Should I Blog, Teach, Provide Academic Services or Combine Them All
Key words: ClassGap, Behaviorism, Cognitive Psychology, Agroforestry, My Academic Services, My Insomnia Crisis of year 2017, Auto-medication, Self-medicate, Neuro-pharmacological Experiments, Anticonvulsants of Antiepileptic Medicines are used on Bipolar Affective Disorder (BPAD), My twin Wix-sites, My Virtual Spanish and Biology Classes, Freelance Academic.
Summary: I already gave my first two official classes on a Spanish virtual teaching platform called ClassGap. When the student contacted me for the first time, I was doubtful about giving the first class, but I finally did. The reason for my doubt was that about 10 days ago, my mood got a little lowered, and the only thing I wanted to do was blogging (read and write). But after those classes my mood was restored to its normal state (a little up) and now I want to do everything. Supposedly, the first class was about the anatomy of the nervous, muscular and bone system focused on physical exercise but, the student had already seen my blog, and we started the class talking about Evolutionary Psychology and we finished the session, in a little improvised way on my part, talking about biochemistry and cell biology. In this article, I also speak about how in 2016 I had several PhDs as clients, but 2017 was characterized by an insomnia crisis that left me out of combat and was aggravated by a bad practice of mine, that was to test neuro-drugs on my own as if I were a psychiatrist. In 2018 I got better and in 2019 I started applying strict sleep hygiene and since August 2019 I am very well. Which has led me to seek various ways of producing money again. I narrate what has worked and what I have ruled out.
I already gave my first two official classes on a virtual teaching platform (ClassGap) and it was not a Spanish class as I predicted in my my last personal article [1, 2]. The topic was biology. For the first class, I prepared myself to give a sport-oriented anatomy class, but we turned on talking about cell biology. I was a little nervous with this class, but I don't know where I got so much of verbiage to fill an hour. I had already begun to apply to other virtual teaching platforms such as iTalki and Preply; but I haven’t made the video of two length minutes to complete the process in these two platforms. On the other hand, ClassGap allowed me to publish my profile without a video, although a 30 second video can be recorded, but it is not mandatory. I signed up on a Sunday and three days later I was already producing. I super-recommend this Spanish platform (ClassGap). The virtual classroom is excellent: you can share documents, images, draw and obviously chat and see each other on video.
At least 15 years went by without feeling the excitement of teaching. I repeat, at first it is a little scary, but everything went well, although it was a bit improvised. At first you feel an adrenaline burst with a little fear, but after answering all the questions and finishing the class, the adrenaline burst becomes pleasant because the "danger" is over. On a much smaller scale, it should be similar to what people who practice extreme sports feel. I repeat, according to the documents that the student (K) had sent me, I prepared myself for about four hours to talk about the nervous, muscular, skeletal and endocrine system oriented towards sports. But, the first class, turned out to be very cool talk about cell biology. And thinking about it again, the topic was just right to begin our first of several sessions.
Prior to class, K had found my blog, but I don't know if he was referring to the old one (https://www.juanferduque.com/) or this, the my new one. In any case, he showed interest in Steven Pinker's ideas and evolutionary psychology in general. We talked about a Pinker’s book I read a few years ago called "How the mind works" [3, 4]. About this book, I wrote a long review that can be found on Amazon . I explained to K that Evolutionary Psychology is the summation of two paradigms: Cognitive Psychology and the Darwinian Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection . He told me about cognitive-behavioral therapies and I explained that they combine cognitivism with behaviorism. And that is used at the practical level. But at the scientific-theoretical level, cognitivism replaced behaviorism.
Although we are not able to deepen this in class, here I want to extend the explanation a little. According to behaviorism, which was in vogue from the 1920s to the 1950s and whose greatest exponents were Watson and Skinner , the mind is a black box that does not deserve to be studied because it was considered by them as something ethereal and the only thing that mattered was the inputs and outputs that together form reflex acts. Pinker even demonstrates that behaviorism is closer to the obsolete concept of the "tabula rasa" that he criticizes in his book " The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" [8-10]. According to this notion, human beings come to the world as blank boards and we are modelled solely by culture, ignoring the existence of instincts for example. This can be related to politics, because for leftist people it is very convenient for a human to come into the world as a blank slate, because 0 is equal 0, and if we all come in zeros, it is easier to build models of egalitarian societies.
A little later, cognitivism emerged in the 1950s y 1960s, as a reaction to behaviorism and replaced it, at least on a theoretical level. Cognitivism considers the mind as something worth studying because it takes into account that each individual has desires and beliefs that are very important from a psychologically point of view. Cognitivist psychology is very easy to understand: it is the computational theory of the mind in which the brain is the hardware, the mind the operating system (Windows) and there are different programs called modules to solve certain problems. There are lie detector modules, which by the way are hypertrophied in women with respect to men, others to judge the degree of kinship with another individual to decide to help him or not. Other modules are responsible for trying to “guess” what another person is thinking, that is to say, forming a theory of the minds of others and a long list of other modules. But there is something with which I disagree. According to cognitive psychology there is no central module or coordinator. This cannot be so because it contradicts the findings of neurobiology according to which the prefrontal lobe, that is, the cerebral cortex that is immediately behind the part of the skull that forms the forehead, is responsible for the executive functions and is like the manager of the brain, responsible for integrating and monitoring everything. I would like to know what a good neuropsychologist thinks about all this.
Returning to my classes with my student K and after this brief introduction about Pinker and evolutionary psychology, we started talking about biochemistry and cell biology and time flew away. In a nutshell, I really liked giving the first class. I answered the vast majority of questions, but I really felt a bit ignorant about some specific things that I reinforced in the second class.
About a week ago, it occurred to me to dedicate myself exclusively to this, my new bilingual blog. Even the following Wednesday when K contacted me through the ClassGap chat, I was already convinced to just dedicate myself exclusively to my blog and he took me by surprise. The platform allows the student to talk 15 minutes for free to test the teacher. He sent me some documents to study and I proceeded to do so. I accepted to lecture him because it is a topic that I can handle and € 13/hour cannot be dismissed. But prior to this I was reading about very successful blogs financially speaking. I read tips and was very involved in this matter. I even bought in Amazon-Kindle (e-book) format “Blogging for dummies” of 2019 , because the books on this subject and this series that I have are very old (2006 and 2012). And I told myself:
- In 10 years, my blog must be producing considerably amounts of money. I have to work hard, but I will dedicate myself exclusively to read and write.
I started reading about ways to improve traffic to a blog and how to monetize it. I was “saddling without bringing the horses” because this, my new blog, has only five articles and has very few visits. In my last personal article [1, 2] I said that I am now an asymptomatic bipolar. That's true. But there are still micro-symptoms. In what has to do with what I am discussing in this article, when I am in a slightly elevated mood, which fortunately is now most of the time, I think I can and I want to do everything. But when I reach my mood baseline, I only have the desire to read and write. Hence, at the beginning of last week it occurred to me to dedicate myself only to this, my blog. But after the pleasure of the first two classes, I want to keep dictating them.
I will never forget the words of a friend (AZ) who is now a Doctor (PhD) professor at the Javeriana University of Cali-Colombia, city in which I was raised (since 2010 I live in Ibagué-Colombia). AZ told me, years ago, me if I could work, without depending on an institution, much better. And if that is what I am doing. I am setting up my independent academic business. I am even reading “The Freelance Academic” by Katie R. Pryal G. , which I will review in this blog shortly. I teach my classes on a virtual platforms like ClassGap. About publications, University professors post them in indexed journals. I also did this when I belonged to Univalle as you can see in my Curriculum Vitae: Publications and Conferences; but now, since I don't belong to any institution, it is enough to publish good review articles in this, my blog. At least here in Colombia, the professors of the good universities, especially the public ones, get their salary raised thanks to their publications. Nobody is going to raise my salary for publishing on my blog, but doing so gives me more credibility and visibility which will allow me to sell more effectively the two groups of products that I offer:
- Biology Spanish and English classes.
- Academic services as you can see in my Porfolio of Services.
That brings me to what I occasionally do: my editorial works, such as translations and organization of bibliography with EndNote to help university professors publish their work. My main client (HJAC), a PhD from the Universidad del Tolima (Colombian department which Ibagué is its capital of) for the past two years has been doing a special job for the ministry of education and/or the environment. He has enough publishable material and until 2016 I had a lot of fun editing and translating his agroforestry articles (forest agroecology to put it in some way) because I learned a lot and I had to deal with mature writings which only need the final refinements to be published. I hope that this professor, shortly, begins to evacuate the publishable material he has accumulated, because therefore I would have a lot of fun work. The idea of the HJAC-PhD research group is, through their research, to promote practices that lead to sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture. For this it is advised, for example, to have live fences formed by different plants around the crops. As for coffee plantations, for example, it is advisable to have as many shading trees as possible. All this in order to have the greatest possible plants diversity, because monocultures are not environmentally. In addition, having as many trees as possible, helps to store carbon, which would otherwise would be in the atmosphere worsening the greenhouse effect that is currently warming our planet. But this goes further, because the idea is to measure the trees to make an approximation of how much carbon they store. For this it is necessary to measure, not only the trunk but the roots and branches as well. This is important when paying for ecosystemic services, because the world's polluting companies can, indirectly, pay the peasants who keep trees on their farms. That is why it is important to measure the volume of trees, I repeat, to have an approximation how much carbon each owner is storing in his farm’s plants and thus be able to calculate the economic compensation he deserves.
Returning to my academic services, another client (MQ-PhD) to whom I edited her doctoral thesis in 2016, recommended me with a colleague of her who is finishing his doctoral thesis in this moment. But this client doesn't just need help with the format of his document. He also needs structural help, because he requires to improve the thesis’ methodology. I told him that, in that section of a project or report, we were taught as undergraduates, that it should be called methods and not methodology because there the research is not to analyze the methods of a investigation. He told me that he called it methodology anyway and maybe with this he realized that I could not help him with his methods and he did not call me again.
I talk a lot about 2016 because it was the last productive year I had before 2019; because in 2017 started with an insomnia crisis that put me out of combat. Seeing it from today, I do not know if this crisis was real, maybe as a result of the tenth anniversary of my father's death, or simply because of my age (in 2007 I was already 43) my sleep time began to shorten. In any case I started to sleep less and have difficulty falling asleep. Then I started doing neuro-pharmacological experiments. Even though I took all the neurobiology courses at Univalle, I am not a psychiatrist. If you have a mental condition and are reading this, please do not self-medicate that the medicine becomes worse than the disease. I tried many medications to improve my sleep. I simply read the pharmaceutical’s product information on the internet and tried it. I tested Quetiapine (an atypical antipsychotic), Doxylamine (an antihistamine), Zopiclone y Eszopiclone (Z neuro-medications, benzodiazepinoids), Carbamazepine (a very potent antiepileptic), Pregabalin (lyrica), Diphenhydramine (another antihistamine) and a long etcetera. Until, at the end of that year, I went to the psychiatrist accompanied with my mother. He simply put me on the medicines that I have taken since I was 14 when I was diagnosed as bipolar, which are: Clonazepam (benzodiazepine), Amitriptyline (Tricyclic antidepressant), Levomepromazine (somniferous and antipsychotic) and Oxcarbazepine (an anticonvulsant = antiepileptic). All these medications produce sleep. I'm bipolar, not epileptic. But the reason why anticonvulsants are used for bipolar disorder is that they function as mood stabilizers that control mania or hypomania (abnormal heightened mood) and help to sleep as well. I explain it with a parable:
Imagine the tribune of a stadium. Each viewer is a neuron. When a spectator stands represents an abnormally hyper-excited neuron. In the case of epileptics, each person (neuron) stops chaotically with respect to the other people. That chaos of hyper-exciting neurons causes the person to enter a kind of "short circuit" and convulse. On the other hand, in the case of us bipolars, the people of the tribune stand up coordinated, making a “wave”. There is also abnormal neuronal hyper-excitation, but it is synchronized, so we do not convulse when enduring a hypomania (mild, subclinical mood elevations) and manias (pathological mood elevation). That is why in both cases (seizures in epileptics, and manias and hypomanias in bipolars) anticonvulsants are used.
Returning to my visit to the psychiatrist that in November 2017, I was disappointed because the doctor, obeying my mother, did not prescribe anything new to me and at that itme what I wanted was a magical cure for my insomnia, because I was at two extremes: Either I took high doses and slept well, but all day I was lazy or took low doses to be awake, but sleeping inadequately. I wasn’t able to achieve a balance. In 2018 things improved a little, but I kept doing my experiments from time to time. At the beginning of 2019 I started applying strict sleep hygiene and since August I am very well. I'm sleeping from 10:00 or 11:00 pm to 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning as I reported in my last personal article [1, 2]. The fact is that my productivity in 2017 and 2018 was zero.
The only breakthrough in 2017 was the publication on Amazon of a book that had I finished writing in 2016 (this year I was very productive). The book is called: “Las Anécdotas de un Cuarentón Bipolar en Cali-Colombia (The Anecdotes of a Bipolar in his Forties in Cali-Colombia)” . It is a uchronia (at some point in history a different decision is made and an alternate timeline is created) utopian (it has a very happy ending) book that has several problems: It’s very long, more than 600 pages, of which the first 200 correspond to reality and the last 400 are fictional. Obviously, my bipolar verbiage and hypergraphia made me “overcook” the fictional part of this book. I only know of a friend who read everything. Regarding the few rests of people who bought my book, not even my mother has read it completely. The other problem is that, in the fictional part, the character that represents me has very few difficulties and everything is perfect. Among other problems since no one corrected or edited my book because Amazon one can publish anything, even with ISBN, without passing any filter.
In any case, 2.5 years had to pass (2017, 2018 and 2019A) for regaining my productivity. Maybe it took me all that time of trial and error (all of which was recorded in a private journal that is different from this blog) to develop a neuro-pharmacological routine and protocol to achieve the stability that I have since August 2019. Or maybe I already managed to completely reconfigure myself after the trauma that caused my father's death in 2007, about which I spoke enough in my my last personal article [1,2]. Anyway, since the second half of 2019 I am feeling great and my productivity has returned.
Between 2019B and January 2020 I dedicated myself to making these, my new twin websites, one in English and the other in Spanish, both with the same content. The experts tell me that I should have done it in WordPress, but I did it in WIX. The main criticism that is made to WIX is that the websites made on this last platform are not “responsive”. That is, they do not automatically adapt to the size of the user's screen. However, the WIX editor, which works as a graphic design program, has the possibility of making the site for desktop computers and smart-phones, and both versions worked very well for me. The advantage of WIX is that it has everything integrated, including a massive mail campaign handler (I will not use MailChimp again) and everything is very easy to handle. Anyway, if I have time left, I will learn to use WordPress designing a web site for our family Duque-Osorio-Cortés (https://familiaduosco.wordpress.com/) in order to be able to offer in my Porfolio of Services, development of websites in the three more popular platforms:
- Google’s Blogger-BlogSpot.
Speaking of my portfolio, it is a pity that in 2017 I had to stop working because in 2016 my academic services business was going well. I recently promoted, with WIX-shout (the WIX mass email campaign service) my article “Darwinian Evolution of the Bipolar Affective Gradient Conditions” [14, 15]. Each email contains the title of the article, a small advertising paragraph where I promote my academic services, the cover image of the article, the keywords, the summary and the links to read it completely. Before, those email campaigns worked great for me, but I don't know what happened now. The Spanish campaign, that I sent it to professors from universities in intermediate cities in Colombia (about 1000 emails), got not even one reaction; before 2017 I got a lot contracts form these type of campaigns. The English version of the same campaign was sent to about 200 PhDs from Columbia University in NY and the same to Oxford University in the United Kingdom. There was not a single reaction. But this was to be expected because as a schoolmate, that now is Doctor (PhD) and professor of a state university in the US, told me that Anglo-Saxon university professors are very organized and autonomous, and make their own publications complete; and when this is not the case, they have a budget in their projects for the edition of their articles. In any case I want to internationalize my publication preparation business and I don't know how to do it.
In recent months I explored platforms to exploit my skills as freelancer, since I no longer have contracts with university professors. The most popular is called Fiverr; but to compete in this market, one has to charge too little to get hired. There are people who make databases in Microsoft Access, websites on WIX, organize libraries in EndNote, translations or multimedia presentations in PowerPoint in 5 or 10 USD in these platforms. I can do all this, but not for such a low payment. Then I discarded, at least for now, the freelancer’s platforms.
Another thing I ruled out in recent months is to look for Spanish learners in Facebook groups and their WhatsApp chats. I gave three free Spanish classes on Skype to practice. But I disregarded this strategy because these groups are mainly made up of Hindus and Africans who want to learn Spanish for free.
Other platforms that I applied to is include LatinHire. This site looks for bilingual Latin Americans to teach different subjects. I applied to teach biology and English. I already passed two filters and we will see how this process progresses.
There is another opportunity on the horizon. It's about being a virtual English instructor at SENA, which is the institution where Colombian technicians are trained. According to the Common European Framework for Languages which in languages goes from A1 (beginner) to C2 (native language skills), I am C1 in English. And one of SENA’s requisite to be a virtual have at least B2 level. So, this requirement is met by me. The other condition is to present the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and I can present it here at the University of Ibagué, near my home. But there is a requirement that I do not meet and that is to have at least a year of experience in virtual education. I have more than one-year experience as a conventional university professor, but not as a virtual one. Then, it remains to be seen, if I can access this job opportunity for next year. I have a friend who is already a virtual instructor in that institution and is guiding me. It is a very good opportunity because for two or three hours of work per business day, one can earn very interesting salary.
Teaching Spanish on virtual platforms also catches my attention. I would focus on English-speaking beginners, but for that I have to continue studying Spanish grammar. I have seen several videos and read on several websites, but the best has been Lingolia, because in this site, grammar lessons are the super-well-organized. For now, I have learned:
- Verbal tense.
- Grammatical aspect: “Perfect” when it comes to an action finished in the past and “imperfect” when there is no certainty that the action has been carried out or continues in the present and/or future.
- Grammar mode: Indicative for affirmations, subjunctive for conditional actions and imperative for pleas or orders.
I also know that there are three impersonal verb forms: infinitive, participle and gerund. In any case I am already preparing an article called “Verbal Tenses of the Indicative Mode in Spanish” for this, my blog.
And that is another thing that I love about my bilingual blog made with WIX. And that is that articles can be sorted in categories. And one can put each blog post in more than one category. That is very convenient for an individual like me, because due to my bipolar condition, I have a wide curiosity hence I like to read a little of several topics. I would not be able to devote myself to a single topic all my life. This confirms that it was not convenient that I had done a PhD because now I would be tied to a university teaching, studying and publishing all the time on the same subject. I am a generalist animal and would not have been able to specialize as much as Doctors (PhDs) do.
So, in the end the idea is to be a freelance academic who is going to behave like a kind of mercenary who will work on anything, as long as it is something legal, academic and from the comfort of my home. So, the answer to the question in the title of this article is that I am going to combine everything, in order to start producing money that will ensure me a comfortable life when I get old.
Thank you very much for reading this article.
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2. Duque-Osorio JF. Nueva Década, Nuevo Blog, Nueva Vida como Bipolar Asintomático. El Blog de JFDO; 2020. Available in: http://bit.ly/2tv0zec. Accessed on 11-Feb-2020.
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14. Duque-Osorio JF. Evolución Darwiniana de las Condiciones del Gradiente Afectivo Bipolar. El Blog de JFDO; 2020. Available in: http://bit.ly/2O0IRGh. Accessed on 11-Feb-2020.
15. Duque-Osorio JF. Darwinian Evolution of the Bipolar Affective Gradient Conditions. JFDO's Blog; 2020. Available in: http://bit.ly/2vmiTGR. Accessed on 11-Feb-2020.