An early-ish phone call on Monday morning this week from the University Student Support Department contained a request to resume my work supporting students with disabilities today. It was a welcome call as I really enjoy the work and find it extremely rewarding. The majority of the time it entails sitting in seminars and lectures with the student and acting as notetaker to assist him or her. It’s a job that allows one to mix and meet with a variety of new people and participate, passively at least, in a wide range of academic subjects.
Some of the high points from the last academic year were in travelling to lovely Brackenhurst College, a campus based around a former large manor house set in rolling countryside near the attractive town of Southwell. Even the drive there and back was a pure pleasure with the views across the fields and copses. Other times, it conversely warranted a slow and irritating journey on the Nottingham Ring Road or a visit to the city campus.
It’s a curious job too in some ways. One never knows quite what to expect from the different students but perhaps one could say that about any job working with a section of the public. In the main it should be said that the students are always courteous and grateful for the assistance they are receiving.
A great advantage of the job can be in the knowledge the notetaker gains by sitting in lectures on a myriad of subjects. A single week might require an understanding of how to write useful notes about Law, Mathematics, Computer Science, Biochemistry or Animal Conservation for example. A two-hour gap between lectures and campuses would often see me switching off from being in a lab whilst a tube of deadly e-coli was being handled next to me to sitting at Brackenhurst Campus enjoying a lecture about Peat Boglands. There is much variety.
Another aspect is in learning about dealing with people with various disabilities. Working with the visually or hearing impaired for instance can be very humbling and also instructive in trying to understand others’ problems. To be proficient and able in areas where others are not such as with students with dyslexia can make one understand what it is to be fortunate and happy and content with what one has.
Perhaps best of all there is a sense of satisfaction to be gained from the duties involved with the job. It’s a nice proposition that one is helping someone – giving a helping hand in equalling up the disadvantages experienced by students with disabilities with others slightly more fortunate. It’s a principle that has motivated me at various times during my working life when so many jobs and careers these days offer little in the way of fulfillment. Let the term begin.