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Get on those party frocks and glass slippers

WHY can't it be the end of session every week of the year? It's not just the promise of a lovely summer break that casts a rosy tint over everyone just now. Mostly it's a mixture of relief, amazement that we got through, and an enormous amount of satisfaction.

It's been a saying-goodbye week. Learners, especially those who have been with us for three years, suddenly find they have grown inordinately fond of the place. Even those who found it pretty hard to attend with regularity come in to visit. They suddenly find themselves standing on another threshold facing another major leap - into employment, or to university - and perhaps it's tempting to turn back to the security of college and old friends.

Never mind that you have 101 admin jobs which should have been completed yesterday. Your learners are finished, they are on a high and they want to pop in and see what's happening, keep you updated on the World Cup scores and what is happening in their love life.

Sometimes they chat about college. Faith was pondering about applying for an HND course in digital media next year, and several of the students who had just completed the course had dropped in for a chat. They were able to give her all the gossip. Jo, who has got a job all signed up as a result of her work experience, was really positive - it's a great course, do it, was her advice.

It has been a time of cards, and gifts - all horribly embarrassing and unnecessary. You want to say, "Look it's just my job", but you try to remember that for each learner the experience has been unique and if it has been enjoyable then maybe they want to mark it. It's been a time of celebrating achievement. It's been terribly glamorous, a word that is not usually associated with FE, I accept.

You know that tired old Cinderella metaphor which is used to describe FE? Well this week we are talking nice frock and glass slippers. Our art and design students are in the middle of their stunning annual exhibition, our rock music students held their end of session gig in a local nightclub and our theatre and dance students held their shows in "The Space", which had been declared open by the Queen the week before - and if you haven't seen the building yet, it's state of the art.

Applause, recognition, approbation - our learners deserve the celebration.

There was a moment in one of the dance routines, however, when I was reminded that these rewards are not what is important. One of the dancers had performed a solo. As the applause began, she seemed almost surprised. She had been absorbed in her performance, had been her own judge and jury, demanding the best. The applause was a surprise and a delight, I am sure, but her satisfaction at having performed well, having brought together the training, the enthusiasm and the discipline - that's what mattered.

It would be nice to bottle all this positive spirit so that we could use it like Rescue Remedy somewhere about the middle of block two, when it's cold, dark and wet outside and inside a learner is feeling low because a year's course is a long haul, she has got family problems, she is getting mucked about at her part-time job and the assessment she is working on seems impossible. But then, I don't believe in Rescue Remedy, or bottled rosy glow, because that would surely deny learners the sense of challenge, old-fashioned and unglamorous as that sentiment may sound.

In this age of instant celebrity, it's good to know they will learn that it is the work, the practice, the day to day effort that brings the real rewards.

Dr Carol Gow is a lecturer in media at Dundee College.

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