Each year, a group of students or an individual presents me with a gift as they complete their studies and progress on to bigger and better things. I’ve had a good variety of them over the years and not only to say thanks; when my first daughter (Uppercase) was born, one of my students learned to knit and made some very dainty scratch mits (too precious to use but now in the ‘Box of Treasures’ for later life) and on the birth of my second daughter (lowercase) I recieved a hand-made waistcoat (for the baby!) made from WW2 parachute silk (as before, but in ‘Box of Treasures 2’). I’ve had engraved pewter tankards (sat on a shelf above me as write this, filled with used scalpel blades!), a MUJI CD player (awaiting a permanent place, but used frequently). Wines, beers and spirits enough to keep a staffroom of lecturers happy for at least a couple of hours, music compilation CD’s as well as cards, keepsakes, messages and images, both handmade and digital. I have posters, manuscripts, books and a plethora of beautiful and interesting printed ephemera. And, of course, handshakes, bearhugs and the occasional kiss too (no tongues).
I could be forgiven for entertaining a certain amount of expectation as the academic year builds to its anti-climax, but I don’t. That’s because I am genuinely pleased when I can submit each student for their qualifcation, whatever their grades may be. I assume a great deal of responsibility for their success, and perversley, for their failures also, even when students have made the choice not to succeed. From these I have also received a fair share of unpleasant chariacatures, defaced photographs and other inventive farewells (my favourite was on a specially cleaned whiteboard in the studio a few years ago that simply said “Skinner is a w***er” and it still makes me smile!)
I don’t ever expect gifts from students however, and perhaps don’t deserve them, but it is always very moving when I receive a gift, no matter how small. This year has been no exception. Following a comment I made to a student a couple of weeks ago that does not bear repeating here (I’ve tried – it just isn’t funny anymore – trust me!) I was presented with a parcel wrapped in tinfoil. Within, a very elegantly crafted ampersand made from pastry! I take back that comment Aaron – you dohave a bright future in pastry!
(PS – a message to any student whose individual gift was not singled out here and who may feel personally slighted. I just thought this one followed other entries on the blog. A heartfelt thankyou to all students, past and present – may the force be with you…