Tuesday 10 February 2015

Dignity at Work - even less

At The Institute, I take three first year biology lab sections.  Two with our Sport Science / Sport Rehab majors and one with our [two year] Certificate in Science students. They are different. I like my Certs a lot, they are about one third mature students, one third not sure about the full four year course and one third a not sure at all at all. We take in all sorts of ability to give people a chance at third level education and then we give them a lot of care and maintenance to keep them in the system.  Nevertheless, we've lost nearly half my not sure cohort since September.  The other two biology classes have come to The Institute because it's one of the few places which do Sports Education and they wouldn't know what to do with a sofa except possibly push it from Dublin to Cork to raise funds for their local GAA club.  In the main, they are harder to please, more ambitious, more determined to get the best education available and I like that as well. Much as I like my students, it is important to maintain some limits to the robust fun, so that The Science is respected.

Much of both courses involves microscopy and one of my fiercest lessons is zero tolerance on 'sharps' - mainly broken microscope slides and the even more delicate glass 'cover-slips' that go over the preparations. I emphasise [rant on about] that the worst crime, for all its unfairness, would be to have one of our loyal and poorly-paid cleaning ladies get cut because somebody on my watch had not disposed of broken glass properly.  Towards the end of class last week, noticing the tell-tale glint of broken glass under the laboratory stool of one of my Sporty students, I went to get the lab dustpan, came back and said "Hey Simon, can I shift you?" and he dutifully stepped down and out of the way.  Before I got on my knees to clean up, we both noticed the two lads on the other side of the bench corpsing because neither Simon nor I had twigged the alternative meaning which shift has acquired in recent years in Ireland. Hoot! Disclaimer: neither Simon nor I are our real names.

ANNyway, that gave me the opening to tell the story about Englishman Tony Swain, long gone to his rest, who was briefly Head of Department when I was in Graduate School. When he took on the mantle, he acquired an office just off the main Departmental reception area where four or five administrators and secretaries had their desks.  A couple of days into the role, Tony popped his head out of his door and asked two of the women outside "Can you help me hump this filing cabinet across to the other side of the room?". It was one of those cases where England and America are two countries divided by a common language. Tony meant hump. The ladies only knew hump, and presumably thought that no matter how much fun [not much, probably] the prospect of intercourse with an elderly and frequently scruffy English gent might be, there were surely more efficient ways (trolley? hand-cart? 4 graduate students?) to move an awkward piece of furniture a few feet West.

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