I'm always at class ten minutes early, and I usually spend that ten minutes talking to students as they come in. Sometimes we talk about stuff happening on campus or current events or national news.
Today, we mostly commiserated.
We have bad colds, most of us. My students live together on one floor, and we spent the weekend together on retreat, doing teamwork exercises that involved climbing around on cables while holding hands and leaning against each other for support. All that bonding means that the one bad cold that Smart Serious Student had last week has now spread through the whole community. It's more of a flu, really, because it comes with aches and pains and stomach upsets and a sore throat.
I took all kinds of drugs just to be able to function, to get to campus and teach my classes. My students were pretty drugged as well. It's a busy week for them — big tests in chemistry, biology, and calculus — and in my class, they are working on ambitious essays that will collectively attempt to solve the environmental crisis. Many of them were coughing, and most have had very little sleep, and one young woman summed up the spirit of the day by saying, "My god, how is it only Thursday?"
And yet, still, I had 100 percent attendance in each of my three sections. All sixty students came to class.
I like this generation of students. They are serious and hardworking, and they don't let sickness stop them. We were going around the room, with the students presenting their ideas for their essays, and I couldn't help but be impressed at the solutions they were offering. One student presented reasons why green roofs can save energy. Another talked about how to design a whole city to be eco-efficient. Another talked about how we need literature — books and blogs and other texts — to help change attitudes and lifestyles. Another talked about designing after-school playgrounds that would encourage kids to be more in touch with nature. Another described his plans to design a home that would be sustainable. Another wants to install a light rail system for any city the size of Snowstorm City. Student after student, they presented their ideas, and the rest of the class would jump in with comments and suggestions.
Despite the red noses and hacking coughs and the fact that most of us felt miserably sick, the mood in the room was hopeful. "These solutions are all possible," said Pink Glasses. "If we could just combine all our ideas and implement them ...."