Enough, already

I have said goodbye, with I trust adequately concealed relief, to two absolutely ghastly seminar groups. I think their brains have been full since about week 5. These are groups, that is to say, where I can put up entirely new material on the wall via powerpoint, and half of them do not even look up, but continue to stare woodenly at the desk in front of them lest they catch my eye. As Dorothy Parker once said, you can lead a whore to Vassar, but you can’t make her think. Anyway, I was approaching the end of this marathon term with at least the thought that I’d written all my lectures for this session. But a colleague emailed in about lunchtime to say that she wouldn’t be able to give her lecture tomorrow, just before I went off to teach for four hours. There will be a lecture, of a sort, because I have cobbled one together in the course of this evening. The first year, a good deal of the time, give the impression of having no manners, no information, and almost no wits of any kind. If one encounters them a couple of years later, as I quite often do, there is sometimes a quite staggering transformation. I don’t expect the little blighters to be in the slightest degree grateful — but if we take them seriously, and treat them with respect, then this sometimes causes them to start taking themselves seriously, as time goes by, and sometimes, further down the line, even taking us seriously. It’s a blasted nuisance but there you go. At least it’s week 12.

7 Responses to “Enough, already”

  1. Jon Says:

    The transformative magic of teaching.

    As someone who feels he barely existed in some ways before university, I do think it can change one’s life.

  2. carol Says:

    Students - oh yes! But also inanimate objects of the cyber kind…

    To compound the computer indignities of the last couple of weeks, my ac.uk webmail has now decided for no good reason that I can see, to play hard to get. Behaved itself yesteday. Today, not. Also, this library pc where I am plugging away has been eating draft essay reports and telling me brand new floppies are FULL. Is this, all in all:

    1) Time of year
    2) Time of the month
    3) Time of termendingliness
    4) Time to go home and uncork the Grouse

  3. Jane Says:

    4), I’d say. Cheers.

  4. Jane Says:

    With respect to Jonathan, I think his experience is not unusual. While it’s not fun teaching the shambling and clueless, it is an insult to the process, never mind the students, to start treating them like idiots, tempting though this can be. I am convinced that the first term, first semester input, while absolutely awful from my point of view, is actually very important. Even after a relatively short stint at this particular chalkface, there are students one encounters as smart, articulate individuals years later who *say* it was important. It is always, in the long run, best to be absolutely courteous, even when the temptation is strongly otherwise (private conversation carried on with much giggling, etc). Nobody in a pedagogic position should ever resort to sarcasm: superior wordpower used as a weapon is almost never forgiven. Someone put me off maths at the age of 8 by being sarky — and the emperor Julian tried sarc on the people of Antioch. Look where it got him. Sarcasm is the weapon of the weak, when used by the strong it is both devastating and unforgivable

  5. carol Says:

    (4) worked out fine yesterday

    I concur about the ill-advised sarkiness of some trachers- in my case it was Mrs Greenbaum who put me off Geog for life with snitty remarks about my map-shading.

    Happy end of term my dears.

  6. will Says:

    Sounds as though you are ready to hit that pre-Christmas week with an upbeat devil-may-care attitude. I think all post sixth formers should spend two years locked in the Bodleian. What happened to interesting students?
    Incidentally I have just spent a vast sum of money buying the Davidson/Stevenson back catalogue on Amazon. Good Women arrived today from the distant shores of America… Have got heavily into the Deep North although Vol I and II of Fanshawe will have to wait for Amsterdam when I fail to worry about not taking it in. Postcard to P on its way… Incidentally Carol mentioning map shading reminds me of my youngest sister who always made remarks about Geography being an exercise in colouring in. She is now doing extremely well in a company that effectively sells on information patently available to those who could be bothered to find it in the public domain. So she learnt something from University!!

  7. lucy Says:

    As his younger sister, this is utterly true. Geography really is colouring in. The strength of combining this with a little business sense = big bucks. Genius. Shame Warwick never deemed themselves “low” enough to teach the subject.

Leave a Reply