brains, ralphing, ravioli

I brought the human brain to class today. I’m not sure who he was or how the department acquired him, but the brain resides in a bright orange bucket in the rat labs on the 2nd floor.
This is one of my favorite parts of teaching intro psychology: I get to nonchalantly carry this old bucket into class, place it on the desk, and then pretend like it’s a totally normal aspect of my teaching repertoire.

What, this bucket? Oh, it’s nothing special.

After I showed a few videos about brain abnormalities and plasticity, I finally acknowledged the brain bucket. “Guess what’s in my bucket, boys and girls,” I said cheerfully. They’re not idiots, so someone immediately guessed a brain. “A human one,” I added significantly. College kids have this attitude that they are way too fucking cool for school, which I hate. So many of them are just trying to not look too eager to their classmates. No one likes a teacher’s pet, including the teacher. But on the flip side, getting them to do activities or participate can sometimes be murder, so it’s nice whenever they show blatant interest and excitement.

“No way.”
“Who was he?”
“Omg eww.”

I had them come up in groups for a closer look and to point out some of the structures we had been talking about. They were snapping pictures of it with their phones and asking a million questions, like kids at a zoo. They had a quiz afterwards, which is another of my favorite things about teaching. I love that energy buzz they give off when they’re all concentrating fiercely and frantically writing, their pencils all scratching across the desks.

I was contentedly cleaning brain juice off the desk and my laptop when my friend and cohort-mate Casey walked in through one of the classroom doors. People don’t randomly walk into your classroom; they just don’t, so I immediately assumed that someone had died. Not to mention, Casey had on her distinctive ‘shit is fucked up and I’m worried’ face.

“Can I talk to you for a second?” she asked in a weird and strangled voice.

“Yes,” I whispered, trying to figure out who had died. Her Chihuahua? He’s pretty ancient….but why would she interrupt my class for a dog?

We walked over to the side door.

“I was just in the bathroom peeing, and one of your students is puking her brains out.”

“Oh.” I hadn’t even noticed that anyone had left the room.

“She’s puked four times since she went in there. Want me to watch your class?”

I left Casey to proctor the quiz and went around the corner to the bathroom.  ‘You fucking idiot,” I muttered to myself, convinced that the sight of the human brain had driven this girl to go ralph repeatedly in the bathroom.

In the bathroom, my poor student was wiping her face with a paper towel. She looked like shit; her face was pasty and covered in a sheen of cold sweat. She was also shivering and looking horrendously embarrassed.

“I’m so sorry,” was the first thing that popped out of my mouth. I like this student a lot. She complimented my shoes on the second day of class and usually says something nice on her way out when class is over. It’s clear that she likes me, which is probably why I like her.

We had a really stupid banter where I apologized pointlessly and she said it was fine.

“Was it the brain?” I asked, timidly.

“Oh no, I think I have the flu. I probably should have just emailed you, but I had felt a lot better this morning….” She looked like she was not-so-quietly dying inside. Any second, I expected her to double over, heaving.

I told her to email me to figure out the quiz situation. Mostly, I just wanted her to get out of the building before she barfed again. I have a sympathetic gag reflex. I didn’t want a chain reaction.

My point in writing about this is that I think it’s the most insane thing I’ve seen someone do in a while. If I had the stomach flu, or even if I were just recovering from a massive hangover, there would be no possible way to get me out of my bed. I would not move from the bathroom floor until my vomit attacks were long gone.

School was important to me and I cared a lot about my grades, but they were nowhere near my top priorities. It scares me that there are people who are that driven.  My internal organs are collapsing, but I will.not.miss.this.quiz.


Maybe it’s an age thing or maybe it’s personality, but I can’t help thinking that there are plenty more important things than my class and my 25 point quiz. For example, the kick ass garlic & mozzarella ravioli I made for dinner tonight. So tasty in a homemade pasta sauce…

Moral of the story is send me an email and puke to your heart’s content in privacy.



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