09 August 2010

The most enjoyable aspect of lecturing

'The most enjoyable aspect of lecturing, I discovered, were the staff meetings -- which the Head of Department conducted as a sort of homage to avant-garde cinema (a genre to which he was excessively devoted). Plot and chronology had been abandoned years ago in favour of expressionist flow-charts and long, meaning-filled silences. At times, his presentations seemed to be taking place in sepia with French subtitles.

Surrounded by the most socially retarded people in a 100 kilometre radius, I experienced an exhilarating sense of eloquence. As my colleagues gazed at their laps -- carefully avoiding eye contact with anyone else and pretending to be invisible -- I found myself making erudite suggestions for the running of the department.

At one meeting, I casually dropped the word 'pedagogical' into the discussion. There was a murmur of approval around the table. At another meeting, the Head of Department asked me to assist with a party of 15-year-old school pupils who were touring the college. "You're just the sort of extroverted person who would inspire these children," he said, without apparent irony.

Alas that his recommendation provided a brutal lesson about social limitations. Two hundred school pupils were gathered in a lecture theatre to receive a speech by the vice-chancellor, who -- at the last minute -- was called away to deal with a crisis. I suddenly heard the Dean of Engineering announce that he was going to prevail upon me to give the talk instead.

My recollection of the next half-hour is hazy. I recall telling the children that the importance of school was over-rated, and that it was better for them to enjoy themselves than pass exams. I may have mentioned that a 'gap year' might be useful to some of them, so that -- in an unfortunate choice of words -- they could try out "having sex and taking drugs". I've blanked out the rest'

- David Haywood, 'Confessions of a Social Retard', 8 August 2010

No comments: