25 September 2017

Welcome Week; a lot on!

I never before had much to do with Welcome week (or Freshers' week). The most I had done was deliver a so-called taster lecture during freshers' week. It's fun! It is one of these times when you don't have to think about learning outcomes and what is in the exam and how it connects to other modules: you just teach what you feel like. But this year would be different, with my new responsibility.

Another change was that this academic year, I would have tutees from the beginning. Last year I took over James' in the second term. Now I got a group at the very start! And they get to meet their tutors on the first day. My new group is a nice bunch! And they seem a bit less shy than last year's batch. I look forward to working with them!

Before I got to see them I was preparing for the new term in my office. About  three times, some Head Peer Guides appeared with an issue of sorts. I tried to addrress it all! I have to think on my feet as I have never done this before but I think it all worked out.

On Tuesday the Head Peer Guides got on with it. I did get an email, though, during the first Welsh class of the year. Oh dear! There was an issue from the last day that hadn't gone away. On Wednesday I tried to sort it. It was a lot of mailing and texting and phoning around.

Then Thursday came and things got better; it was the day of the annual beach trip. I had never joined before, but lots of other people had: the Head Peer Guides, of course; the two technicians who came as support; and David who came to photograph the event. So I didn't have to do much! My biggest job was juror in the sand castle competition. The freshers are divided in groups and have to make a marine-themed sand sculpture; the staff judge them. They have to tell the story of their sculpture. There were sharks, octopuses, mermaids and whatnot; the winning sculpture, however, was rather unusual in both that is was a living person on a sand throne, and that the person depicted one of my colleagues as an insane homicidal maniac with magic powers. The colleague in question would have seen the humour in that and they won.

Early in the day, it was quite overcast. Here the students have been subdivided into sand sculpture groups. 

The winning sculpture

After the scultpures the students did a tug-of war. Quite a lot of the teams were very competitive!And in the meantime, the weather improved. It got really sunny! The jacket went, and so did the jumper; sunglasses took their place (or at least a nearby one).

 Fanatic tugging-of-war

The second-last task set was to take a big PVC pipe with holes in, place it in the sand, and fill it up with sea water. That means: preventing the water to percolate through the sand, plugging the holes, and somehow carrying water from the sea (they can't use bottles or suchlike). It is essentially a team-building exercise. Many wellies were filled up with sea water!

Plugging the holes with sea weed

Filling your wellies with sea water

The last task was marine pictionary. Then it was done! People were free to loiter for a bit, until it was time to get back to the buses. It took a while to verify we indeed had everybody; then the day was over. As far as the freshers were concerned, though. I went back to the office! A lot to do.

On Friday I saw them all for the last time; there was a programme that included a person from the Student Union talking about, well, the Student Union; a person from the Sustainability (you can guess what she talked about), and then taster lectures. As said before; they are just lectures about something pertaining to Ocean Sciences that you feel like talking about. I enjoy doing my lecture. I had also roped in the Head of School, and two (other) biologists. One had volunteered; that was Sarah, a cephalopod behaviourist; and James, who studies charismatic megafauna like dolphins. You can guess why I asked him!

When the taster lectures were over, the Head Peer Guides would tell the students some more useful stuff. I was off, though! I gave them all a hug and left. I think it was a good welcome week! And yes there is still an issue to sort out, but well, that's minor as far as I am concerned. And all Head Peer Guides were quite knackered by now, but they go out pretty much every night and I don't. And next week we'll evaluate the whole thing! I hope all agree with me it went well...

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