Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Students towards independence
Volda College is known for the close cooperation between students and teachers. Staff familiar with the traditions of the Universities in Norway are always surprised at how closely we watch the development of our students. We give them tasks where they get guidance while they work at them, and evaluate their work, not just once or twice, but over and over, each new task an other step on the road towards working as a journalist or, as in the case of my students, information consultant.

After almost two years of holding their hands every step of the road, in the last semester we throw them into the water to see if they can swim. OK, so we don't do this without a safety net: we call them, visit the ones we manage to reach, and keep in touch through the entire period. This year I have however been a little late in checking on "my" students, due to the delay in New York and my illness. I knew what would happen, so I was prepared when the first emails arrived about lack of relevant tasks, no contact with their supervisors, and just general wishes for some sign of life from Volda. They need us to not let them go entirely yet, to smooth the road a little, to help them see how things interconnect, and to make them more visible in the organisation where they try to make themselves useful.

On the other end of the scale are the students who have just forgotten about us. They sound surprised when I call them, and their minds are somewhere else: out there in the life they are leading right now, on the next case, on the next task, on the next problem. It is equally important to reach this group, and I contact them, force their minds back to Volda Mode. They are not supposed to lose themselves in the ocean just yet... a few more months in the nursery in the deep fjords before they head out.

But this period is one of the most important, not because they learn more than they learned while in Volda, but because they realise that they have learned a lot here. Up until this point they have been among equals, others who know the same things, who have read the same books and been to the same lectures. It is as if nothing has changed, their peers are at the same level as themselves. Now they are among people who do the jobs these students dream of, and suddenly they see that they don't just master them, they have knowledge to give, to share, and their knowledge is appreciated and desired. That is perhaps the most valuable experience, a boost to their confidence before they go out there all alone, without the lifeline back to Volda - in a world where they can't expect me to show up and talk to their boss if something doesn't work out.

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