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Thursday, 23 May 2013

#My Best/Worst Student/Lecturer

So the trouble-making squirts at the Times Higher have started a Twitter 'hashtag' called 'my worst student'.  Sadly a number of lecturers have responded.  Shame on them.  Many I expect were ever thus.  I do wonder whether some would not normally have responded but for the low morale and the climate of the student-customer which management foists upon us.  The 'rate my professor' culture, the entitlement/consumer culture, the age of thoughtless drive-by feedback born of the faceless internet comments page - I expect that may have caused a few people to lash back, who might not have done otherwise.  

What's much nicer is the NUS' response with #mybestlecturer, rather than responding like for like.  Good for them.

I was lucky with my lecturers, almost all of whom I'd happily have mentioned on that hashtag - had we had twitter in those days, rather than a montgolfier balloon to whose anchoring ropes you could tie extra messages as long as they were written on sturdy parchment in suitably neat copperplate.  Sadly some of them are no longer with us (Philip Rahtz, Barrie Dobson passed away a few weeks ago) but I'm glad to say most are.  My undergraduate supervisor gave me all sorts of sound advice that I still regularly pass on, and in time became my PhD supervisor, dedicatee of my collected essays and, I like to think, friend.  If I'm any good as a teacher it's largely because I try and teach like the people who taught me.

As for my best students, I have been very lucky to have taught some brilliant - academically and otherwise - and inspiring people over the past 22 years.  I taught mature students for 11 years who taught me as much as I taught them.  I dedicated my second book to my students - the dedication stands.  I owe them more than they realise.  Since I came back to 'conventional students' I have seen a lot of change - not always for the better - but students are still lively; a good class still gives you a buzz; getting someone to write better essays than they wrote before, and to see and think differently, is still the best thing about the job.  My class of 2006 - my babies as I still call them - still have a place in my heart, but I am especially grateful to my current crop for all the support they gave me, privately and publicly, when the a-holes at the Higher were raking trouble up for me.  They didn't have to.  They're/you're the best.


  1. Nice to see such a generous tribute. Or two.

  2. 'They didn't have to.'

    Yes we did. One of us got you into it and it was us who should have got you out of it. And, for what its worth, students often tend to defend our affectionately known History Department legends without whom we would never get anywhere.

    1. Well, I am glad I have regained my 'legendary' status, within a year of being back in harness...

    2. I'm not entirely certain you ever lost it to begin with!

  3. ^ What Catherine said.

    That Higher article was a joke, pretty much lifted from Nouse. Interesting to see that after attacking the lecturers they're now turning the fire on the students. Universities should be places of co-operation. If the students and the academics don't support one another, how on earth are we going to stand up to the powers-that-be as they attack higher education at every turn?

  4. Thanks both of you. It would have been nice if some academics had been, as you say, a little more supportive, had not been so quick to jump into the Twittersphere with condemnatory remarks before trying to find out the background to/truth of it - in short without doing what we always tell students to do! Eh, Judith Jesch?

  5. I was proud to have followed a chiastic structure for my rallying post in defense of Dux Halsall's free speech. Gregory would have been proud, though my poetry is worse than Chilperic's.


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