Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Twas the night before teaching...and all was quiet.

Teaching is one of the major perks of working at a University...honest! It is possibly the most rewarding work that I undertake in a year. However, just like when you on the final pages of a great book...there is often a tinge of regret at the end-point of any teaching programme. Tomorrow is a little unusual, as this will be the last day I teach for a little over a year at Manchester; a function of my sabbatical. Whilst I still have the delights of grading all the exam scripts for this and other courses on which I teach, tomorrow is a big day. The course in question, Vertebrate Palaeontology & Evolution, is one of my favourites to teach...although the field courses in South Devon and Tenerife are a VERY close second and third. In the field, nothing beats asking a student to taste some mud. When first asked to do this, you get a strange look, which usually turns to disgust as you demonstrate the chewing of the mud. But how else can you tell if you have a silt or mudstone in the field! Whether it be field or lecture-based teaching, this was the reason I wanted to work in a University. So, when 1pm GMT chimes tomorrow, I will not teach formally in Manchester for some time...but, there are always the public lectures and conferences to keep me ticking over for the next year.

The next year will mainly concentrate on research goals, whilst also trying to promote the public engagement in science....a hat that I also enjoy wearing. While I feel lucky to work in the field of palaeontology, I'm always on the look-out for converts to the study of long dead beasties. It's great to hold a fossil up to a class or bemused high-school kids and talk about how stunningly gorgeous the gob-smacking object is that I'm holding ...they are often not sure whether to look at the said fossil or check for their nearest point of exit from the room...usually both.

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