IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL WHEN IT WORKS…

There’s a little bit of irony in the title of my blog but also a little bit of despair, as you can see from many of my postings, about the sad fact that teaching is not always as joyful as it should be. Yet, this is exactly what it is when it works well, joyful indeed, so this time I’m celebrating.

I’ve just marked 26 longish papers (2,500 words, standard conference measure) on villainy and heroism for my segment of the Cultural Studies module within the MA in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory. It’s been tough, because as usual I had very little time (just two days, more papers and exams coming in next Monday…) but it’s also been a pleasure, which is rare. In the best cases, I’ve even learned, which is the highest praise a teacher can give a student. Well done!!

The problem is that I can’t apply any of the strategies that have worked well for this class to other classes, as the success of these strategies does not depend on my teaching but on the students’ willingness to learn. It is true that we, teachers, work at a higher standard when our teaching is received with interest but, if this is the key, then it’s not my merit at all but the students’. They’ve listened patiently and they’ve applied very well what I lectured on to their own papers, choosing to focus on a variety of very interesting texts. Again, all of it is their merit. I’m the same teacher, with my well-known limitations, in all my subjects but, then, some work beautifully (at least for me!) and some don’t. The difference, that’s the inevitable conclusion, are the students.

This particular class has no common denominator, which is peculiar, except that they’re all in the same MA. They come from very different BAs and from a variety of countries; only 5 have the UAB ‘Licenciatura’ taught by practically the same teachers that teach in the MA. I’d say they’re exceptional if it weren’t because it’s the fourth time I see this exceptionality. Perhaps the MA is exceptional in that it attracts plenty of intellectual energy focused on reading, though no teacher can say whether this will turn out to be the last flare of the dying pre-Bologna system or a constant stream that will survive the mounting ravages on education.

I feel, it’s odd to say, well used by this class. They’ve made the most of me, as a resource funded with public money and, of course, by their own money, and I think that this is what all students need: an awareness that we, teachers, are resources they should exploit for their own intellectual growth. Students who cheat, who don’t work, who don’t care are simply wasting the resources others could use better but also, and this is where they show that they don’t deserve a university education, they are not making enough of the possibilities offered to them.

Anyway, today I’m satisfied. Thanks, students!

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