Saturday, January 23, 2010

Be careful what you wish for--but it's all good, really

Not so long ago in a cold galaxy not so far away, a professor dreamed that she would create a new course. The new course would be based on materials that she was familiar with but had never taught, in a slightly different field from the one she'd been teaching in. It's a field she's excited about and really wanted to teach a course in. Let's call it "flying dinosaur studies." Now, the professor had taken courses in flying dinosaur studies during the last ice age and has kept up with it since, pretty much.

She's aware that flying dinosaur studies is not her area of primary expertise. Every word that comes out of her mouth about a flying dinosaur is one that she's had to read about anew. The materials for the course have, of course, evolved (heh) since the last ice age when she took her courses in the subject, so she's had to investigate and reinvent those, too. She can't talk off the top of her head about the structure of the pterosaur* wing, as she can--and does--about just about everything that she regularly teaches.

But she loves flying dinosaur studies. She wakes up thinking about it every morning, even though she has other courses that she likes, too. She thinks about ways to present the subject and other materials that she can bring in. It helps that the class is full and that the students seem as excited as she is.

It's exhausting and it's exhilarating.

And that's why I've been ignoring this poor blog.

*Edited to add: Not actually a flying dinosaur, except in humanities blogland. See the comments for an explanation.


Horace said...

I'm teaching a new grad course in fur that extends from early mammal studies through to contemporary mammal studies (my field). So I've been really reading up on my early mammal studies, too.

I've also been inviting several of my early mammal studies colleagues (though not fur specialists) to class as well, asking them to sit in as participants, more than as guest lecturers, but the experience has been great, as I can really set up the history of fur up until my period while learning it in new ways myself.

Glad to hear your adventures in Flying Dinosaurs are going just as well!

Ink said...

Well, we miss you, of course, but it sounds like you're engaged in an epic adventure! Best wishes.

CarlD said...

Sounds wonderful! But you know, now that you've taught one bird from the bush you'll have to teach the second, too. What will your next adventure be?

Bavardess said...

Everyone needs a passion to keep them excited, so yay for Flying Dinosaurs.

Anonymous said...

What a plum assignment! Keeps you on your toes, makes you learn, and lets you transfer your excitement to you students. Kudos to you and the flying dinosaurs.

undine said...

Horace, that's sort of my situation. I'm most familiar with flying dinosaurs from the late Cretaceous but have to teach the period from late Triassic on. I love the "early mammal studies" analogy!

Ink, it feels sort of epic and exciting. Thanks!

Carl--hmmm, I haven't thought about the second one yet because this one is keeping me so busy.

Bavardess, I say yay too, although I probably should hedge my bets with "so far, so good."

Naptimewriting, it does feel like a plum assignment. It's all the better because no one else proposed or (to be honest) could teach this particular flying dinosaurs course except me, so it's really a value added course for the department.

Anonymous said...

I came across this post by chance looking up some other pterosaur stuff. I can't really help but point out that, you *do* know pterosaurs are not dinosaurs, right?

As it happens, I'm one of the people behind that is intended to act as a resoruce one the clade which may be of use. Lot's of reconstrucitons, academic texts and photos of important specimens.

undine said...

I know that now, archosaurmusings--thanks! Clearly I'm a humanities person just making things up, but thanks for the link to when we can find actual information.