Friday 21 June 2013

End of Part One

Yesterday was the last day of the academic year at The Institute.  The Admin Staff are going to work through the summer and so are the technicians but the lectures are Off.  So yesterday was a time to catch breath and catch up with some of my colleagues.  A time also to respond students who have flunked one of my papers - some angry, some annoyed with themselves, nobody particularly happy about the situation.    In the evening a dozen of us went out to a bar for a few bevvies as has been traditional over the last several years.  It's the first time I've had to have anything like a conversation with some of the people there. 

When half the folks had left and only the hard-chaws were left my HoD asked how it had been and I tried to say that one of the interesting aspects had been seeing and dealing with a number of different teaching styles.  Because they were different, they hadn't all been my style but it was useful to see that other styles worked too.  There were manual and and wing-it people.  I had a wide experience of classes since January and so a wide experience of co-workers. Some have a written manual for the whole year, with protocols for each predicted experiment, which is handed out to the students, so everyone is on the same page.  In other cases, I was given a few notes scribbled on a sheet torn from a reporter's note-book with the instructions "You might do this on Thursday, I've ordered the materials from the technician". 

With l'esprit d'escalier I was able to reflect on how these styles had impinged upon me personally.  Some of my colleagues were kind and some were respectful and a few were both.  The kind wanted to know if I was okay with my assignments and if I had any questions, they had a tendency to hold the students' hands as well. The respectful seemed to say that I was an adult and an effective and they weren't going to micro-manage me.  There were tasks to carry out, learning outcomes (LOs) to achieve, and it wasn't for them to tell me how these two should marry.  I'm a silverback, I've been on the planet a while, so I can cope with both styles.  But I suspect that first-timers might prefer the former.

The Social Liaison Officer (SLO), whose childer are a little bit older than some and so has the head-space to organise such matters, had ordered up some chipolata sausages, chicken nuggets and samboes to be delivered from the local hotel after the first couple of rounds.  We had one graduate student in our midst who acted in a gratifyingly hank-marvin manner (not to be confused with the legend) and hoovered up this robust fare, so there was little waste - there's a waste/waist pun there which I'll leave my British readers to elaborate in the comments.   Fado fado in Boston, I was a graduate student, too, so I was still able to bring home my breakfast and lunch wrapped up in some tinfoil and a paper napkin.   And when I left at nearly 11pm with the imprint of the bar-stool etched on the seat of my pants, I thought it was a good way to finish my 165 days of hard graft, when I haven't had much time to actually sit down.

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