It wasn’t a good night. It’s not a particularly good morning either. I’m teaching the first in-person lab of the semester today, and in addition to anxiety about mingling with potential flesh-incubators of a virus that could kill me, I’m sweating over the major changes to the lab.
Under normal circumstances this first 3 hour Drosophila lab would be casual: here are the flies, here’s how to grow them, take your time setting up this first cross, take a little while to get familiar with fly morphology, and all the while I’d wander the lab, helping people out and answering questions and showing them things on the microscope. You know, the normal way of doing things.
Not this year.
The lab has been split up into 3 one-hour sections, with a third of the enrolled students assigned to each. I have to prep the lab so everything is at hand right there at their bench: no wandering over to that shelf to pick up fly bottles, then to that sink for medium, then to the incubator for flies. Nope, the ideal is that they come in, sit down, and don’t get up until their tasks are done. I have to run around and set up 8 stations with all supplies, including anesthetized flies of the right genotypes. I have to have it all set up before lab, and then I have to replenish everything 15 minutes before the next hour long section comes in.
The tasks have been greatly pared down, too. Make medium. Learn to distinguish male from female flies sleeping in a petri dish. Sort them into the bottles of medium. Put them in the incubator. You’re done, get out, I have another batch of students coming in. I’ve tried to trim every non-essential thing out of the process so that if I had to do it myself, I’d be done in 5 minutes, because I know that it takes a lot longer to navigate the unfamiliar.
I feel like a choreographer who has carefully laid out all the steps, and then I’m expecting the students to do a full performance without rehearsal…and if they mess up (which will be all my fault, not theirs), it’s going to delay or ruin the next 6 weeks of crosses, and will block the next hour’s worth of students from getting in and getting their job done. I had anxiety dreams about forgetting some little thing, and waves of students getting progressively more and more slowed down, and hundreds (my class isn’t that big) of students accumulating in a socially-distanced mob outside my door, waving signs and chanting about how I’m an incompetent teacher.
So yeah, everything’s going just fine. The sad thing is that even if everything goes off flawlessly, I’m going to go mad trying to juggle everything for three hours this afternoon, and I’m going to stagger out lathered in sweat at the end of it. After I clean up the chaos, that is, because I’m doing it again on Thursday. I hope I don’t have to be coherent or conscious for anything tonight.
Oh, and yesterday I had to run out to the local
plague pit grocery store for last minute supplies, and encountered two mouth-breathing a-holes who couldn’t even be bothered to wear a mask. I am beginning to hate about half the residents of this town.