Saturday, 15 November 2008

Back again

I never gave it any thought. Stupidly, I guess. I should have known that it would be quite a different thing going back again. I’d been a second year before, at school and university, too. Somehow, though, I didn’t think about it this time round. Like I said, stupid.

It is different. Quite a lot different. Part-time students — who, like me, are doing the course over two years — are in a tiny minority. Nearly everyone manages it in one — even, in some case, with a full(ish)-time job. I’ve no idea how they do it. None at all.

I remember last year looking at the second year students and wondering what was going on in their heads. What did they think of us new bobs? Were they a little amused by the gaucheness of our questions? Were they just waiting to get it all over with? Were they bored or did they find the second year even more interesting than the first? Was it all much easier for them?

Another thing I didn’t think about was just how much each year’s intake can vary. As ever in life, I knew what I knew, no more. So I guessed that was the way things actually were and would always be. Wrongly.

I should have known this year’s intake would be different. One, I’d been told they were — by one of last year’s students with whom my work brings me into fairly regular contact. As a one-year-only student, she hadn’t actually seen this year’s newbies with her own eyes but she had it on the best of (gossipy) authority that they were, on average, far younger than our year. More her age, in fact, than mine.

Two, I’d heard tell of a previous year’s intake, a few years back, that was infamous in their difference. They threw rubbers at each other in class. Or rather, they threw erasers — they were mostly young Americans. They teased one of their number who happened to have ginger hair. It was, or so I’m told, like being in an American high school sitcom that wasn’t funny.

So what are this year’s intake like? Well, I’ve hardly seen them, truth be told. The way I divided up my work over the two years, I’ve ended up with only six seminars all this term — the first half of Mrs Klein and Bion.

So any observations are necessarily partial as well as inevitably partial. They are younger. There are also more of them than there were last year. There are a lot more English Literature graduates and a few more psychiatrists.

I do find some of their questions a bit gauche — though, thank God, I have the sense to recall some of my own questions from last year, with pain and retrospective embarrassment. They ask more of them, too, than we did. They seem, well, keener somehow. As one of last year’s full-timers said to me: ‘We were a very laidback lot.’ Though rarely late for seminars. Unlike this year’s lot — who have already been told off a couple of times for it.

That aside, they are a lot more organised. They’re sorting out study groups, seminar presentations and dissertation-sharing sessions. They are all-round far more communicative with each other. Last year’s lot generally couldn’t even get it together to look at the course Facebook site. Like, I said, laidback.

This communicativeness, though, was how I came to upset some of them — not deliberately but not quite inadvertently either. They were sending emails to each other several times a day — about organisational issues, kind of. The problem was they were copying them to the whole group, including me. I got fed up with the emails — a good number of which said nothing more than ‘me, too’. So I said something. I don’t think they liked that. But I don’t get any more emails.

And they’ve set up a mooli. Sorry, that’s a radish. I meant a Moodle*. That’s a sharing web thing for academia — in this case, restricted and password protected. I just had a look at it. There was an invite to a crochet circle breakfast — run by a mathematically inclined artist-in-residence. It was yesterday. I missed it.

* Martin’s Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment

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