September 18, 2008

Despite the hacking cough

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 ...."

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wait - it was virtuous of the originally sick student to attend, knowing it was likely to mean infecting the rest?

Is it really so slothful or otherwise wrong to stay home when sick and just recuperate?

jo(e) said...

As I said in the post, these students all live together. So they are all in contact with each other even when they "stay home." That's why sicknesses spread so quickly on a college campus.

Sandy said...

Bad colds here too! Im going to buy stock in kleenex. Tis the time of year.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Ooo, I like the idea of redesigning a playground. At my son's after-school class last year (kindergarten), in the spring the kids actually ignored all the playground equipment to play in a rivulet of melting snow. They made dams and broke them, they tried floating bark chips downstream... It was cool. I did hear some parents reprimanding their kids for getting so dirty, though.

jo(e) said...

Jennifer: One of my landscape architect students spent a semester in Denmark studying these "Adventure Playgrounds" that were really cool -- they included mudpits the kids could play in on rainy days, firepits for building fires, wood and tools to make forts with, all kinds of fun stuff. She said the tough part about making playgrounds in this country is that Americans have an obsession with their kids being "clean" and "safe."

heidi said...

Hope you feel better soon!

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

What was the essay question, if I can ask?

kathy a. said...

their enthusiasm and wonderful ideas make me feel so hopeful.

YourFireAnt said...

There is a wholistic view of colds, that holds that they are the sign of health. A cold every now and then rids your body of stuff that it needs to be rid of. And that NOT getting them is not healthy.

FA

jo(e) said...

Jennifer: Oh, in my classroom it's never a simple essay question....

Here was the process: First we read the book _Cradle to Cradle_ by McDonough and Braungart, a book that proposes that one solution to the environmental crisis is that we rethink the way we design products, moving to a cradle-to-cradle design instead of a cradle-to-grave design. We had a campus-wide discussion of the book, bringing both scientists and landscape architects into the discussion. Then we talked about the book in class, and the students wrote one-page reflections, responding to the text. Then, based on the discussions and the student responses, I came up with nine paper topics, just to show the range of topics the students might choose. They weren't limited to the topics; they were supposed to come up with an essay topic that grew out of their discussions and writing. So then each student came up with a topic -- and that's what we were sharing in class. Each student had something different.

jo(e) said...

FA: Today I'm just staying home and bed and taking it easy (I teach Tues/Thurs), and I have to say that I like that about colds: a bad cold gives me an excuse to just do nothing all day ....

Rana said...

I'm torn between beaming with pride and wanting to scold the lot of you for not staying home to rest.

(I know that even if they'd stayed home, they'd probably used the time for something else, but still...)

I don't know about getting colds as something "healthy" - but I myself tend to view them as a good reason to rest and take a bit of time for myself - especially since I usually don't get sick unless I've been over-extending myself.