Monday 13 January 2020


"WooooooHarrr, one week down for the last term in my last year at The Institute. It's also just a tad over seven [7!] years since I started there facing an absurd wall of teaching requirements: . . . . density, Excel, fluoride, genes, homeostasis, iodine, jokes, kidneys, lithium, median, normality, osmosis, probability, quality-control . . . I have a really good HoD, who deserves all the support she can get, so I try not to get all prima donna about the timetable. The year is a game of two terms but  some courses are taught only before or after Christmas. The first week my sole Monday class was Remedial Math / Computing at 4pm! That's a lot of diesel (90 minutes, 80km roundtrip) for an hour's work but I figured that I could / should devote the rest of the day to marking lab-copies, prepping classes and thinking up easy exam questions.

I did make one request, though, which was to consolidate my two Research Methods ResMet1 classes into a single back-to-back 2 hour block. The Gaffer could accede to that request, but only by scheduling the class 1300-1500 on Friday. She also mentioned that would have the effect of bracing up another Friday afternoon class for that group which was scheduled for 1500 = 3pm. I knew what she meant because the working week is effectively being reduced from M-F 9-5 to a 4½ day week. Several of my students in the 4-5 classes seek my appro to leave the room at 16:45 "to catch their bus home". That's fine with me of course, if the kids don't want to be there, then compelling them isn't going to achieve the dreaded LOs - Learning Outcomes.

I told my Friday arvo ResMet1 students about how 2 hours back-to-back [with a ten minute tea & pee break] was better for everyone than two unattached hours on different days - the activation energy is less for the second hour because we're all in the zone. Because I R old and clearly a silverback from the last century, it is not completely out-of-clich√© for me to have a little dig at The Youth of Today. With my tendency towards over-sharing full disclosure, I also told them that our Friday class was designed to encourage attendance for their subsequent class. "Not no more", they replied, "the lecturer has shifted that class to Wednesday". Well really! That lecturer is a particular vital and engaging chap but still very young in my eyes, and seemingly as much a Friday Wuss as the students-of-today.

In my day, quoth I, in the last century, in TCD, we worked a full week. In UCD, the 1970s, otoh they had classes on Saturday morning. I knew this because while I was doing 1st Science in TCD, The Beloved was enrolled in 1st Arts in The Other Place UCD. I usually went out there for the 10am English lecture which was on her schedule. I learned a lot about 20thC English Literature. On one memorable occasion Dennis Donoghue and Augustine Martin did a two-hander on Waiting For Godot first playing it portentous and then playing it for larfs. It was pretty funny but also a useful insight into diversity and inclusion. Neither way was right, yet they clearly conveyed  quite different messages from exactly the same text. It's the kind of implicit lesson that makes a University education worth something. I would never have had that experience if I'd thought classes were a chore that kind of got in the way of hammer-time studenting.

Woefully, fatally, The Institute requires us to take attendance at every class. Attendance! for adults! who are paying fees, eligible to vote and probably paying taxes from their weekend jobs. If the stuff we taught was any good, the students would be knocking on the door to hear what we had to say, or get access to the stimulating scientific experiments in which we were giving them the chance to participate. haaaaaaRUMPH!

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