In light of the ongoing attacks on teachers, a lot of people ask why someone like me would even want to go into public school teaching. It reminds me of the joke about the man who goes to his doctor and says, "Doc, it hurts when I go like this..."
Here's what I tell them.
I just got back from a week in the Mojave with NASA researchers, engineers and explorers. I was part of an official NASA expedition known as "Spaceward Bound" that brings together current and future math and science teachers from all over the California State University system. It's a long-term vision of inspiring the people who will need to inspire the people who will need to carry the torch of learning forward into the future.
For a whole week, we worked side by side with scientists and engineers, learning what they do and how they do it, and how they're lowering the cost of exploration by building rovers out of off-the-shelf parts and even duct tape.
The astrobiologists on the team sent us forth into the desert to find samples of biological soil crusts -- symbiotic communities of microorganisms that bond together to survive in the harshest environments -- in much the same way teachers and schools are doing right now. They showed us how these communities serve as measures of our own planet's health, and as possible predictors of life elsewhere.