a press release in the hands of my mother

The other day I got the following email:

I’m a reporter at the [weekly paper] in [the town in which you grew up]. Your mom brought in a press release about your Science Teacher of the Year Award. She said that your inspiration to go into teaching science was a teacher at [your former high school]. I would like to interview you and write a story about your experience in [your hometown] and how it lead you to your career for an upcoming edition of the [local paper]. Do you have time this week for me to give you a call? If so, when is the best time to reach you?

I read this just as I was on my way out of the office for the day, but paused just a moment to sigh, sit down, grimace, sigh again, and then mark the email as “unread”. I couldn’t handle this at the moment. The facts:

  • Mom asked if it would be okay if she brought the press release to the local paper. I said that would be fine, and I meant it.
  • Mom didn’t ever ask where my inspiration had stemmed from. Ever. Once, a few months ago, she asked, “You research quantum mechanics, or something like that, right?” She’s read the introduction of my dissertation (far enough to suggest rewordings), knows that I co-host a conference in science education, and IS MY MOTHER. So, I think it isn’t so much to expect that she know I don’t study quantum mechanics as my primary field of research; nor presume my source of inspiration if she doesn’t actually know … Then again, she is my mother.
  • When I left high school, I started a program in engineering in college. Later, I switched to physics, and later still went on to graduate school in physics. My pursuit of teaching may have had pollination from many places, but there was not a glimmer of this when I left high school.
  • My high school teacher, along with my mother, upon hearing that I was switching graduate programs from physics to education, tried to talk me out of it, telling me it was a bad idea. (My mother contacted the former teacher herself to pull him into the “conversation”.) So, it’s odd now to think that I should attribute an honor in teaching to someone who tried to talk me out of pursuing a program in education.

It took me a full day, but I worked up the strength to compose an email back to the reporter. I said I would be happy to talk to her, but the story she was thinking of writing and the truth of the situation were fairly discrepant. Happy to talk to her, and happy to talk about great experiences in high school, but it isn’t the trajectory that’s painted by my mother. I haven’t heard back.

I did get this, though: Upon researching what my old hometown newspaper has been writing about lately, I found a highlighted link for quick reference for the community in which I grew up:


Who’s in JAIL?

With a quick click of the mouse, you can learn who, for what, and for how long. It was interesting to see all the various cells filled with all the various offenders. No one I knew immediately, but still it all seemed familiar. There’s no place like home. And I’m glad I don’t live there.


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