There’s been a lot of guff written about the policy in higher education of widening participation. However, as an associate lecturer with a university that as a non-traditional non-campus university has particularly embraced the concept of widening participation and which attracts a large number of students who would fall into the widening participation agenda, I have to say that I continue to be amazed and humbled by the efforts that my students – many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds, or who have not been in education for many years for various reasons – put into their studies despite facing many barriers still. They really are quite inspirational.
I did my final tutorial for this academic year today. We had a small number of students, but they worked *so* hard, they were really brilliant. With students like this I don’t mind giving up my Saturday, despite the good weather. What a bunch of stars.
If it snows tomorrow, it’s all my fault.
Oh well. It probably won’t last.
Last week in the tutorial, one of the students let slip that he was going to be 18 in 6 days’ time (which I think means today) (don’t forget Scotland take students at 17, as the school system is different and they do their highers at 17 – but then do 4 year degrees). So this means that for the first time, I am teaching students who weren’t born when the Berlin Wall fell. I made some comment about him being very young and making me feel old, and he said that his sister was 34 (I think he was trying to be kind and imply that he hung out with oldies and that maybe we weren’t so bad). I just looked at him and pointed out that 34 isn’t old either (those were the days).
Next year will be the first year that I teach students who were born after I left university. Creak.
I’m still giggling that one of the students has included me in the bibliography. Yes, that would be me, who has published nothing, academic or otherwise, on the topic of the essay. Or on any other topic yet, come to mention it. I know students are sometimes advised to quote their lecturers to flatter their egos in the hope of getting better marks, but that is just classic!
I do hope their essays are less vacant than their faces.
Tuesdays are my teaching day, and so I usually go to bed on Monday nights feeling queasy, and wake up on Tuesday mornings feeling worse. I don’t think that’s ever going to change, sadly, while I’m working here. It’s all over for another week though, so I don’t need to feel sick for another 6 days. That’s good!
It’s not that I dislike my students – I have a really good bunch this year. I just know that whatever I’m meant to do with my life, I was never made to be a teacher.
I did have a funny moment in one of the tutorials today. We were discussing an issue, and in the course of the discussion I said “X”. As we went to move on to the next question, one of the students interrupted quite forcefully, as though he wanted to take issue with what I said. He was very polite, and started off saying “You know you said X … well, how do you square that with X?” I was mystified, and in the end had to say “But that’s what I said!” So he tried to explain again, but just ended up saying X again. I left it saying it appeared we weren’t actually disagreeing, and the rest of the class were slightly bemused by the whole exchange. He looked a bit frustrated, and I hope it doesn’t put him off – the exact same exchange, with the exact same student, also happened in last week’s tutorial (different issue, disagreeing to agree!). I’m quite happy to be challenged by the students, it’s good for me and (especially) good for them, and I never claim to be an expert in the tutorial subjects, because I’m not, it’s a means to getting my PhD fees paid, not my life’s interest. But it is funny to be challenged with my own point!
The thing about teaching at 5pm is that you have to teach in a room that has been used by other students all day. And you know what? Students smell. Urgh!
In a break from decorating tips, I am pleased to report that it’s snowing here! (I know, alice beat me to it and it’s snowing in Swansea too, but still). My heart always used to sink when I lived in London and it snowed, because I knew that the 2mm of snow would inevitably result in traffic and public transport meltdown, not to mention grey-brown slush and general mushiness, none of this picture-postcard stuff there. But this is my first Scottish snow, it seems to be sort of settling, and makes the university look lovely (well, bits of the university look very grand and lovely anyway, but the particular bit I see from my window is 60s monstrous carbuncle-type architecture – definitely improved with a dusting of snow). One of my fellow students in here, who is from South Korea, tells me that in Korea snow means romance is in the air, with lovers going to meet each other when the first snow comes. I’m afraid being a Brit, for me it meant rushing into the kitchen to put the kettle on.
My only concern is that I drive to the retreat later this afternoon, and I know snow is forecast for the area I’m going to (though the Met Office assures me it’s only today). I suspect my car may have ignition issues (it’s very like its owner – doesn’t get going too quickly in the cold, and it’s even worse in the early morning). Mind you, providing I get there OK I’m happy enough if I get snowed in and have to stay longer 🙂 I’m going to take my thermals and walking boots and my pastels, but if I can find a library or study room somewhere with a roaring fire I suspect I shall hang out there rather than outside. We’ll see.
In other news, I appear to have multiplied! The “This Just In” section refers to “Jack the Lasses” wiblog, but I promise there’s only one of me. It’s never too early in the morning for grammar pedantry, that’s what I say. Oh yes.
And breaking news: I have just received an email from one of the students in my tutorial groups, addressed “Dear miss”. I now have an overwhelming urge to pat him on the head or give him a sticker or something next time I see him.
I’ve decided against whiny self-indulgence for now. I can’t figure out how to whine self-indulgently without dragging lots of identifiable people into the whole thing. So I’ll leave it.
In other news, some of my students have redeemed themselves by asking intelligent questions which demonstrated that they are thinking creatively and not just waiting to be spoonfed. Hooray! So hopefully their student-led presentations (which start next week) will be interesting rather than painful. I don’t like being bored – I know I’m here primarily to do my own research, but as I have to do the tutoring in order to be able to do that, I want to do it well and want the students to get something out of it. Me being bored isn’t exactly conducive to that. Though I reserve the right to still sneak in a whoopie cushion if the occasion demands.
I was trying to look into flights to London next month – it got too complicated with my tutorial commitments so the latest is I’m not going to get confirmed next month, and I can’t attend my friend’s leaving bash either (she’s about to leave London as she’s got her dream job in Ireland – which is only 20 minutes here by plane, hooray!). I did find some 1p flights though (yes, that’s one whole shiny penny) so when I can organise myself better I shall try to find them again and take advantage of them. I think it’s probably as well that I can’t go this time – I think it would make me more homesick going back so soon, whereas if I leave it a bit longer till I’m a bit more established here then I don’t think I’d get so nostalgic about the thought of being in London. Once I have the flat sorted out (provisional date 9th Dec, did I mention that before?) then it will be easier coming back here as it will be home. If that makes any sense.
Where can I go this weekend? I have a weekend ahead of Russian vocabulary, tutorial reading, ironing and washing, so I need a distraction.
(*Guilty thought for Katie’s benefit – of course I could always start the book review. Argh*)
I popped in to see one of my supervisors this morning to get a form signed, and she was telling me that she didn’t expect me to be at the lecture this afternoon, as it’s only an introductory one for the Level 1 students (this is for the course that I’m going to be tutoring on). She is doing the lecture in the place of the Head of Department (who is in London today for some reason), who had already told me that I should be there so that he could introduce me as the tutor so students would have a clue who I was. I mentioned this and she said “ooh yes, that’s a good idea, that’ll help me pad it out a bit so it’s not quite so painful”. That is pretty much exactly my approach to teaching too (ie “how the hell do I fill an entire hour?”), I think we’re going to get on really well 🙂