Keep the dream real

Hello, boys and girls. I'll bet you're relieved the curtain has finally fallen on the pantomime season (Oh no we're not! Oh yes you are!). The trouble with panto is the deus ex machina solution: one wave of the wand and suddenly you're no longer working at Pizza Hut, but you're off to the ball wearing shiny clothes and Manolos.

So Leona Lewis won the nation's favourite talent contest. The X Factor is sheer pantomime, of course, and cleverly follows the tradition: squabbling judges providing the comedy, audiences feverishly participating in the voting, the heroine and her Prince Charming clutching the glittering prize amid tears and laughter.

It's hard enough to keep our learners' feet on the ground, to encourage them, as Aldous Huxley cautioned, to "dream in a pragmatic way" when they're inspired by fantasy like this. Young learners come to us at the beginning of the year for their NQ in media studies with their sights set on jobs in the media industries - and not just any job. Film director would do nicely. A European tour for your band at least by the end of block three, so you don't have to think about completing your Communication 4 would be convenient.

You bang on about qualifications, employability, and just finishing off that last section of Question 7 in the restricted response questions. And just when you think you're knocking some sense into them, Keiran Webster of The View shows it could be you.

Keiran sat like them, working through his Com 4 in my class, while dreaming of his band going big time. And if you haven't heard of The View, you must have been hibernating. Bob Harris has called them the "Dundee Tearaways".

They've got a record deal, and just now they are off on a European tour.

Recently, Keiran was voted number eight on NME's "cool people" list. Try talking to starry-eyed students about employability and transferable skills when they're busy dreaming big dreams nurtured by these stories.

Comment copy = They don't really hear you when you talk to them about talent needing to be harnessed to discipline, professionalism and reliability. But they do hear the visiting speaker who tells them that "you don't need to be able to spell or punctuate to be a writer". Try teaching a three-hour session of editing and proof-reading after that.

Recently, I sat in on a meeting about changes to a national HNC course, and what bothered me most was the question of what the qualification would equip the students to do. What kind of job would they get? The question puzzled one group member. "Getting a job isn't the be-all and end-all, surely?" she said. Well, yes it is, actually.

Dundee College is leading a new million-pound national project which will improve the employability of entrants into the creative industries. Our students come to us with enthusiasm and high expectations nourished by the success stories they see in the media. It's our job to make sure that, though they have their eyes trained on the stars, they keep their feet on the ground.

I also try to ensure that they have at least a Communication 4 and Literature 1 certificate tucked into the back pocket of their jeans so that, while they're waiting for a lifetime for a moment like Leona's, they don't have to spend it serving pizzas.

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