August 06, 2005

Talk of beetles

It happens every August.

I was sitting peacefully at our campsite, in complete vacation mode, not thinking about school at all. I love summer, the way I can take a break from my teaching. And I usually take a break from politics as well. I try not to read the newspaper on vacation. I need the break.

Then a young woman, wearing a t-shirt that identified her as an intern, approached our site with pamphlets about the emerald ash borer, a non-native, wood-boring beetle that kills ash trees. Campers can spread the beetle accidentally by bringing firewood from home.

She described the beetle in detail, answered all my questions, talked dramatically about the problems of non-native infestations. I told her about my experiences with gypsy moth caterpillars and purple loosestrife. We chatted for a while about all kinds of stuff, and then finally she moved to the next site.

"Wow, you talked to her forever," observed my daughter.

And then I realized that the moment had come. That late summer moment when it hits me: I miss my students. I have not seen them since May. I miss the way that my wildlife biologists turn everything into a little science lesson. I miss the way my landscape architects analyze the design of everything from shopping malls to campgrounds. I miss the Environmental Studies students -- the constant tips about saving the planet, the continual analysis of the horrors of the Bush administration, their careful and specific plans to save the world.

Sure it's been great to be in summer mode, just reading my own stuff, writing what I want to write, but I miss the enthusiasm of my students and all that they teach me. Classes start again in three weeks - and I am looking forward to being back on campus again.

10 comments:

ccw said...

You sound like a wonderful teacher, something we need more of in all levels of academia.

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

I agree! And your students sound wonderful as well... I would be enormously energized by spending time with people who have careful and specific plans to save the world.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Great post! Your students sound like a fantastic bunch.

That reminds me that I've been meaning to post about how my backyard is turning into an invasive weed laboratory. Ack!

BrightStar said...

thanks for reminding us all about one of the most important reasons for our work -- the students.

if you want to talk about bugs, my spouse can chat people up about them anytime, anywhere. :)

jo(e) said...

Bright Star: When my students take entomology, they often bring me their bug collections so I can admire fifty dead pinned insects. I find that it is pretty cool. Now when I see a strange bug, I will sometimes put it in a plastic bag in my freezer to give to one of my students ....

Pink Cupcake said...

I wish you had taught me! :) I think it's great that you are so enthusiastic about teaching, and that you learn so much from your students too. Not sure I'd be too keen on keeping frozen bugs in my freezer though!

By the way, thanks for visiting my blog.

PPB said...

I can't wait for them to come back. Colleges without students are just plain boring.
I wish I had had you as a teacher.

BrightStar said...

neat! we have pinned insect collections at our house. :)

oh, I've had frozen bugs and live bugs and all kinds of bugs in my house... but that's extra special that you're helping out students... I have to tolerate the bugs because they're my spouse's. I'm not grossed out by bugs, I just never thought I'd have them in my life so much.

The emerald ash borer is a huge problem, though, so I'm glad the intern is educating campers about it.

What Now? said...

And this is why I really need NOT to teach summer school. Last year, when I had the entire summer off from teaching, I was really excited about classes starting again in August. This year, not so much, and I'm sure that it's because I didn't finish teaching until a month ago.

jo(e) said...

What Now? -- Yeah, I definitely need the break from teaching in order to appreciate my students again.