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Monday, 23 March 2015


Teaching - the thing on which university life rests. Where would we be without the undergraduates?

I've been lucky enough to be given teaching hours over the past two years - quicker than expected, but as I've been mentoring students since I graduated in 2011, I'm building on previous experience.

I also have 'previous' as a teacher, because before I came back into education for my own sake in 2008, I had been a preschool leader, at a sixty-place community preschool setting. It always makes people giggle when I say there are similarities between preschoolers (aged 3 and 4) and undergraduates (aged 18 to 70)

Not in behaviour, habits or volume, I hasten to add. No, its more in the way they all grow into learners; by experience, by stages and by self-discovery. I noticed it in myself as a mature student; the way I began to question everything around me (as promised on the Open Day) the way that all learning became exciting and full of possibility again. At the age of 46, this was a revelation. The process of learning has always interested me, but now I find it quite amazing.

Currently, as a tutor, I find myself puzzling over the barriers to learning. I've met reluctant students here who fail to engage, partake, or take up most of the opportunities on offer.  They are paying a great deal of money for these opportunities, so why do they then seem to avoid them? Their motivation, and lack of it, is very confusing.

However the vast majority are hard working, enthusiastic and great fun. I find it very exciting to watch them develop as they pass through their undergraduate years. One or two of the ones I've mentored have gone on to postgraduate study too. Being proud of them must mean I feel responsible for the non-partakers too; I can't have it both ways, surely? I'm told I should be professional, offer everyone the same level of attention and pass on any issues to the appropriate people. Having established a rapport with students, and seeking to get the best out of myself and of each group, its hard not to care.

Of course this is easier with one or two groups - what about the full-timer staff with dozens of students to monitor? In a teaching-led institution, the quality of tutor/student relationships is hugely important. Research-led universities also need to retain the personal touch - it could be what marks out an institution in the future.  

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