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.


  1. As I usually read in your blog there is no future here for the younger generation, we students, who are going to teach in a few years. If I’m honest I have no hope at all that the education system will change and improve in Spain, many things need to be improved, and this is a problem that needs to be solved by the whole society. As long as society in general doesn’t respect teachers in general, and as long as the government stays impassive and keeps destroying the educational system instead of improving it, we don’t have too much to do here. I supose we have to take it as an oportunity, to try and find a better place to work and live, but even though we will have to leave the country, the problem will still be there. And I can’t feel nothing but shame for how the education works here.

    Not only in universities, the problem starts right from primary school, from the beginning. «La ley del mĂ­nimo esfuerzo», the laziness or even the lack of concern (I include myself in the second group) are problems that we have in general, but is there a solution for that? Our culture has built us like that, most of the students don’t mind to swot and then forget everything that they had to know in an exam, but what’s the point of that?

    I don’t know, I’ve had this debate with different people (ex-teachers, older students, etc) and no one can come up with a solution. I’m lucky I’ve always wanted to teach literature abroad (which, honestly, is a dream that I see further and further as months pass by), but there is no good work here anyways.

    As always, good blog Sara 🙂

  2. Mellisa, thanks. I’m more and more concerned about the need to communicate better with students and impress on you the need for a change. You must demand from us better quality, yes, but we need for commitment from you. I do agree 100% that Spain is not exactly offering any reward to those who make an effort, quite the opposite, but I’m sorry to see than even good students have been won over by the law of minimum effort. For what? I feel, as I often say, ‘underused’ by students…
    Thanks for reading me, Sara

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