New year, new challenges

The semester began this week, and as usual it's like getting on a skateboard at the top of a really long hill that starts with a fairly gentle downhill slope that turns into a steep drop as you round the midterm corner. So you start with the knowledge that before you know it, the wind will be making your cheeks shiver and your eyes brim with tears, and you'll be heading towards a landing that could be harder than you expected.I will try being a better blogger, but the same situation that held me back in the second half of last year still obtains: my mother is suffering from cancer and we are spending all of our energies helping her fight, or live with, it. The operative word is "live". Some days are better than others; some months have been better than others. I'm happy to say that the year began much better than we expected, and Mummy is holding her own, with grace.A little word about what I'm teaching this semester. Besides the requisite introductory courses, there are two others that have not yet failed to excite me when I take them on: a course in social research methods, and a course in advanced English skills. What I like about both of them is the fact that they are courses that teach skills rather than content, and so there is room for a variety of interesting approaches.Here are my approaches, then. In the Social Research course, my students take part in a long-term ongoing piece of research about the economics of Junkanoo. Junkanoo is a well-researched topic in The Bahamas, but what is missing from the canon is a discussion about the economic impact of the festival. It's not cheap! Plenty money is spent on it -- but what is the return? (Please note I'm not assuming that there isn't any return. On the contrary; I'm supposing that there is a large return, but that we haven't worked out yet what that might be.) The students who enrol in my course engage in research projects that add to this study. Every semester I get excited about what they will discover.In Advanced English, the skills of writing and reading critically are developed while students engage in studies about Bahamian culture and society. Last year I decided to design a set of readings and discussions about democracy and The Bahamas, and the last time I taught the course, a year ago, it worked out really well. Once again, I'm excited about where we'll go this semester with it.I hope that I'll be able to contribute to these discussions from time to time here on this blog. Keep your eyes open. Assuming I will find the balance between the personal and the professional challenges, this year on this blog should be interesting.Finally, I'm also working on another book of poetry. Poinciana Paper Press's publication of Mama Lily and the Dead will soon be accompanied by a much less illustrious collection of my early writings, this one self-published (via Lulu). No promises about the greatness of the collection, but it'll be around for anyone who (like Obediah Michael Smith, who inspired it) wants to know what I was writing twenty-odd years ago.So! there it is. Happy new year to all.