is the key to connecting with your students?” I first said, “I don't know--maybe you should ask my students!?”)

The next step was to set up the photoshoot, which was scheduled for August. (See? Way in advance.) It felt a little weird dressing up in a shirt and tie in the middle of summer when I wasn’t even teaching classes. (Notice my tie? Like it? Want to buy one? Sorry, it’s out of stock. But has lots of other cool themed ties.)

If you look at some of the other photos accompanying Instructors of the Month, you’ll see that they were taken in a range of locations--in the field, in classrooms. Since it was a nice sunny day, I think the plan was to shoot the photos outside. But when the photographer, John Ulan, stepped into my office, his eyes got big and his head swiveled around checking out all the stuff that my wife won’t let me keep at home. Terminator 2 head. Simpsons poster. Count Chocula/Boo Berry/Frankenberry cereal boxes. Batman bobble-head. It seems shutterbugs like to shoot interesting things, and yeah, I guess my office is pretty interesting. So John decided to take my photo in my office. (Heck, my office looks way more interesting than me.)

Here’s a breakdown of the things you can see in the photo. In the background is my Legion of Super-Heroes (v4) poster from 1993, drawn by Canadian artist Stuart Immonen. Below that is a drawing by my eldest daughter. There’s a lot of stuff going on in that picture; if you look closely, you’ll see a My Little Pony pegasus. On the shelf is the Sigmund Freud action figure that I mentioned in the article. In the foreground stuck to my filing cabinet is the Ravenclaw magnet that I bought when Harry Potter: The Exhibition was at the Telus World of Science three years ago. Because Ravenclaw. The magnet is holding up a gag Back to the Future $1,000,000 bill that a friend bought for me. What you can see in the photo is only a small fraction of the geek stuff  in my office. You can’t see the autographed photos of Billy Dee Williams, Dirk Benedict, Lee Majors, and Nena. Or the collection of thank-you cards I’ve received from students over the years.

(So why do I have all this junk--I mean valuable memorabilia in my office? Aside from the fact that my wife won't allow it in the house? I enjoy watching behind-the-scenes features on my favourite movies, and I love listening to all of the commentary tracks (even the ones with the second assistant director and the key grip). On Pixar's old DVDs, they would show the workspaces of their employees--a lot of desks with computers. But there were always tons of toys, models, and cool knick-knacks everywhere. They claimed that having all of this clutter made them more creative. Sounds good to me (and look at how creative and innovative Pixar is). So I've done the same. Has this boosted my creativity? I dunno. But it's made my office a whole lot more interesting.)

Although there's only one photo in the article, many, many more were taken. It's a bit...embarrassing to have this kind of attention. I don’t think I’ve done anything special to deserve all this--just doing my job (and happy to do it). And look at the company I’m in. Two other outstanding psychology instructors have been given this honour already (Anthony Singhal and Michele Moscicki), not to mention a couple of other amazing instructors I worked with on Science 100 (Gerda De Vries and Vincent Bouchard). Wow. Now I’m really going to have to up my game.

Okay, time to get my head out of the clouds and get back to work.

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