Lately, people keep asking me a question that has me stumped: "What will you tell your students?"
I've always believed in telling students the truth, but it's not always necessary to tell them the whole truth. Let's face it: there are truths about my current situation that I don't even want to admit to myself much less to a room full of freshmen.
And that's mostly what I'll have in my classes this fall: freshmen who have never seen me before and will have no basis for comparison should chemotherapy make me suddenly drop a whole lot of weight. I have an easy teaching load this fall, with no upper-level literature classes and therefore not many English majors. I'll teach one section of freshman composition, one section of postcolonial literature (a course that fulfills two General Education requirements and therefore attracts mostly non-majors), and one small section of the freshman seminar limited to Honors students (the humor class, which is more play than work). With the exception of a few English majors in the postcolonial class, most of these students will start the semester knowing me only as a name on a schedule. I want them to come to know me as a teacher and scholar and possibly a mentor, but what else do they really need to know?
I definitely don't want to introduce images of suffering, illness, and death into the scene, especially on the first day of class, already fraught with anxiety and excitement and exhaustion for students adjusting to a whole new way of life. On the other hand, I'll have to cut down my office hours (to make room for radiation and chemotherapy treatments) and I'll have to adjust my syllabi so that students will do online assignments and discussions on my chemotherapy days, and I'd like to be able to give them a reason. But what truth can I tell them that will not suck all the air out of the room?