Bored to Death
A real neutrophil with a nucleus shaped like a question mark. A neutrophil is a type of granulocytic white blood cell and is an integral part of our immune system. Perhaps this oddly shaped nucleus is evidence of Intelligent Design? Naaaaw!
For the first time since I've started teaching at the little college on the hill, I gave a lecture to my students that made me happy. I gave them an overview of blood (erythrocytes, leukocytes and platelets) and the lymphatic system, as required. But because I thought this lab was severely lacking in any interesting activities, I then used this required information as the background for a brief introduction to the wonders of the immune system and how it functions, the similarities and differences between immune response to bacterial infections versus viral infections, and then I discussed some cutting-edge research about the immune response to cancer and the relationship between immune cells, depression and cancer. Talking openly about these very interesting subjects cut through my own despondency and made me want to design a graduate-level course (or write a book) that addresses these topics.
I am not sure if any of my students learned anything from my lecture, although I'd like to believe they did, but at this point, I don't care. For the first time this semester, I was satisfied and that is all that counts right now. The oddest thing about this? I relied on only a few notes to remind me of the basic facts because I am going to examine them over those, so I wanted to make sure I didn’t accidentally misstate this information to them. But I did not write out my lecture in meticulous detail and in advance as I always do. I just talked to my students about what I think is so very interesting about these related topics. My thoughts and words came so easily, as if I was describing a series of events as they occurred in front of me, and my students' questions wonderfully anticipated the next topic that I was going to talk about .. how did they do that? I almost felt like a tour guide leading them on a great adventure; a great adventure of the mind.
Unfortunately, for the next few weeks, I am back to delivering "canned" lectures, although I think this will be fine since my students will be learning about the circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems. As a result, they will have some interesting dissections to keep them engaged so an interesting lecture is probably not necessary. Incidentally, last week, the lab technician told me that I am the only professor in this class that delivers a lab lecture at all, the others just spend ten minutes or so telling the students what they are supposed to be doing that week in lab, but provide no other background or contextual information. Yet, despite my devotion to detail, I am the only professor who is spot-on target with the course syllabus; all of the other classes have fallen behind, some of them are three weeks behind where they are supposed to be. Gah! It's no wonder that more than half of the students in the class are failing! The professors' apathy is killing them: They're bored out of their skulls!
I decided that my students can anticipate one more "fun" lecture from me, at the end of the semester (if I feel equal to it). Our lab covers the endocrine system on the last week of the semester, and a quick glance ahead in the book reveals that the lab manual succeeds once more in transforming another intriguing living phenomenon (endocrinology) into a boring exercise in rote memorization. However, I am just the person to remedy that situation: Because I researched the relationship between hormones and behavior in birds for my dissertation, I told my students today that I will give them a lecture about the mechanisms of how hormones cause changes in behavior and physiology. Like today's lecture, my upcoming presentation about hormones will be another lecture that requires my students to have mastered previous material covered in the class. If they have mastered it, I think this lecture will help them to better understand those previously memorized facts because they will have a context for them and context provides relevance. And relevance is what this entire course lacks. In fact, it's downright embarassing to be part of this particular course.
After all my subversive lectures have been delivered, I am sure the little college on the hill will fire me (I am too different from what they seek in an adjunct, they say). Or (because I agree with them), maybe I will quit and pursue homelessness as a viable life option? That seems to be the only option remaining since I can't find a satisfying job that pays a living wage. Of course, at this point, I am too disillusioned to care.
© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist