I’ve always had an interest in teaching. During the days of my boring old office job, sat counting beans and gazing longingly out of a nearby window, I’d dream of a different way of life, a better way of life, the kind of job that adds value to other people’s lives. So when the afternoon slump kicked in from my over processed lunch, and I’d be in the kitchen hovering close to the caffeine and ranting about what it was to be a wage slave, my equally weary colleagues would ask: ‘so what would you do then, if you could go back and start again?’ And I’d say, ‘I would teach!’ Because obviously, it was just that easy.
Eight years after jumping ship, I’ve finally started to make some progress towards that dream in the form of a course in adult training and education and some work shadowing at a local college. Now it’s not that I didn’t have respect for the teaching community before, but this taster has really opened my eyes to just how hard they work. I guess that the recent news about The Open University has got me thinking. When I graduated with a BA last year, I was delighted to meet Peter Horrocks on the stage, who seemed like a pretty affable sort of fellow, and certainly knew how to work a crowd. But when I recently read in the news that he had accused OU academics of ‘not teaching’, well as a student, I felt pretty disgruntled. For one thing, how on earth did I achieve that BA? Because I feel sure that I was ‘taught’.
I have been a student with the The Open University since 2005, studying both in arts and humanities, and computing and mathematics, and I’ve experienced a wide variety of tutors who have been diligent, knowledgeable, and exceptionally helpful in terms of encouraging me as a student, to continue and to succeed. It surprises me that their hard work would not be recognised, and valued.
After all, those treasured module materials that fit two cubes of my kallax book case certainly did not write themselves. The accompanying guide, which carefully explains to the overly anxious student, how the year’s learning will be set out, and the equally carefully laid out activities, which give us the method and theory to scrape through those harsh TMA questions, all form part of a ‘taught’ course. Guidance notes. Online forums. TMA marking, and feedback. Emails asking inane questions that could be answered easily with an internet search. Those extra phone calls when we’re going out of our mind three days before an assignment. Is this not teaching?
Then of course the tutorials. Face to face, online, one to one. I didn’t sit for five years alone in a room to attain that BA in classical studies, I was taught. The medium was different. I read books, I used online resources, I emailed my tutors instead of lurking at the end of class for a chat. Teaching in distance learning environments can’t be easy.
By suggesting that the Open University academics are ‘not teaching’, I think that Horrocks does not only diminish the quality of staff at this great British institution of learning, but also the quality of qualifications that are accomplished within it. I worked hard for my achievements with the Open University, and so did the tutors who supported me through my journey, and if I do ever have the opportunity to teach, then I will aspire towards the examples set by those tutors. I am an Open University student, and I am taught.