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5:15pm on Wednesday, 6th October, 2021:

Meeting Students


One might have thought that chatting to students was one of the perks of being a university lecturer, and while it is when it comes to teaching and research topics, it isn't when you just want to chat about the world in general. This is because there's a power relationship involved: students can't speak freely if they know you're going to be marking their assignments or sitting on a supervisory panel.

That's for your own students, though. Students you don't teach, you can chat to about how life is treating them and you, and the power relationship is merely on a par with any between an older person and a younger person. Unfortunately, since the only students you ever meet are the ones you teach, it's almost impossible to encounter students you don't teach yet do know.

That's only "almost" impossible, though.

When lectures were still being held in lecture theatres, I was asked if I minded having some Masters students from a language translation course sit in to do live translations of my lectures. I said I was happy to have them, so along they came. Following this, two of them got in touch about helping them with another part of their course (they had to organise a conference and needed a guest presenter), so I said I'd help out. That could have been the end of it, but they're both very friendly, and also very interesting, so we kept in touch. One is now on her way to becoming a newsreader in China and the other is staying in the UK visiting museums and perfecting her baking skills.

I met up with the latter at a café in Colchester this afternoon, and we had a wide-ranging chat about her experiences in the UK, the way different parts of the world work differently, eggs Benedict, scarily deranged housemates, whether it's a good idea or not to work for a company that judges your hair colour, afternoon tea, city life, ... . I don't get to hear objective opinions from people in their 20s about such things very often, so it was a nicely satisfying experience from my point of view. I got some free baking to take home, too!

Were I to do something similar with one of my own students, male or female, I'd probably be called up by the Head of School and asked to explain myself (and rightly, albeit sadly, so). For someone I don't teach who handed in their dissertation two weeks ago, though, I'm on solid ground.

Leastwise, I hope I am!

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