My hope, Gentle Reader, is that you associate June’s approach with nothing more taxing than breaking out the ol’ backyard slip-n-slide. It’s a somewhat odd time of year, though, for those of us whose peculiar profession it is to haunt the halls of so-called higher learning. Despite the fact that final grades have been posted—a signal to students that their labors are definitively and blessedly finished—I don’t find it nearly so easy, as their professor, to declare mission accomplished. Instead, I continue to ruminate over each of my classes, tallying successes and fretting about ways to improve things that didn’t go as well as I’d intended.
In an earlier post, I wrote about an undergraduate course I pioneered in the spring term, one to which I gave the rather ponderous title, Narratives of Illness and (Sometimes) Healing. Students majoring in the sciences are required to take a 200-level Composition course, and so I thought I would try to tailor one that might appeal specifically to students interested in careers in health care. I’ll spare you the syllabus, but in short, we read and responded to a wide range of essays, stories, and memoirs related to the experience of physical and mental suffering. An obvious problem with a semester’s worth of such readings was that it could have been, as the kids say, a major bummer. Happily, that wasn’t the case. Though our readings and discussions were often intense, the students managed for the most part to maintain a sense of humor and buoyancy, so that our classes felt meaningful rather than dreary. On the whole, I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.
I tell you this lest you regard the next few features here in Vital as some sort of professorial catharsis. They are, rather, the thoughtful work of deserving students who have generously agreed to share some of their class writing for publication here on the site. In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some of the fruits of their labors, essays that are scholarly but nonetheless in some cases, bravely personal.
Photo by: Brooke Cagle