One of my UOC students has the kindness of emailing me a message of thanks for my patience and efficiency –I hope this doesn’t sound too smug– and I feel a knot in my throat. The message comes at the right time, for I have spent a good two hours over lunch commiserating with a colleague about how we’re not working for the university we dreamt of when we made the choice of becoming teachers. And I don’t mean we’d rather be elsewhere (um, what are things like at Harvard?), I mean that we’re disappointed with the whole institution in Spain.
I should think that human beings need encouragement to progress and fulfil their aims in life and we, university teachers, are no exception. However, in my experience the pat on the back hardly ever comes, which is why this student’s generous message almost upset me, unexpected as it was. There have been others, as I guess all teachers get now and then, but always from just a handful of students, hardly ever from colleagues or the institution, the one actually employing us or the whole Spanish university. Do we do it so badly?
The colleagues I have discussed this with –the constant lack of encouragement– often point out that we are being punished by the institution, the Government (national and local) and Spanish society at large for what is perceived to be a privileged situation. Our irregular work schedules, the incomprehension regarding what we actually do apart from what happens in the classroom, the apparent long holidays, the rumoured high salaries… all these factors play against us. Not against sportspeople, that’s funny…
In addition, we must put up regularly with a stream of abuse from those who complain about the endogamic nature of the Spanish university, forgetting that jobs are few, badly paid and that the Spanish university thrives, if it does, on our collectively giving for free energies that have indeed improved it much since the 1980s. We have also been abroad to learn and train, by the way. If things go on like this, the best in the younger generation will take a good note of this and leave, to be replaced by others who won’t be any better, despite the widespread assumption that foreign is always best.
Thanks, my UOC student, for your thanks. It’s the breath of fresh air I just needed to face my new classes next week, the breath of fresh air that will carry me till July, that’s how little it takes.