As the University of York slides down the league tables more inexorably than a greased-up koala on a fireman’s pole, my cohort of second-years grumble on into their third week of the academic year. Apparently, York’s relative decline is mostly due to the weight given to student satisfaction in university rankings and cuts to departments, which I hear is causing a lot of students a lot of problems.
On the other hand, I’m having a great time. Moving from first year I’ve seen nothing but improvement – as a fresher my lectures were about as dynamic as a turnip. The endless PowerPoint slides after PowerPoint slides, each one a glutton for the fashionable use amongst lecturers of bullet points as sentence connectives, sucked the life out of the subject and students faster than the love-child of a Dementor and a Dyson until our fruits of knowledge were all but jaded, shrivelled little raisins.
Most of them (like most of us) seemed to not want to be there too, the disdain for the first year syllabus being almost palpable. If you were on the front row you could sometimes make out an audible sigh as they entered the room to find, despite hoping against hope that no one would turn up and they could crawl back into their academic lairs to nestle amongst the journals, that at least one disgustingly keen fresher had arrived, bouncing on his seat simply bursting with pointless and rhetorical post-lecture questions that will inevitably eat into their lunch break.
So starting my second year it is a wonderful surprise to find that my new set of didactic pedagogues do not endeavour to make the phrase “death by PowerPoint” a reality, but I feel that they are talking to me and engaging me in the discipline, arousing such strange sentiments as an actual desire to do the wider reading.
If we want to hose down that koala and get her climbing up the league table pole again, we need a little more of the happiness and dynamism I’m seeing in my lecturers this year earlier on, and across the board. You can research ‘til the cows come home but without enthusiasm in communicating your passion for the subject no one will want to follow in your footsteps and continue the practice.
And a word to all the teaching staff; students can seem a bunch of moody, disinterested layabouts, more interested in checking Facebook updates than listening to your wise, wise words of wisdom – but please, give us a chance. Look up from your notes, smile; maybe even crack a joke once in a while (don’t worry if you’re the only one who laughs whilst you push your glasses back up your nose). We will appreciate it no end, and who knows? You might enjoy it a bit more too.