I sweat with shame when I think back to the daft one-upmanship at university that led me to spend each week reading a pile of books I didn’t fully understand, just to be able to casually flick a reference to Proust.
These days, as a college teacher whose brain has mostly turned to porridge, I’m ready to admit that the novel I’m struggling with now is the children’s saga The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
I’ve just made it past the halfway point and it appears that the driving force of the narrative is to gain access to the university library. If you’ll excuse the tired parlance, he’s desperate to be an independent learner.
The key to maximising the success and progress of our young people lies in whether we can help to establish communities where they value learning as highly as Kvothe the Bloodless does. Colleges are best suited to this because they offer a reset button for learners who have become disengaged.
It takes some courage to persistently challenge disengagement. Imagine how much harder it is, as a student, to challenge it. Irony can be our ally here. If you really want to break the restraint students have about celebrating each other’s efforts, be so over the top that the students can cover their genuine admiration for their friend with the deniability of irony. After a while, the irony will fall away.
So maybe I should take a walk over to the university library later…once I’ve finished that kids’ book.
Andrew Otty leads 16-19 English in an FE college. He is an ambassador for education charity SHINE