Nog and the Promise of Potential: A Teacher’s Reflection
I’ve been (slowly) re-watching Star Trek: Deep Space 9 for the last few months or so and I just got to that episode in season 3 where Nog, son of Rom and nephew to that scoundrel Quark, declares to Commander Sisko that he wants to apply to Starfleet Academy. It was a subplot I had sort-of half forgotten about but then came raging back all at once – Nog’s struggles, his long journey, and his eventual triumph. I just love that subplot. In fact, it might be my favorite Star Trek subplot of all time.
Now that I’m watching it as an adult, this storyline has some extra resonance for me. Besides being an author, my day job is as a college professor – a teacher – and Nog and his quest represent a very important lesson we teachers need to remember. To look at Nog from a distance, the kid is obviously a fuck-up and a lost cause. He gets bad grades in school, he is always goofing off, he gets arrested by Odo on a semi-regular basis, and his uncle Quark is a known criminal and low-life who associates with known criminals and low-lifes. To top it all off, he’s a Ferengi! No culture is more opposed to what the Federation represents – they are greedy, dishonest, selfish, and cowardly. There’s just no way in hell a kid like that has any business wearing a Starfleet uniform.
Sisko knows this. Hell, Nog knows this! Nog knows nobody expects him to amount to anything. His father is a permanent, laughable loser and his culture would never accept him going to Starfleet even assuming he could get in! But you know what this kid does? As soon as he comes of age, he scrounges together what money he has, walks into Sisko’s office (Sisko – the most powerful person on the station by far), shakes his hand, looks him in the eye…
…and offers him a bribe.
Because of course he does! That’s how Ferengi society works! This, to Nog, is what being a man is all about. This is responsible, adult behavior. And Sisko – bless him – realizes this. Everything tells him to show this kid the door – it’s probably a trick, a trap, some kind of prank – but…he hesitates. Sisko does something that makes me love him forever: he gives this kid a chance. He decides to trust him. He gives him a day alone with a cargo bay full of valuable stuff and lets Nog prove himself.
And you know what? Nog earns his trust. He proves he’s the hardest working kid on the station. He wants to be taken seriously. He wants this.
What I take away from all of this – the person I identify with – is Sisko. As a teacher, one is often faced with students who are…well…less than impressive at first glance. They show up late. They sleep in class. They don’t seem to be taking their education seriously. But the thing that I need to remind myself of is that I just don’t know what this kid is actually capable of. I can’t judge them based on superficial characteristics. Yeah, maybe they aren’t much good in my literature classes, but this person could very well become an excellent doctor or nurse or scientist. Hell, they might even have within them to become a wonderful writer or artist. As a teacher, it is part of my job to give them that chance – to allow them the opportunity to prove themselves, no matter what they look like or even how they act. Will I be let down? Sure, sure – happens all the time. But if a kid who’s been goofing off all semester comes up to me and asks if I can help them clean up their resume or give them advice on how to bring up their grades or ask me to recommend books for them to read to improve themselves, I remind myself of Sisko, sitting in Ops, looking at that sack full of latinum from an eager young Ferengi…
And I say yes.
And, like Sisko, I am often pleasantly surprised.
The Year in Review (2012-2013)
WordPress has just informed me that it’s been another year of me writing this blog o’ mine. Seeing how I don’t have anything else pressing to discuss, this anniversary is fortuitous as it gives me something to write about, if only briefly.
I have pretty consistently posted about twice a week on this blog: almost always on Monday, and then again on either Wednesday or Friday, depending. I’ve doubled the number of followers I have and views on the site have varied from several hundred to fifty. This summer it has been around fifty pretty much consistently. This puts me behind the 2011-2012 view numbers, but that’s okay. I barely promote this blog and fifty views a day is enough for me to know that somebody is reading this thing and that I can be found if someone is looking.
While I enjoy blogging, my purpose here isn’t really to blog, per se. I don’t want to be a ‘blogger’ by trade or affectation. I’m a writer, and writing a blog is a way to establish that I exist to a digital world that is barely aware of me. This is, in essence, my digital office, wherein I make small inroads into making sure my name pops up in a Google search. I’m trying not to invest too much of my time into it, since the more time I spend here, the less time I spend actually writing. Of course, as somebody who has difficulty doing things by half measures, two posts a week are my minimum standard for maintaining this thing. If I’m going to write a blog, I’m going to write a blog; it isn’t something I’ll abandon on a whim. If I intend to quit updating for a while, you’ll hear about it.
On the subject of my professional aims, this has been a pretty good year in terms of writing. As of this moment, I have four stories accepted to various publications. Some of them haven’t supplied me with contracts yet, so I hesitate lauding them, but one of them is a really big publication credit to my mind (*cough* Analog *cough*). When I have a fixed idea of when these four stories are going to be released, I’ll be certain to let you know and prod you to buy/read them.
On the novel-writing front, things go well there, too. This summer I wrote the first third of the sequel to The Oldest Trick (mostly because I love Tyvian Reldamar, and for no greater professional purpose) as well as more than half of a new novel, which is currently titled simply Lych – it’s urban fantasy, which is a bit more saleable in the current market (I hope), and I hope to finish a rough draft by the end of winter at the latest.
The two novels I have finished and am shopping around (The Rubric of All Things and The Oldest Trick) are still under consideration at Harper Voyager books following their open submission call, which is a good thing. At last check, the editors told me they were both ‘very much still under consideration’, which I am taking as a hopeful sign one of them will be picked up. The Rubric of All Things, by the way, was the one that made Quarterfinalist for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. All good news!
Finally, on an ‘actually pays me money’ professional note, I have been promoted out of adjunct professor-hood to a full-time lecturer/faculty associate of English at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University (whew! some title – I know). I start that new position tomorrow, which is very exciting as it will be the first time in my professional life I will have an office of my own (it may even have a door!). Go me!
So, in closing – thank you all for reading, and please continue to do so. This blog has been a great way to get the creative juices flowing and to share some of my ideas with whoever wants to listen. As a writer and a teacher, I do so enjoy hearing myself talk. I am glad there are at least a few people out there who do, as well.