As I was coming up to my final exam of my masters my tutor said something that really hit me hard. On the subject of us all getting jobs he said something along the lines of:

Most students find being in a job hard, not because the job itself is hard but because in school, college and university they are surrounded by friends. A job isn’t a laugh with friends and they find themselves suddenly isolated.

This was a really scary thing for me to hear. I have had great friends in school, college and uni and I have very fond memories of education because of them.

While I have lots of great memories the education system with friends, many of them revolve around big things that happen in our personal lives. Friends would rally together around a big birthday or a friend departing to a different part of the country. I also remember the final few weeks spent with groups of friends in educational establishments. Sitting on the field cramming as much as I could in before my history GCSE, finishing college coursework early and setting up a Sega Mega Drive in the networks lab, sneaking in a few games of freeciv during the computer security revision, there is something special about the times you spend with people when you know you are all about to move on to the next stage of your life.

After this week I go on leave from work for a while; I’m going to get married! It’s one of those times that if you was in uni for a lesson then your friends would take a break from their assignments, rally round, wish you well, tell the tutor to shove it, stick on the Mega Drive and good memories are made. While my tutors comment really hit me hard at the time I haven’t really thought about it much since finishing my masters until recently. I had been thinking that there is something special about education that creates a unique bond between people and that in turn that bond is part of what gets you through education, makes you strive to do your best. I thought back to my tutors original comment and wondered what was  different about the workplace and why we couldn’t replicate those friendships and special moments. It is certainly a two way thing, the people you meet and friendships you make sit at the core of your experience with education.

I had a wonderful day yesterday, friends in work gathered round wished me well, wrote messages for me and gave me a gift to set me on my way. It very much reminded me of school and made me think my tutor was wrong. I didn’t feel isolated in work. I can’t help but wonder why he said what he did. Has he had bad experiances in work? I wonder why my experience has been different to his. I was wondering if it was because I work in education, but he was my tutor, so he did too!

I am driven in many the things I do now; like work on projects, my PhD, blog, because of the people around me. A few days ago I wrote about a MOOC being a lonely experience and Sheila commented on my post. Sheila made a point that assessment is something that education does to ruin things. I think that was a great point, it sounds silly but the process of a friend coming and making a comment on something I had written was equally as important as the point itself. So on the one hand my experience of the MOOC makes me worry technology might take that all-important friendship x factor out of education. On the other hand after I wrote about being alone I got a comment from a friend in a matter of minutes; technology is a funny thing. Friendship isn’t something you can design in to your course, but perhaps as we explore new model for education it is something we should think about.


Lorna · May 22, 2014 at 2:18 pm

A really interesting and thoughtful post as always David. I’ve spent most of my life working in HE and I’ve picked up many really good friends along the way, though sometimes when jobs end friendships can peter out too. Having spent the last year working from home I do miss the company of working among friends and colleagues, but having access to a wide circle of friends through social media almost makes up for it.

All the very best for your wedding, and very sorry I haven’t been able to say congratulations in person. Here’s wishing you all the very best though!

    David Sherlock · May 22, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    Yes, social media does make a big difference. I always think I should make more of an effort to contact people who can’t make it in as much. Regularly updating a blog and following other blogs really helps tho to keep in touch tho.

    Thanks for the wishes!

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