I've been watching with great envy as Prof-like Substance worked on two grants, had his entire family succumb to stomach virus, took time off for Xmas, and still had the ability to blog about his travails. I too have been writing two grants, battled uncomfortable stomach conditions, took a couple of days off to visit family, and I have not been able to muster the will to blog about any of it. My only defense is that classes here begin shocking early and I also had to start teaching my soul-sucking course this week (by soul-sucking I don't mean I teach on the sucking of souls - that might actually be fun - its my class that is so demoralizing that every time I step into class its like my soul is being sucked out of my body with a lot of force through a very narrow straw). In summary, I have found the past month to be a whole lot less fun than one might initially think. But today I gave the grant office permission to push the button on one of them and the other is shockingly well under control - giving me hope. When I was on the couch, trying not to vomit on my keyboard, working on revisions, I was pretty sure I wasn't actually going to survive this.
But what motivated me to return to the blogosphere was class today. I teach a big lecture course aimed at non-majors. I try very hard to make this class relevant to the student population. Since many of these students will be part of a society grappling with climate change, collapsing fisheries, stem cells, increasing antibiotic resistance in bacteria, and benefiting from medical research, I feel very passionately about the importance of this class. But most of the students take the class because they need a science course and think this is the best of a bunch of bad options and its clear they just don't want to be there. I've taught this class several times now, but I think today was the first time a student made be speechless. On my second slide today, while I'm in full swing explaining the slide, a student raised their hand. Thinking they had an important question, I stopped and signaled them to ask their question. "So, will we be tested on what you're saying as well as what's on the slide?" Like I was up there reciting War and Peace, or Who's on First? Or telling 'knock knock' jokes. I was literally explaining the slide.
I was so confused by the question, that I stood there blinking at her for several seconds while my brain reprocessed the sound bite to make sure I hadn't misheard something. Then, when the reality of the question was starkly clear, all I could hear was that giant sucking noise of my soul rushing through that tiny little straw. The bad news is that this is going to be a long semester. The good news is I have a whole new source of blog fodder!