Friday, 28 May 2010

The Nice Day

by V. Suola

Michael pointed out in a comment on the last post that I have a tendency to make my job sound like very hard work. I have never in fact set out to give that impression, but I suppose I do write primarily about culture clashes, language manglings and the occasional knob-head, and this maybe gives the impression that every day is uphill work. Good days are relatively uneventful on the language-torturing and knob-head fronts, so they seem too bland for blog-fodder.

Today was a good day. I even caught myself enjoying teaching, which is not something I can say that often these days. I had a big, airy room fitted with every electronic gadget known to pedagogy - on entering you are unsure whether to teach in it or hijack it. I'm getting better at handling this stuff now, and I love the Visualiser. If, like me two days ago, you have never seen this particular bit of kit, let me explain. It's a camera set in the ceiling, and when you have figured out where it is and how to activate it, you can place a book or sheet of paper on the table directly below it, and the page - and your hands - will be projected onto the smart-board. Thus a sheet of A3 can appear to the students as big as a cinema screen, and you need not turn your back while writing on it. If your hands are dry and calloused, and your nails are filthy from board-pen, they do look pretty horrific when thus magnified. Mine looked like bunches of blackening bananas today, so I must take my beauty regime more seriously from now on.

However much you might like to spend the morning playing with the gadgets, you have to resign yourself to the presence of students eventually. Today I had Group One, which as the name implies, is the top group. We go right up (down?) to group 13 now, where some former members of Group One now languish, for want of dilligence. It's the department's equivalent of the Naughty Seat. Today is the best day of the week for my group, as Friday is Muslim Prayer Day and they have coffee and dates with their friends after, and they get to call the shots about the times of the lessons, giving me to understand that these belong to the profane and ephemeral and must cede their place to the Sacred Obligation of Prayer. Sometimes they so contrive matters as to get the lesson to finish early and then they give the prayers a miss and just do the coffee and dates. So we negotiated times and breaks, and then got on with the lesson.

Few colleagues object if I bags the writing component of a course, as some find it a real slog. I like teaching writing, though, because as with teaching presentation skills, you really have the students by the balls. They know diddley-squat about academic writing, and so they hang on your every word and perform every task you set them with astonishing application. It was nice today to see that what I was teaching was perceived as really useful. The best writing lessons in my view are those where students work in small groups, thrashing out such issues as content and organisation, and they call on me only when they cannot agree, or want a cigarette break. That's what happened today. Nobody made any amusing manglings of language. The atmosphere was good humoured and hard working and Adnan kindly bought me a coffee in recognition of the usefulness of the session.

Things trailed off towards the end when we got into how to reference a book, a chapter in a book, or a journal. This is about as interesting as reading bus timetables, admittedly, but this year for the first time I was able to go straight to the internet and project a 'reference generator' onto the board, and we spent some time inventing silly book titles and daft names for publishers, and entering these and marvelling as they came out perfectly formed.

So there. We skipped lunch hour so as to finish an hour earlier than normal, Monday and Tuesday are holidays, and well, what was not to like?

It wasn't that funny, though.


Fionnchú said...

After your last piece, "Technophobia," inspired my own cri de coeur, Cyber-Friends, Online Fences, Factory Schools, I'm comforted doubly by your Good Day. May it lead to many more, not only on Friday.

vilges suola said...

I read your cri de coeur and left a comment, but I wonder if I hit the wrong button and cast it to the winds - it was after all at six in the morning, pre-caffeine hit.

Yes, it was a good day today; alevai we should both have more such days!

Michael said...

Hah, I'm infering that having Group One made all the difference.(I'm going to poke you for using the word 'One', and the number '13'. It distracts me only slightly.) So are most of your posts about linguistic abuse from Group 13?

Vilges Suola said...

I don't teach group 13, thank goodness, only group one. (There I go again.)


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