The time traveller

Creative writing in TE: Describing the MEd classroom at Marjon

The walls are pale yellow, almost beige. There are a couple of quite narrow windows that would reminded me of slit windows in a medieval tower were it not for the fact that they cover almost all the eastern wall. The floor is covered in a sort of thick fabric they call carpet and which helps to keep the atmosphere warm. This is indeed a quite cosy place in spite of being quite big. There are several wooden tables in a dark blue colour, cut in a quite peculiar trapezoidal shape and which they arrange in a couple of different ways. Sometimes they make a large table out of many of them; sometimes they make small ‘island tables’ distributed across the room. Very flexible and fairly ingenious, I’d say.

The walls are covered in drawings and some papers with writing on them. It seems that they create such ‘posters’ themselves. Not pieces of art in any account but quite interesting because it seems that these drawings emerge from the work they do in the room. Besides that, there are two large pieces of a wooden white material hanging on both south and north walls. These are the places where the senior person in the group usually writes on using a sort of pen with ink. On the north wall there is also a large interactive board connected to an old computer – some interesting pieces of outdated technology from the beginning of the twenty-first century.

It’s quite warm inside, but the heating system is even older – mid-twentieth century I suppose – and it makes some background noise, although it does not seem to disturb most of them.

They are seven, as in Wordsworth’s poem…There is a clear hierarchy among them. The senior member of the group is the one who keeps everyone’s attention when he speaks and he does most of the talk when they are assembled around the long table. As I said before, he is also the one who writes on the boards fixed to the walls and the one who usually sits at the computer. He is the leader. He clearly has more knowledge of the subject matter and more experience than the other members of the group. However, their relationship is very friendly and the whole atmosphere is very relaxed indeed. They all talk a lot and laugh another great deal, especially because the leader is quite good at dramatization and makes really funny faces sometimes. Not because he specifically wants to entertain them – I can clearly see that he uses this as a technique to keep their attention, to highlight the points he considers important and to keep the friendly atmosphere.

This is a space where they apparently gather to learn and discuss subjects that will help them in their professional activities – a place historians call a classroom. It is funny though that they just talk and do not really seem to practice their trade, but perhaps it is because they seem to be in a sort of further studies programme and most of them seem to have some hands on experience. Age varies greatly for such a small group but it seems that the average would be around 35, with two of the female ones falling in the extremes of the spectrum.

They all speak the postmodern version of The Common Language but most of them do have an extremely peculiar accent and stress pattern that make me many times struggle to understand their words and meaning. I suppose such accents and variations are due to the influence of their mother tongues.

The interaction pattern varies. When they are not all paying attention to the leader, they work in pairs or in trios. They discuss a lot and take some notes and usually have to report their discussion to the whole group. Then they share ideas and make questions. Some members speak more frequently than others. Interesting to see that the two females, the younger and the older one, have exactly opposite speaking styles. The former usually likes extending her comments quite a lot and the latter is extremely blunt and straight to the point. The other female is the one who is always raising her hand to make a question or occasionally differ from the leader, and this sometimes seems to upset other members of the group. The males vary greatly. One of them is extremely silent, in a striking contrast with the taller one, who is quite outspoken and very dramatic and over emphatic in his contributions. The third one usually makes very sensible comments, but he is quite hesitant when speaking.

On the whole, I think this is a successful learning experience because in spite of their differences they all seem to enjoy the time they are together and the leader seems to be fairly satisfied with the progress the group is making.

Lima, C. (2090) Diary of a Trip to the Beginning of the 21st Century. London: Bloomsbury.