Starcat 1 by my favourite artist

Friday, 16 November 2012

Pigs, Pokes, Lambs and Slaughter

I have just finished my first week of teaching the new, improved, one-hour per week English course and have been surprised by my students' reaction. It was...


Even though they knew nothing about how the course was organised, what was to be done at home and what was to be done in class, they had duly signed up and were then sitting in my class waiting to be told what they had paid for.

When I presented them the online component, fundamentally nothing more than a tarted-up (to the best of our ability) list of answers to the exercises in the class book, what was their reaction?


When I told them that to do the listening exercises they needed to buy the teacher's class CDs at 80GBP a set - if they could get hold of them because they weren't commercially available - what was their reaction?


After years of working in this particular establishment I am now accustomed to the fact that a large proportion of the students are incapable of independent creative thought when they leave their own particular field of expertise. Indeed, it is not uncommon to have university students bring their mum along to exam revisions etc. in the hope that she can persuade the nasty teacher to pass their little boy or girl. However, I do not understand how people can shell out money on a course about which they knew nothing beforehand and then sit quietly taking notes while they are given the details. Details that reveal an  embarrassingly evident lack of quality and depth. Let us not forget that this is a course which, in their infinite wisdom, the powers that be have imposed upon both the students and upon us, the teachers .

Where does this supineness come from? Is it desperation due to the economic situation? Is it the fact that as I mentioned in a previous post all undergraduate students now need a B1 level of a foreign language to get their degree? I honestly do not know. To give a different example, I would not phone an electrical goods shop and say "I want a fridge" and tell them to deliver it to my home without asking any questions about it. Neither, when it arrived, would I accept this article when the delivery team's patter could hardly avoid pointing out the paucity of its performance and its lack of basic features, such as the optional door that can only be bought from a foreign website at a prohibitive price.

My own and my colleagues' students have done just that.

I do not understand. At all.

1 comment:

  1. Being at a distance from the scene you describe, I cannot make more than a guess at the causes of this apparently strange apathy. Students in Britain are known for their bolshy tendencies though I think this only dates from fairly recent date, say the last three decades of the last century when they discovered that sit-ins and class boycotts could actually produce results.

    Impassivity in the face of a shallow teaching programme and the need to buy exorbitantly priced materials sounds suspiciously like resignation to me. Perhaps Spain's economic difficulties and the fears for the future that these inspire are having an effect. Also, you say that students of non-linguistic disciplines are having language courses foisted on them. Putting all this together suggests they may be experiencing feelings akin to a helpless misery.

    As a one-time lecturer who has seen the damage done by long-term student rebellion, I would not lightly encourage students to rebel but sometimes this has to be done. Sometimes the system becomes hidebound and needs a jolt to wake it up. The ivory towers of academe need occasionally to have pebbles thrown up at the windows.

    By the sound of it, however, this will not be happening in a classroom near you very soon. The misery has a while to run yet.