The Student With The Galilean Tattoo
A student sent me this email, I have edited a few things to hide their identity, but most of it is exactly as written. It’s quite stunning.
Hi Mr. Robinson!
I’m one of your students, and I’m going to warn you now that this will be a long drawn out email, but I hope you take the time to read it as it is important for me to properly explain the situation before I ask my question.
In high school, I struggled with anxiety and depressive disorders, and while at school could only find solace with my physics teacher there. His name was Mr. P and any time I needed to talk he was there for me, and his class was my favourite to attend. One day in class he started talking about the rumored phrase said by Galileo Galilei, “eppur si muove” meaning “yet it moves” or “albeit it does move” in Latin, apparently said by Galilei after he was released from being locked up by the Church for teaching that the Earth revolves around the Sun.
I took quite a shine to the phrase whether the story happened or not. To me, it embodied everything I love about science, and my passion to pursue knowledge. In my mind it meant that regardless of what people tell you, there is always truth in the facts. Science may be one of the only absolutes I believe in in the world.
Fast forwarding to now, I have enjoyed your class just as much as I enjoyed my high school physics class. Yourself and Mr. P seem to be kindred spirits as you both have the same respect for students, and teaching, and so many of the same quirks. A friend of mine in the class informed me about your blog on medium.com and so I took a look.
I read your post about Gender Bias in Physics, around the time I was just finishing up my first ever final exams (how exciting terrifying). The regular stress of the exams coupled with my mental disorders took a toll on me, and I was genuinely considering giving up on science all together. I spent many days thinking that maybe I just wasn’t cut out for the academic life, but your post inspired me to keep going and keep trying. And now your most recent post regarding the terrorist attack in Quebec, where you say you value your students, meant just as much to me as well.
With all this being said, I am approaching my question.
As one of those hip-young-no-good-wasting-money-millennial kids, I have decided to get the phrase “eppur si muove” tattooed as personal, permanent, reminder to myself to never consider giving up on pursuing facts and knowledge ever again. And should you be comfortable with it, it would me a lot to me if I could get in it your handwriting.
If not, it’s totally understandable as it is a bit of an unusual request, and I can understand if it makes you uncomfortable, and I’d simply get the tattoo in a premade font. (But now I’m sure you understand why the big long email rather than leading with the question straight out the gate).
Regardless of your answer, I’m still happy to let you know what a positive impact you’ve had on me, and I’m sure many other students as well.
Wow. Just wow. My response, on reading that was, “I would be honoured”. Because I am. That’s the best complement on my teaching that I’ve ever had. It’s important because it shows the recent tendency of students to be able to frankly discuss mental health issues. I’ve experienced them myself, and I really want to strongly advocate for increased awareness and support. And I want to make the point to my generation — get used to this frankness and get comfortable with it.
Millennial generation, you are the best. I salute you.