Monday, December 26, 2005


It hit me yesterday--and a belated Merry, by the way--that this was the first Christmas in five years that I haven't spent the season with raging bronchitis or strep throat. This is the worst time of year for student-to-teacher germ exchange and it only gets more perilous after the break and all the beautiful young gnomes return to happy hollow filled with even more exotic ailments.

They all fly off to distant climes and come back coughing, sneezing and wheezing like consumptives. Campus in late January is a large petri dish glowing with bacteria.

About two years back, I picked up something that hung on. And on. And on. Even after the Z-pack, some 'cillins and codeine cough liqueurs, and a series of inhalers so stuffed with steroidal compounds that I started watching Monday Night Football, I stayed sick. There were two semesters there where my students never heard my real voice. It was either a Tallulah-esque growl or a high, adenoidal croak. My pockets overflowed with Hall's mentholyptus drops and I swigged heavily on a wide array of tussins. My cough got so bad, I even went in for a chest X-ray fearing I'd contracted tuberculosis. No, just walking pneumonia.

So how nice it was, for a change, to wake up on Christmas morn to the sound of... silence... instead of my own deep-chest hacking. This year I could smell the mince pie baking instead of getting another snootful of the pungent scent of Vaporub.

Remember, wipe off your doorknobs, your desktops, your phones, your keyboards and mice with antibacterial stuff (or just some rubbing alcohol). Wash your hands often. Stay hydrated. Take vitamins. Get plenty of rest.

And ask the sneezers to sit on the back rows.


Blogger Gene said...

here's something to send a chill up your back (probably won't make you physically ill, but .. not guarantees):

Literacy of College Graduates Is on Decline, Lois Romano, 25 Dec 2005

12:53 PM  
Blogger Gene said...

back -> spine

guarantees -> guaranteed

some day I'll learn to proofread before pressing [Publish]. oy, vey! back to watch [The Hebrew Hammer] on TiVo ...

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least at college you don't get parents sending a kid to class "because she's too sick to stay home alone"...

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Tina said...

Hmmm... but I had a student whose parents wouldn't leave him home alone while they went on vacation. Better yet, he missed a test because they "didn't tell him." Right, no make-up for you! (I'm channeling the Soup Nazi there)

At least my students kept their germs to themselves... even though they couldn't keep their rude comments and nasty attitudes to themselves.

Gene, I read about that in the paper. It's really disheartening that even though more and more of us are going to college, we aren't any more intelligent for it, especially at simple things like reading directions and pill bottle labels. It makes me wonder how much longer a college degree will be attractive to employers or if they'll have to find another way to weed out applicants.

3:22 PM  
Blogger Terminaldegree said...

Since all of my classes meet in my office, I have put some rules in place: if you show up sick, I will send you home. So don't bother to show -- just call and cancel already. (We will make up the meeting.) If you touch ANYTHING in this room, you'd better have used Purell first. (I keep an industrial-sized bottle of it on my desk.) Sneeze into your sleeve, not your hands. Wipe off instruments with rubbing alcohol before and after you play them. (I have university students AND younger kid--as young as 7--which means lots of happy little petri dishes from all over the city get to meet up in my office.) Use your OWN PENCILS to mark your music (I tie one into everyone's music folder.)

It is working. Since I put the "sick rules" in place, I've only gotten one bad cold in a year. Not bad, considering my profession. And the students like it too, because it lessens their chances of getting sick.

Yeah, they think I'm paranoid, but adjuncts don't get the luxury of sick days.

6:54 PM  
Blogger theprofessor said...

That literacy report was not surprising to those of us who teach writing. We've watched the writing and reading skills hit the skids in the last decade. One of the most shocking things is that college kids can no longer fluently read aloud--and I'm talking native English speakers. They stumble and fumble over easy words. And these are media majors! With all the testing going on in high schools, what's happening to reading skills?


8:03 AM  
Anonymous Hillabeans said...

I definitely know that frustration. My first two years at college I got so sick living at the dorms and having community restrooms and showers. In fact, my parents had to drive 4 hours to and from to pick me up one weekend because I was so sick I couldn't get out of bed or eat. The school's health center was packed full of sick students and the nurses didn't take my claims seriously. I ended up having to go to the ER.
I wish I have some advice to avoid these things. I guess the longer you teach on a campus the more immune you'll get to the illnesses that pass around.

1:25 PM  
Blogger graycie said...

to the professor:
Yes Yes Yes Yes!

I teach high school English, and since the high stakes standardized testing took over, I only have time to teach one novel in a year -- if the kids learn the other stuff fast enough -- so that they can learn grammar rules which can be tested in multiple choice fashion (not the same as learning how to use them in writing). I still teach short stories, but reading aloud together takes up too much time -- I do a lot of reading aloud with/to them so that they can get the flow and the emotion without taking up precious test prep time. Of course, this sets up a bunch of LISTENERS, not readers.

It is infuriating. (Thank you for not blithely blaming the teachers a la, "What are they teaching them in high school? They come to us knowing nothing!")

9:36 PM  
Anonymous highschoolkid07 said...

Heh, well its been a pretty warm winter for us!

I loved this winter weather this year. :)

9:56 PM  
Blogger SuperHolmie said...

Some life lessons from a germophobe....

Every year I teach my students how to wash their hands. It is amazing how many of them don't understand about using a paper towel to open the bathroom door afterward, about not touching anything in the bathroom, etc.

I also make a huge scene if I see them chew on pencils, lick their fingers, bite their nails, etc. This is how communicable diseases are spread.

I try really hard to gross them out (and it works) by explaining to them that when they do those things, they are probably putting someone's butt funk in their mouth. I then tell them about those giant bins of plastic cutlery that people who've not washed their hands paw through every day at lunch.

Furthermore, I do not touch my face, my nose, or my mouth while I'm at school. Ditto for when I'm grading their papers. I always have Wet Ones packs of antibacterial wipes with me. I can't do Purell or those gel things... they make my hands crack, peel, and bleed.

I touch the kids, their stuff, their pens, their pencils, the tables, chairs they sit on... and because of that I never eat in class. If someone offers me something I say no. Every time. Not going to eat if I can't wash my hands. Period.

I am almost never sick. I've not had a cold in at least two years. I've not had a stomach virus since I was in middle school. Being sick is an inconvenience, so I take every precaution and it pays off. And sometimes spraying the kids with Lysol works, too.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous watercat said...

It's also hard for kids to get into the habit of reading aloud when their parents didn't read to them when they were young (or have the kids read to them!) I grew up with verbal books, but so many parents now are too busy putting their kids in outside activities that they don't have TIME to read! Sigh.

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Karl said...

i cannot complain about my life as a medical student, it was great!

1:53 PM  

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