The rooms are alive with the sound of chaos

21st September 2001 at 01:00
EVERYBODY I meet assures me it's never been as bad as this - ever. And that's official. Our student numbers are fabulous, apparently, and the atmosphere is really jolly - a bit like a huge party where there are masses of friendly gatecrashers.

Add to that scenario the fact that we're moving our media sector lock stock and smoking barrel to another centre, even though the present incumbents are not quite clear of the place, and you probably get the happy picture. Life is just one joy after another.

You manage to avoid the "car park full" embargo because you arrive at the crack of dawn and then by evening discover a billboard-sized notice stuck irrevocably to your car window because the parking place you thought was peachy was prohibited. Still, I think the notice looks nice and adds a trendy touch to my ageing Micra and anyway I have neither the time nor the energy to scrub it off.

Careful plans to thwart chaos have gone awry. Piles of photocopying delivered to your teaching rooms turn out to be in the wrong place. You sweet-talk the caretakers into providing you with the fifth set of keys that morning. You get stuck on the third floor for nearly an hour directing lost students to various rooms throughout the building. New part-time staff look panic-stricken and ask five questions at once, following you around like a swarm of bees you try to brush aside.

You expect 18 students for Journalism 1 and give up counting at 28 as the door continues to swing open. Still, they form a happy bunch and the tight squeeze is probably conducive to breaking the ice. No one is late after tea break presumably because they fear a "house full" notice, or a sticky label plastered to the forehead for illegally parking on someone else's seat.

Didn't I read recently that FE students were more satisfied with their courses than HE students? Certainly they tend to come back to us. They call out to you urgently in the corridor to say hello and tell you which courses they are taking, and that's nice.

Strangely, many of them this year are called "There", as in "Oh hello there", said with warmth to conceal the fact that your brain is so addled you can't remember their names. They turn up in your classes, like old friends. That's useful, because they are already house-trained and understand your idiosyncrasies.

Joe had been in my class last year, but I was never really convinced that he was ever fully engaged with anything we were doing. "Remember that newspaper article we read on David Bellany last block?" he asked, apropos of nothing. "Well I went through to Glasgow to see the pictures. Amazing. Seeing them there." He shook his head in wonder.

A kind of delayed reaction to my input, but that's nice, too. In the afternoon, doing a reading exercise, I ask about a figure of speech. A voice from the back calls out "It's an oxymoron." Doesn't your heart just leap with joy? Forget Eliza Doolittle, this is Julie Andrews flinging her arms wide and launching into The Sound of Music.

In fact, it isn't an oxymoron at all, but it is nearly an oxymoron, and you delight in the word fluttering around the NC Media class like an exotic blue butterfly, maculinea arion oxymoron, saved from extinction. Chuffed, you follow through while you are ahead with a quick discussion on antithesis and binary oppositions and get away with it.

A few crumbs of reward and, sucker that you are, you're hooked, going round again, and loving every minute of it.

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

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