It’s been two months since I moved to Manchester and I’ve already had two colds and a flu. I guess the colder weather and the interaction with students can do that to you. As you may or may not know, I had previously lived in Bath, the posh little Las Vegas of the UK. I moved up north to start a 12 month contract as a lecturer in Character Animation Techniques and 3D Character Development at Manchester Met.
Although I knew I was setting myself up for a big challenge, I accepted the offer anyway. The old saying goes that “Those that can’t do, teach.”, but I would like to change that to “Those who teach have to DO more.”, because they have to keep ahead of the students. So how has it been so far, you ask? Hard to say. I do enjoy the interaction with the students who are curious and ask questions, but find it difficult to connect with the ones that just want a good grade. I enjoy preparing slides, but dread spending my nights finishing them. I am excited by the idea of doing my own research, but hardly find the time to do it.
Other than that, I’m experimenting with various aspects of teaching. For example, I included some storytelling and improv in my 3D Character Development class. Students were asked to sketch out characters and storyboard their journey. They then shared their creations with their peers. In my Character Animation Techniques class, we recorded students doing various types of silly/normal walks to use as reference for the walk cycle part of their coursework.
I’d also like to add some thoughts on the city. It is slowly growing on me and I am starting to feel less lonely, as I’m spreading my net over improv jams and writing groups. The practical, industrial buildings of Manchester are mixed with Victorian neo-gothic, Baroque and more old fashioned architectural styles. The brick walls are darker, skies are greyer, men have more tattoos and talk funny (to me). The Christmas market, parks/squares like St. Peter’s Square or Whitworth Park, the museums that I still have to visit (eg. Alan Turing was here!) and last, but not least, The Peak District, which is close by, bring a smile on my face.
To conclude, as I sit here sniffing my nose and drinking my honey and lemon tea, I am prepared to embrace this year. I would like to put my creativity to work at this university and see what good comes of it. However, I am still skeptical of the academic system, and its business-minded view of the students. Grades, the fees students need to pay, my not-so-perfect content, the amount of material already available online, make me feel that the university system in general is failing slowly, if not becoming deprecated.
I strongly believe education needs restructuring. Creativity should be elevated through fear-free, grade-free environments, where minds can thrive. To this thought, I bring Sir Ken Robinson’s view on education. I imagine a world where knowledge and resources are shared, affordable, if not free, rather than bottled up and sold by a company/university for impossible sums of money. My view of education is the old fashioned Aristotle with his students discovering the mysteries of life and sleeping under the stars…with a thermal blanket…it’s really cold up north. Alas, I am but a (hungry) dreamer.