It’s funny how quickly life as a teacher develops its cyclical feel: early July and many of us who teach in schools or H.E. institutions know what that means…graduation. Followed next month by A level results and clearing and then in September that ‘back to school’ feeling.
This week I was up in Manchester to watch my students graduate at a fantastic ceremony at Bridgewater Hall. Not only was it a really proud moment to watch people I knew, who had worked really hard for three years, symbolically receive the fruits of their labour but this year was also the first time I had ever taught finalists and watched them finish their undergraduate careers. I challenge any teacher, at whatever level, not to feel a surge of self-satisfaction and pride at seeing their charges receive awards watched and cheered on by proud families, many of whom, at my institution certainly, had not been down the same route themselves. It amazes me that every single lecturer in the departments represented doesn’t turn up on occasions like this. Of course that would have made for a pretty crowded podium, but it seems odd not to take an interest in watching their students graduate: I just don’t understand it.
Apart from which, when else are we going to get to dress up in a funny cap and gown and process about behind a mace-bearer! Unless you decide to change careers and go into the law or into Parliament, there’s not many other opportunities to do that. As one of my colleagues said, not altogether positively, it does make you feel like a real part of the ‘establishment’!
I suppose what I am trying to say is that when we take on this strange job as university teachers/lecturers/professors our role doesn’t end with the essays and exams we mark for them. I’ll probably carry on acting as referee for these recent graduates for several years. The graduation ceremony feels like a natural ‘full stop’ at the end of one academic year, but also is a celebration of our role as distributors of knowledge and the institution’s role as storehouse of learning. So, next time you or a colleague think about trying to duck out of attending graduation, think it over for a minute!