I made my way down to the Academy in the morning. It was near Shepherd’s Bush. It had been quite a while since I had had a training event there. I was therefore unfamiliar with the route towards the end. It was a fact worth reflecting on. Why was I unable to recall the very end of the journey? Was it because that is the least prominent part of the journey? Or was it because of some other reason? I turned down the wrong street. Luckily, there was a postman there to help me. He had a shaved head and had stubble all over his face. I had been one street out in my calculation. The Academy was down the next right.
It had been a very chill morning. I was wearing some gloves. They were a present from the place where I volunteer. It was the first time I was wearing gloves this season. It was because I had experienced too much cold on my hands the last time I was out. I was listening to an artist I had only recently discovered on my smartphone. She was an Indian origin woman from America called Vidya Vox. She did mash ups of Western and Indian songs. There were three different languages on her tracks. I had downloaded them from her free website. She represented the future. Music is the universal language of humankind. It should have no boundaries. Vidya was the voice of the Asian diaspora. We spoke many languages, not just one. We listened to music from the East and the West.
As I got to the Academy, it began to rain. I only received a few drops of the stuff. I registered with the redhead on reception. I asked her what part of Ireland she was from. She was very surprised. At first, she thought I was also from Ireland. I had to explain to her that English people could very easily recognise an Irish accent. It turned out that she was from the mid-region of Ireland. She had nice eyes and freckles.
An old colleague of mine turned up shortly afterwards as I sat in reception. He was getting the worst of the rain. We got talking about our experience of teaching. He had had some discipline issues, but a good experience. He was an interesting guy. His research was in how a centrifuge could help astronauts maintain their health in outer space. He showed me a photo of himself with his girlfriend at NASA. He had met her at university and she was an English literature student. He remembered my research from before, which was a surprise. I remarked on his excellent memory. He told me that the memory had stuck in his head since we had talked about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Cottingley fairies. He also added that photographs were important in Scotland where he was from because of the faked photographs of the Loch Ness monster.
The first thing was lunch. We sat down with some other researchers. There was a female psychology student from Portsmouth, a person interested in cryptology and cyber security and another gentleman who was wearing a brown hat. It reminded me of the hats that my grandfather had worn. The psychology student was planning on teaching a course about the experiment with the false hand that begins to appear as part of one’s own body. We talked about a number of things. We talked about personality types. I asked the psychology student what types we were and what type she was. She told me that we were nice people and wouldn’t remark on her own personality. The outer space physiologist told us that there was a specific personality type that they looked for in astronauts. They looked for someone who would help the whole species, not just himself or his team. I wondered if there was someone that was that noble and far thinking around. Certainly, our own politicians don’t have that personality. They can’t even coordinate proper action on the key issue of our times which is the safeguarding of the environment.
There was an interesting digression on the future and virtual reality. Everyone talked about a future in which we were locked into virtual reality with no connection to the real world. I brought up an application of VR which I had seen in a movie. In Demolition Man, with Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes, they had virtual sex. It had completely substituted the real thing. The outer space physiologist was a bit shocked that I had brought it up. However, that could very well be the future. The only biological babies that would be born would be in test tubes. After all, if you could have sex with anyone you wanted to in a virtual environment, why would people do the real thing with the limited opportunities that most of us have?
There was some training afterwards. We were taught that if we improved by just one per cent each teaching, we could improve by thirty-seven per cent by the end of thirty seven classes, for example. Then there was the teaching about memory retention and learning. The way to learn successfully was by testing. It was more of an active process than re-reading notes, for example. The tests shouldn’t be about the same limited or discrete topic. Mixing up different formulas about the volumes of different shapes was a better form of testing for example. Lessons should be spaced out, with revision taking place. The more times you recall something, the better you learn. If students keep on asking why to facts they have to learn, they have deeper learning and better memory of facts. We were given an example on veins and arteries. Explaining why they were elastic or non-elastic, thick or thin. The explanation to the why question in each case made the facts easier to remember.
I wondered how I could apply the knowledge to English literature teaching. The message that the neuro scientist was giving was that students shouldn’t be chained to texts. However, English literature seems to demand extra attention to texts. Should I try to teach my students simple facts and concentrate on rote learning? I wanted them to develop independence and creativity. I wanted them to be able to develop their own special form of reading. I would have to refresh myself on my notes and come back to the topic.
There was some training on Child Protection next. It was interesting, as the presentation started with photographs of two girls. My research is in photography. The two girls were both the victims of their parents and the system which had failed to protect them. We were taught about what the typical situation is of children that were abused. We were taught that child abuse could happen anywhere. One in twenty children had been sexually abused in the country. There were other statistics that were just as harrowing.
The next training was on designing my course. I was planning to teach my research to the students. There was good teaching on how to construct a mark scheme and construct a final assignment question. I had a woman that had sat in on my classes to the students a while ago. She helped me modify my question as she was from an English Literature background. The male teacher helped me to improve my mark scheme.
I caught up with the woman I had been working with before afterwards. She and her colleagues were discussing body language and femininity in the work place. They referred to an experiment about a C.V. There had been a man’s one and a woman’s one. Everyone had hated the woman’s one and preferred the man’s one. It showed the massive gender bias in the workplace at the moment.
There was a final meeting for questions in my cluster. Afterwards, I walked back to the train station. Policemen were picking on black youths that were smoking. The black youths were deriding the policemen. I walked into a place for dinner. There were some teenage girls there. They were talking about where they would like to die. One wanted to die in front of a fast food restaurant. The conversation was random. It moved on to masturbation. They spoke loudly. They laughed at each other and asked each other if they had every masturbated with an eye liner. Then there was some sort of joke about what they could do with their eyes. I think it relied on the sound between eyes and thighs. I wondered why it was that teenagers had to crack so many jokes about sex all the time. Maybe it was constantly on their minds. Maybe they felt anxious about it.
I got back to the train station and sat there typing up my thoughts for the day. There was a beautiful blonde woman sitting opposite to me. She had a sort of choker necklace on. I prepared myself for the training tomorrow. I was going to check my email to see if I’d received certain documents for preparation. Before bed I was going to try and do some reading, or colour in one of my black or white ink drawings. I hadn’t decided which thing to do yet. I smelt myself and I was somehow saturated with perfume. I smelt feminine. It was a strange experience to have the odour of a woman.