This message is from Chris Martin in Math.
I “teach math” here, and the lame joke I would always tell is “…and by teach I mean I shout math in a big room while students play on their phones.” Now I just record math into Zoom and hope that someone’s out there listening. What I wouldn’t give to have 80 students playing on their phones while I try to teach now. Funny, the things you take for granted.
I have the somewhat unusual distinction of not only being a member of the faculty of this institution but also a graduate (CEE, ’95). It doesn’t make me special (heck, I’m not even the best Clarkson teacher in my own house right now) but it does give me a unique perspective and understanding about Clarkson that has come into sharp focus these past few weeks: This place is special.
We all work here, and part of working at a place means that you complain. There’s always something wrong, some injustice, something that could be better. I think there’s nothing wrong with that, in moderation. But hardship has a funny way of bringing perspective. And if we’re getting nothing else right now, it’s a massive heaping pile of perspective. What is important? And which dumpster do I put everything else in?
I’m supposed to come up with something to “motivate” to share with everyone and I don’t know what that is. I do know that motivation is in short supply so I thought I’d share a few things that have kept me pushing the boulder up the hill, the things I think make this place such an amazing place to work.
- Clarkson students. Do you know what the first thing a Clarkson student asks you despite the fact that their parent has tested positive for COVID-19 or their parents lost their jobs or their family is 1000 miles away and they can’t get home? “How are you doing?” That’s what they ask. You aren’t going to run through a wall for that kid?
- Colleagues. I get to work every day with the most amazing people. Now I watch them do the impossible while holding a baby, or while their toddlers “create joy” every waking minute. Have you ever watched someone teach math from home with a bunch of kids that have been cooped up inside for three weeks? It’s heroic. We’re all suddenly more human now. More real. Beautiful. It’s awesome!
- The Clarkson Community. The sense of selflessness I’m seeing across every facet of the institution is awe inspiring. We’re all breaking our backs to help each other. Did you hear about the conference calls between our faculty and Canton Potsdam Hospital as we try to troubleshoot how to help them in real time? Do you know what the staff did during “spring break” to gear up for our new reality? It would be easier to list what you didn’t do. Did you line up along 56 the other day to cheer on our neighbor as she drove back from her last chemotherapy appointment?
One of the great strengths of Clarkson’s culture is its collaborative spirit. It’s the one thing you’d expect to suffer the most these days. Instead, it seems to have kicked into overdrive. I don’t know what’s motivating it but if you’re looking for inspiration I think you’ll find that you won’t have to look very far.
-Chris Martin, Math Dept.