Interview with Dr. Nazir

Rebekka Gondosch | Reporter

1.      You lived in the Caribbean before coming to Canada. Could you tell us some of the significant or unique cultural differences between the places you have lived?

“Trinidad is a land of stark contrast within itself and with Canada. It would take a cultural anthropologist to fully explain the differences between both places. But here are some differences I have noticed that your readership might find interesting:

·       “Trinidad is a tropical paradise with beautiful sandy beaches, bright sunshine and tropical rain forests teeming with life. There is NO snow and it is NEVER cold. As a result life is much more outdoors. Many homes have large open windows that blur the lines between inside and outside and ‘outdoor rooms’ where life mostly happens. Living closely in and with the natural world is one of the things I miss most here in Canada. Especially in the winter time, I dream of masses of green growing things and life unbound and abundant springing out from every nook and cranny.

·       “Because it is a tiny island, Trinidad is a place of few secrets. Any where you go someone is sure to recognise you or at least know someone in your family. By the time you get home, it is very likely that the people you live with will already know where you have been and what you have been up to everyday.

·       “Life in Trinidad is underpinned by a different worldview and sociocultural moors. The people are driven by a different creative energy — more intuitive and imaginative rather than logical or rational. This has led to the development of several unique art forms like carnival, soca music, chutney music and steel pan. Being with others, also called “liming”, is an important aspect of life. When you lime, you just sit with others eating, drinking, gossiping, telling jokes or literally just watching life pass by.


·       “Because of its history, Trinidad is strange mix of people of different ethnicities and religions. Moreover there is a surprising lack of friction because of this. Many families are mixed. I come from a family of Christian, Hindu and Muslim members. I think an important part of the harmony that exists is because people take things very lightly in general. A common Trini saying is, ‘Don’t take it on’, meaning that people shouldn’t hold on to problems but let them go.”


2.      At Redeemer you are teaching courses on Science, Math, and Education and your previous experiences include research in Outdoor Environmental Education and studying Botany at University of the West Indies, St. Augustine! What inspired you to pursue these particular fields of study? Have you always been interested in these fields?

“My life, especially my educational journey, has been led by the Holy Spirit. My parents were not highly educated or of a high social class. My father was a labourer on a sugar cane estate and my mother a housewife. While they were very interested in ensuring their children were educated, they could offer very little guidance regarding the choices that were required. As a result, I took whatever opportunities were offered to me and did the subjects that I thought were most interesting to me. Personally, I never had a life plan or grand design, or any clue what I would do next. I now see that all those ‘choices’ were really part of a larger Purpose and God’s plan for my life.”


3.      You’ve contributed to journals such as the Canadian Journal for Science Mathematics and Technology Education, the International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, as well as the book Encyclopedia of Science Education. What has been your favourite publication thus far and what about that topic excites you?

“I am very proud ofall my publications, but if I had to pick the most special it would be my co-authored article in Science Education entitled ‘Currents in STSE Education: Mapping a Complex Field, 40 years on’. This was my first academic journal publication and a significant achievement for any graduate student. I wrote it with my doctoral thesis supervisor Dr. Erminia Pedretti, who has also been a mentor and wonderful influence in my life.

“The article incorporates many of the ideas I had been ruminating over during my years of science teaching, regarding the idea that science teaching should go beyond teaching the ‘content’ of science to exposing its philosophical, social, cultural and political interactions in society and its real influences on peoples’ lives. Dr. Pedretti worked with me to articulate various approaches teachers can take in doing this in elementary and secondary classrooms.

“STSE is a topic that continues to interest me because I believe it presents a vision for science education that can keep students interested and motivated to learn science in a time when we know science interest is waning. The article was published in 2011 and continues to be of interest to other scholars and educators as evidenced by its relatively good citation record publically available on Google Scholar.”


4.      What do you find the most challenging when it comes to teaching? What do you find to be the greatest gift?

“For me, the most difficult thing about teaching is dealing with students who don’t have an intrinsic motivation to learn. This is particularly discouraging to me because I have always loved learning and school. I never just went to get a certificate, to get through a program, to get a better job or please anyone. So it really distresses me when I meet students who are not interested in the same way, and it hurts me to have to guilt and push others into learning. My response is mostly to try my best to make courses or subjects I teach as relevant and as fun as possible for students.

“On the flip side, by far the greatest reward of teaching is to see students, years later, living successful, happy lives, having achieved something directly related to the subjects/courses I taught them. It is also really pleasant, when after they have finished their education, students see me out in the world, and come up and talk to me and tell me about themselves and what they are doing, instead of hiding behind something or pretending they did not see me.”


5.      What is something about you that might surprise people?

“I don’t know if there is anything about me that is really surprising. I try to be as honest and genuine with people I interact with, to the extent that sometimes I wonder if I should really say some of the things I say out loud. Still, here are three things that some people may find quirky:

·       “I really love food and eating. I especially like food that is spicy and colourful, fun to look at and fun to eat. I love watching food programs to get new recipe ideas.

·       “Although I am supposed to be a “sciency-mathy” person, I am a secret admirer of those who are artistically and creatively inclined. I am a secret colourer who finds Colouring Books quite therapeutic.

·       “I am a great fantasy fiction fan. Some of my all favorite authors are Ursula Le Guin, C.S. Lewis, J.K Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien. Even now, if I have extra time for recreational reading my go-to section in any library or bookstore is the fantasy fiction section.”


6.      If you could meet someone famous (from the past or present) for coffee and conversation who would you meet and why?

“I am not a fan of famous people. The few I have met have been a great disappointment because they are selfish or full of hubris or surprisingly insecure. I really enjoy talking to common people, those who are often referred to as ‘the salt of the earth’. Often they present you with experiential insights that can be delightfully funny, refreshing, and wise.”