The Joy of Teaching: Learning Journeys and Transformations

One of my undergraduate students posted his weekly course reflections earlier this evening, and I was really moved by this post – extract:

“I cannot shake the growing feeling of “loss” which comes from moving to another semester and the introduction of new lecturers and their module content whilst in the same breath saying goodbye to the friends I have made.”

It very much echoes my own feelings at this time of year as modules come to an end and students move on to the next phase.It’s been one of those posts I want to write at the end of each semester but never do. Thanks to @watersidestudio for sharing his feelings from the learner perspective as this has spurred me on to share my own.

I too am filled with a sense of melancholy when modules end. I grow incredibly fond of students I work with, and treasure our learning journey over the 12-week semester. They never cease to amaze and inspire me, and there’s a real transformational shift when developing digital identities and literacies that makes this the best ‘job’ in the world. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect – in fact this semester has been quite challenging in many ways due to settling into our new building at MediaCityUK, and also making Twitter compulsory which has aroused some strong feelings (including anger) in some members of the group. However, despite some niggles and teething problems, we’ve had a fantastic module and I don’t want it to end – I never do!  It would be amazing to work with them for at least a full year instead of one semester. Sometimes it feels as though we’re really on to something incredibly powerful and then it all comes to an end. Normally, I feel ‘connected’ to my students by week 4, but it took a little longer this semester, and it wasn’t until week 6 or 7 that I really felt I was getting to know all of them/their personalities on an individual level. This is (for me) the magic moment, but it took a little longer this year due to the campus move and related issues.

Last week we had an extra session for feedback, which was only announced on the Friday (I’d booked a room for the following Monday). They’re not in on Mondays normally, so I really appreciated so many of them coming along and we had a great session! We talked through feedback, chatted about their projects – which are shaping up brilliantly – and then the group suggested we crowdsource a film there and then using our mobiles (it’s being edited by @AlicjaSocha as we speak). It was their idea, concept etc. and (to me) it felt amazing, like a group of friends creating together, rather than the traditional tutor-students dynamic.

Luckily for me, in the case of #psvtam, i’ll still be their Programme Leader and Personal Tutor, so it’s not like we’re saying goodbye. I’ve also been incredibly heartened by the effort they have put into ad hoc mini-projects which were suggested they do for… well, fun basically. They weren’t assessed, but really astounded me with the creativity, time and effort in their mashup-videos, as an example. I’m hoping we can do more mini-projects ‘just for fun’ next year.

It’s great that the #psvtam module is being rolled out to other programmes, especially considering that it started as an experiment back in 2006 (guerrilla module design ;). However I’m also acutely aware that we’re now in a mass HE system and the more students I work with, the less I’ll be able to connect on a personal level.

I have so much admiration for #psvtam, some of whom are juggling parental responsibilities (including new babies!) and full-time jobs with being a student. Assessment deadlines, family responsibilities, financial issues – and yet they remain good humoured and (most of the time 😉 a joy to work with – including those who resent having to develop their digital identities across a range of platforms (at least initially) as it’s often these students who challenge my own philosophies and practice the most, hence this earlier post on the Tyranny of Authenticity.

So #psvtam, it’s been a blast – and our journey’s not over yet! Let’s enjoy the next few weeks and thank you for being such a brilliant group.

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