You Get Out What You Put In

It’s not like me to open the post with such an unusual call for arms over apathy – that is too much enthusiasm and optimism – but there is one particular case in which this rule does apply. I deliberately didn’t say “You Only Get What You Give” because if I did I would get earwormed by the song all day. Oh. Too late.

No, the reason for this post is that it is almost a universal truth where university tutorials and seminars are concerned. As time has gone by I’ve learned to enjoy them more and more, but I’m pretty sure it’s because I do some reading for them and actually choose to engage in them.

Because that’s always the problem. Tutorials can be awful experiences if no one talks. You sit there in silence, waiting for someone – anyone – to break it. You think desperately what you might say to move things forward. But nothing comes. In the end some brave soul does it. Sometimes it’s even me. But the first comment is invariably rubbish. But somehow by talking it gets others going.

My main problem though is that I have seen this from two sides of the coin. In my first year I hardly ever contributed. I was too nervous. You’re often debating with a tutor who’s been studying a subject for decades, so you have to be on the money. But because of this I usually only chipped in once, if I had to. And it was never anything of real insight. Just enough to make sure that I couldn’t be picked on for non-contribution.

I hated such tutorials. They were always boring affairs. There was nothing to look forward to. Nothing to discuss. The questions always seemed a little abstract. Nothing doing.

But in time I’ve learned that the golden rule above applies. You have to force yourself to engage. And once you’re into it, as long as you have a good tutor, you’ll find yourself suddenly being challenged, having to think on your feet. All of a sudden the nerves are gone and being channeled in a different way. Now I enjoy it. I’ve learned that you have to put yourself into it and suddenly you’ll find new angles and approaches to things that you didn’t get otherwise. My notes are now much more balanced. They used to be all just my opinion. Now I can give some thoughts from the other side – my tutors have been good like that this year.

Meanwhile, I continue to hear the moaning. I come out of tutorials and say things like “That was OK”… while some of my fellow students moan about how boring and rubbish it was. Invariably these people chose not to talk. They also arrive with a blank sheet of paper, implying they’ve done no reading whatsoever, so have no preparation and have nothing to say. If they do speak (usually because the tutor asks them to) they tend to reduce it to generalities or what they think they know on a topic. So to me, it’s not surprising they get nothing out of it, because they haven’t put anything in.

These people are only asked to attend four/five hours worth of lectures/tutorials a week. You think they could work up some enthusiasm for it. I can’t think how much they’d struggle to motivate themselves if they were doing a real sciences degree. 9-5 virtually every day.

Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson?
Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson?


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